by Tom LaMarre
Wide receiver Antonio Brown of the Oakland Raiders on Monday lost his grievance with the NFL to use his old helmet, which is no longer certified as safe by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.
The arbitrator issued the ruling after holding a hearing last Friday with Brown, league representatives and the NFL players’ union. Brown will not be allowed to wear the helmet in practice or games.
“While I disagree with the arbitrator’s decision, I’m working on getting back to full health and looking forward to rejoining my teammates on the field,” Brown said in a Twitter statement. “I’m excited about this season appreciate all the concerns about my feet.”
Brown, who was acquired by the Raiders in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers during the offseason, has not taken part in a full practice for the Raiders in training camp after starting training camp on the non-football injury.
His foot injuries reportedly came from frostbite sustained while he was receiving cryotherapy treatment in France.
Brown was cleared to practice on July 28 and participated in part of two sessions, but was not with the team at camp in Napa, Calif., last week while he had the grievance hearing with the NFL.
“The player can’t practice or play in games with equipment that’s not approved,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “If he doesn’t play or practice, he is in breach of his contract and doesn’t get paid.
“NFL policy is that helmets have to be certified by NOSCAE. They don’t certify equipment that’s (older) than 10 years.”
The NOCSAE sets performance and test standards for equipment and Brown’s Schutt Air Advantage helmet is no longer allowed because the NFL follows the National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association (NAERA) rule that helmets 10 years or older cannot be recertified.
Schutt representatives said the company discontinued making the helmet three years ago it does not meet current technology standards.
Brown was one of 32 players, including quarterbacks Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, who last season used helmets that are now banned by the league and players’ association.
They were allowed to use the helmets last season under a grace period that expired this year.
“The helmet thing is a personal matter to him,” Raiders Coach Jon Gruden said after Saturday night’s 14-3 preseason victory over the Los Angeles Rams. “He has a strong feeling about what he’s worn on his head and we’re supporting him. And we understand the league’s position as well so we’re in a tough spot.
“And we hope Antonio is back here soon because he’s exciting to be around. I’ve got some plays for him. I hope we can start calling them.”
Brown, according to The Athletic, plans to hold the NFL liable if he is injured wearing a helmet other than his preferred model. That would seem to indicate that he will be back on the field at some point.
The Raiders did not practice Monday but obviously are hoping Brown returns soon.