With wins in their first two preseason games, the Oakland Raiders are looking forward, as is star wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Brown, who did not suit up in Thursday night's 33-26 win over the Arizona Cardinals, rejoined the team Tuesday in Napa after missing most of camp dealing with a foot injury, and although he didn't appear in game action at State Farm Stadium, No. 84 was a visible, smiling presence on the sideline from whistle to whistle.
"I'm just excited to be back," said Brown postgame. "You guys will be seeing a lot of me here shortly so I'm just excited to be around my teammates in the building, and get together and achieve our shared goals that we're here to achieve."
"Hell yeah, it was encouraging," added Head Coach Jon Gruden when asked about Brown's progress. "It was great to have him back. You know it's been a strange couple of weeks with frost bite and the helmet grievance. I can't say that's common, at least in my history in this league. There's some history in this league weathering the storm. It's great to see him out there with his teammates. He appears to be in great spirits and appears like he's ready to get going, so that's Antonio Brown. We're excited about him. I'm excited about him and could care less what anyone else says, honestly."
While Brown didn't catch one of the 21 combined passes the Raiders trio of quarterbacks completed against the Cardinals, he was able to get some pregame work in with Derek Carr – the duo's first since early in training camp.
And even though it had been several weeks since the Carr/Brown connection manifested itself, the Raiders starting quarterback was pleased with what he saw from the explosive wide receiver before Thursday's road tilt.
"In pregame, we were able to throw a couple balls to each other, pre-pregame when no one's out there," Carr explained. "And then we were able to get another session in and hit some routes. We hit a dep ball. It was kind of right where we left off. He's such a good player, and we've spent so much time together that I knew when he came back it'd be just like he never left. He came in, you see him chatting it up with everybody on the sideline. He's our teammate. We love him. That's our brother and we're just happy that he's here so we can put our arms around him and head forward."
As Carr noted, Brown is a very good player – heck, that's likely underselling the four-time All-Pro – but regardless, inserting Brown back into the lineup will change the face of a Raiders offense that enjoyed some sustained success against the Cardinals.
And that success didn't go unnoticed by Brown from his perch on the sidelines.
"I'm just excited, man," he said. "I'm excited to see my teammates excel. I'm excited to be here and support them, and I just can't wait to put my best foot forward and work with the guys, and put my hand in the pile, and just feel that work as well with them."
Following Thursday's win, neither Brown or Coach Gruden were willing to put a firm timetable on Brown's return to the practice field, but both alluded to the fact that his return – in full – would occur sooner than later.
"I'm pretty sure, hope so," Gruden said when asked if he anticipated an imminent return to practice for AB. "I'm not going to say anything else, but I'm very optimistic after what I saw tonight."
The past several weeks have presented their fair share of challenges for the seven-time Pro Bowler, but now, on the mend, and back with his teammates, Brown is solely focused on what is ahead of both him and the Raiders.
"You don't take this game for granted," Brown said. "Any time you got a bunch of guys coming together, committed for a greater cause higher than yourself, that's something unique and something special…. And to be a part of that is a special feeling."
The Raiders will return to practice Saturday afternoon at their Napa Valley Training Complex.
Head out to Glendale, Ariz. and check out photos from the Raiders' preseason matchup with the Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.