“That’s the plan,” Gruden told reporters Friday at the team’s training facility. “That’s the plan, yes.”
Gruden also said: “Antonio is back today. We’re really excited about that. We’re ready to move on. He’s had a lot of, obviously, time to think about things. We’re happy to have him back. I know Raider Nation is excited about that, too.”
Brown apologized to his teammates during a meeting Friday, he confirmed when he spoke briefly to reporters.
“I’m excited to be out here today,” Brown said. “I apologized to my teammates [and] the organization. Enough talk, man. I’m excited to be out here with my teammates. I’m grateful for all the fans. I’m excited to be a part of the Raiders and see you guys soon.”
Brown’s return to the Raiders came a day after he was told to stay home Thursday as team officials, according to people close to the situation, mulled over disciplinary measures that included fining, suspending or releasing him. A suspension would have been without pay and could have voided the guarantee of a large portion of Brown’s contract.
The penalties would have come in reaction to a practice-field incident Wednesday between Brown and Mike Mayock, the team’s general manager.
But agent Drew Rosenhaus, who represents Brown, worked to mend Brown’s relationship with Mayock and the team. The Raiders appear to be giving Brown, the seven-time Pro Bowl selection they obtained in an offseason trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, at least one more chance.
Several people familiar with the situation said later Friday they expect the Raiders to fine Brown for Wednesday’s verbal confrontation with Mayock, but the amount of any such fine was not immediately clear. Under the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association, a club can fine a player as much as one game’s pay for conduct detrimental to the team. In Brown’s case, that would be $860,294, one-seventeenth of his 2019 salary of $14.625 million.
Later Friday, Brown released a video on his YouTube channel containing audio, apparently, of a phone conversation that he had with Gruden. During the conversation, Gruden asks Brown if he wants to be a Raider or not and Brown replies by asking if the team wants that. Gruden tells Brown to “just play football.”
Under the CBA, a team can suspend a player for as many as four games without pay for conduct detrimental to the team. The Raiders, at least for the time being, have chosen not to do that with Brown. Brown could, if he chooses, appeal any penalty by the Raiders through the NFLPA.
Brown signed a three-year, $50.1 million contract with the Raiders as part of the offseason trade that brought him from the Pittsburgh Steelers. That deal contained $30.1 million in guaranteed money. If he was suspended, that could have revoked the guarantee of $29.1 million, although this season’s salary would have become re-guaranteed by being on the Raiders’ roster Monday.
Wednesday’s incident came with Brown unhappy about receiving a letter from Mayock informing him that he had been fined nearly $54,000 for missing a walk-through and a practice last month. Brown had posted a photo of that fine letter to social media. The incident included, according to reports, Brown using profane language toward Mayock and threatening to punch him. Brown reportedly also punted a football and told Mayock to fine him for that.
The Raiders told Brown to stay home Thursday rather than report to the team’s training facility. Brown did not participate in Thursday’s practice. Mayock and Gruden spoke to reporters Thursday but declined to discuss the specifics of Wednesday’s incident or the Raiders’ plans for Brown.
Brown was one of the NFL’s most productive pass-catchers in Pittsburgh. But he became increasingly disgruntled, and the Steelers eventually accommodated his trade request. His short tenure with the Raiders has been turbulent. He missed practice time because of injuries to his feet reportedly suffered while undergoing cryotherapy treatments. He filed two failed grievances against the NFL seeking to be permitted to wear a helmet not up to the league’s safety standards.
The Raiders mostly remained supportive of Brown throughout the feet and helmet ordeals. Gruden has expressed admiration for Brown as a player and has said he believes that Brown is a good person. But Mayock followed one of Brown’s absences last month by saying that it was time for Brown to be “all-in or all-out” in terms of his commitment to the team.