ALAMEDA, Calif. — Raiders coach Jon Gruden announced at the start of Friday’s practice that Antonio Brown is back and will play in Monday night’s game against the Denver Broncos.
“We’re really excited about that — ready to move on,” Gruden said. “He’s had a lot of time to think about things, and we’re happy to have him back. And I know Raider Nation is excited about that, too.”
The All-Pro wide receiver reportedly apologized in a team meeting earlier in the day. After practice, Brown issued a short statement and took no questions.
“I’m excited to be out here today. I want to apologize to my teammates, organization. Enough talk, man,” Brown said. “I’m excited to be out here with my teammates. Grateful for all the fans and I’m excited to be a part of the Raiders and see you guys soon.”
This is a stark contrast to 24 hours earlier, when Brown was on the verge of being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team after engaging in a heated verbal exchange with general manager Mike Mayock during Wednesday’s practice. A suspension likely would have voided the remaining $30 million in guarantees in Brown’s contract.
Neither Mayock nor Gruden confirmed that Brown would be suspended Thursday, and Brown’s agent Drew Rosenhaus told multiple media outlets that he was trying to smooth things over between the player and team.
With Gruden’s statement, that has now come to fruition.
Brown was not on the field for team stretch, but did walk out of the building just as the media window to view practice was ending. While Gruden said Thursday the Raiders were adjusting to playing without Brown, offensive coordinator Greg Olson said he was always anticipating Brown’s return.
“I planned on having him all along — or we had as an offensive staff,” Olson said. “We had a little bit of a glitch the other day, but that’s been cleared up. So, nothing’s really changed.”
Olson also said Brown’s Thursday absence really didn’t impact the staff’s implementation of the Week 1 game plan.
“The guy’s a top player at the position in the game. And he does some things that are special, certainly. And we were aware of that when we signed this guy,” Olson said. “He’s done some things in individual. He’s missed some time, but we felt good about, right now, where he and Derek are at in terms of the timing.”
Prior to Brown’s return, David Carr of NFL Network — brother of Raiders’ starting quarterback Derek Carr — said Thursday night that the Raiders captains had gone to Gruden and said they supported whatever the Raiders front office decided about Brown, even if it was releasing him.
ESPN reported those same captains were standing with Brown on Friday morning as he issued his emotional apology. Derek Carr, one of the Raiders’ five captains in 2019, confirmed the report in the locker room and added that the team is ready to move on.
Safety Karl Joseph echoed the quarterback’s sentiment.
“We want him to be a part of this team, so we welcome him back,” Joseph said. “It’s up to us to get ready for Denver. That’s all we’re worried about right now.”
Brown last played in Week 16 of the 2018 season, when he caught 14 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns in the Steelers’ loss to the New Orleans Saints. If Brown brings that kind of production to the Raiders offense on Monday, then Joseph and the rest of the Raiders’ worries will probably go by the wayside.