Antonio Brown Would Apparently Blame The NFL For Any Head Injuries If Forced To Wear A New Helmet

Getty Image

The latest drama around Antonio Brown is not his futuristic cryotherapy injury but the much more bureaucratic issue of helmet safety. His absence from the Oakland Raiders and apparent holdout, however, is very real. And the latest report about the issue is that Brown could have some “dramatic” liability issues if he’s forced to play in a new helmet.

Brown’s drama all comes before he ever officially takes the field for the Raiders, who traded for Brown from Pittsburgh this offseason. The issue appears to be that the NFL has banned the helmet that Brown has used his entire career, and he doesn’t want to wear a new one. His feelings on this are serious enough that on Friday it was reported Brown would sit out or even retire if he’s not allowed to wear his old helmet.

The model, a Schutt AiR Advantage, was made in 2011 and discontinued for use by the NFL because it did not pass safety tests to be recertified. Brown reportedly prefers the model because it allows him to see the field better than other models, and he apparently went as far as painting an old helmet in Raiders colors to try sneaking it on the practice field.
That hilarious bit of hijinks makes light a much more serious issue with vision and helmets in football: player safety. Older helmets aren’t nearly as comprehensive as newer models when it comes to head injuries, but according to The Athletic it’s entirely the opposite with Brown. One source said that if Brown were to play with a newer helmet and suffer a head injury, he’d blame the NFL itself and could pursue legal action.

“And I think it’ll be interesting if the NFL forces Antonio to wear a different helmet,” the source said. “And he does play and he doesn’t retire as some people have reported he will do. And then he suffers a really severe injury. I’d hate to be the NFL. Because now you’ve forced him into wearing a different type of helmet. And I think at that point, though, the liability will be dramatic.”

Brown’s team apparently said as much in its meeting with the league last week. And the report also highlights that Brown wasn’t alone in his preference for older helmets — 32 players had helmets that will not be allowed this season, including Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. But Brown is the only one still fighting the league on the new rules, which Brown feels don’t take into account individual player preferences as much as they should.

The core of the grievance is that the helmet rule is arbitrary as it applies to Brown, the source said, because the league never tested his helmet and the policy is cookie-cutter and does not take players individually into account. Under section 14 of the standard player contract, players must agree to all “reasonable” rules.

In the grievance, Brown’s side harped on that term, contending that banning the helmet had no grounds in science or facts, the source said. “You know, we need to look at the specifics of what Antonio needs to make him feel safe on the field,” the source said, noting in his 10 year-career Brown had suffered only one concussion on an illegal hit from Vontaze Burfict in January 2016.

According to Pro Football Talk, a resolution in the case is expected this week, but it’s entirely unclear whether Brown will get his way or if he’s serious about walking away from football over helmet preferences. If he’s not, and he takes the field, there could be some very interesting legal battles that come from any serious injuries for Brown in his career.