Attention: Everybody can stop worrying about when Antonio Brown will return to Napa, Calif., for the Raiders 2019 Training Camp because he returned to the practice facility Tuesday.
Much was made about the dynamic wide receiver’s absence, but throughout the duration of his recovery, Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock continued to voice their support for Brown as he dealt with a nagging foot injury.
“There's been a lot of reports out there,” Gruden said postgame Saturday. “I can't say I agree with all of them. I support this guy, I think that's what needs to be said. I don't know what anybody is writing, what anybody is thinking. Is this foot injury his fault? This was a total accident. It wasn't his fault. It's a serious injury. I know some people were smarting at it, but it really is a serious matter. It's a guy who's hurting, who's innocent, who didn't do anything wrong. The helmet thing is a personal matter to him. He has a strong feeling about what he's worn on his head. We're supporting him. We understand the league's position as well so we're in a tough spot. We hope Antonio is back here soon because he's exciting to be around. I'm excited, I have some plays for him. I hope I can start calling them.”
Brown has spent his time away from the facility seeing a foot specialist, trying to do whatever he can to get back on the field as soon as possible, because like his head coach, he’s ready to get back on the field and go to work.
Following practice Tuesday, Brown took the podium to field questions from reporters about the adversity he’s been dealing with, and he didn’t shy away from the questions; however, he made sure to point out that everything is on the rise and he’s remaining positive.
“I’m extremely grateful to be here,” he said. “Been dealing with a lot of adversity, it’s on the up and up on things. So, I’m excited to be back and see my teammates and get in the groove of things here shortly.”
He also expressed how it felt to hear his coach and teammates voice their support for him, “It was good to hear. I’m battling a foot injury, I see my face all over the news, all the talk, but these guys have been doing a good job of supporting me. Just grateful to hear them come out about it, and I’m excited to be here to do my job.”
While he didn’t participate in any drills or team sessions Tuesday, he was present on the sidelines to watch part of practice and reconnect with his teammates. Gruden also welcomed him back as the team huddled to end the morning session, and No. 84 received a round of applause when introduced.
Brown is coming off of another monster year statistically, registering a league-high 15 touchdowns among all wide receivers, and finishing with more than 100 receptions for the sixth year in a row. Great things lie ahead for the pairing of Brown and Derek Carr, and No. 4 also expressed his joy to have him back in the fold Tuesday.
“It’s good to have him back,” Carr said. “Obviously we’re excited to have him and can’t wait for him to suit up and be out there with us. It’s always exciting when you get one of your teammates back; whether it’s from injury, or they’re out for some other reasons. Any time a teammate comes back it always brings life to the team.”
Brown didn’t put an exact time on when he’d return to practice, but Gruden is confident he’ll be ready to roll for Week 1 of the regular season. Until then, the Raiders will continue to prepare for the first road matchup of 2019, as they travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals for their second preseason game.
-Call it #TransactionTuesdsay, as the Silver and Black’s roster continued to turn over prior to the start of the morning session. Not only did the team sign defensive backs Makinton Dorleant and Joshua Holsey to beef up their banged up secondary, the Raiders also waived Hamp Cheevers and Johnny Townsend.
With Townsend’s departure from Napa, undrafted rookie A.J. Cole has essentially won the team’s punting job.
-Also, after missing the first few weeks of training camp, veteran fullback Keith Smith passed his physical Tuesday morning and returned to the field, as well as the active roster. It’s unclear whether or not Smith will play Thursday against the Arizona Cardinals.
-Speaking of Thursday night, it sounds like we’ll get at least a little taste of Derek Carr and the starters at University of Phoenix Stadium. How much remains to be seen, but Coach Gruden said that DC will at least be on the field for a time.
-Coming out of the University of Alabama, Josh Jacobs was touted as the most-complete running back in the country. Well, during the team’s time in Napa, we’ve seen him run the ball, catch the ball out of the backfield, and Tuesday, we saw the rookie lay the lumber in pass protection. While we have yet to see No. 28 play in a preseason tilt, what we’ve seen from practice has been very impressive.
-In addition to Mr. Big Chest’s return to Napa, another cool – less flashy – moment occurred during Tuesday’s practice. During one of the breaks in the action, both Derek Carr and Doug Martin came over and introduced themselves to Joshua Holsey. With so many guys on the roster, it’s easy to forget that something as simple as saying hello might have to wait until practice.
-Time for our daily special teams update: shocker here, but Tuesday was another good day for Daniel Carlson, as the big-legged kicker connected on all his attempts save one that bounced off the left upright. As far as A.J. Cole was concerned, No. 6 also turned in another quality effort at the office, booming his punts, and very much looking the part of an NFL punter.
Assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia also had his battery work on last-second execution, getting Carlson set up to kick with less than 10 seconds on a running clock.
-Overall, I thought the defense had a good day Tuesday, but one of the highlights for Paul Guenther’s group came in the final period of practice when cornerback Nevin Lawson batted a ball at the line of scrimmage then hauled it in for an interception.
-That said, the play of the day belonged to Tyrell Williams, who went up and hauled in an acrobatic, sideline catch with a defensive back draped all over him. Throughout our time here in Napa, catches like that have seemingly become the norm for No. 16.
Derek Carr discussing what he needs out of Antonio Brown for the pair to be ready for the start of the regular season:
“We’ll be ready to go Week One. We have a lot of time until then. Obviously, a short week with playing a game on Thursday, but with that said, we have so much time to get some game plan plays down, some routes, certain cuts that we’re going to have him run, and all those kinds of things. We have plenty of time, so the fact that he’s here is a good sign, it’s good for us.”
Tweet of the Day:
Coach Gruden and his squad will travel to Arizona Wednesday afternoon in advance of their Thursday night game against the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Kickoff is scheduled for 5:00 PM.