OAKLAND, Calif. — “(Bleep) AB! (Bleep) AB!”
The chant began early Monday evening, around the time Derek Carr had led the Raiders to a 72-yard scoring drive to open the 2019 season, those at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum both joyous with what they were watching and all too willing to voice their opinion about the player who had dominated team headlines for months.
Think of it as a silver and black exorcism, the faithful’s way of expunging from their minds any trace of Antonio Brown and how the wide receiver’s bizarre and self-centered tenure played out.
Down on the field, playing a Week 1 game for the final time here before moving to Las Vegas in 2020, the Raiders offered their own form of rebuking.
I’m not sure how many saw it coming — a 24-16 victory against Denver before 52,359 — but isn’t that how these things tend to play out?
It’s moments like these in sports when teams and athletes alike respond with their best efforts, times of adversity and controversy, when what you believed was an offseason transaction that could dramatically improve your team’s offensive production and win total instead creates your worst nightmare.
“As much as people talk about it, I mean, my God,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “I feel like someone’s smashing me in my temple on the side of the head. Get over it, man. It’s over.
“We were good in the preseason without him. We’re going to be fine without him. We wish him the best. We gave it a shot. Now, New England gets their turn. Good luck to them. But I just can’t deal with it anymore. Sorry.”
Brown is with the Patriots now and there are few more frightening thoughts for the NFL than adding his ability to the lineup that destroyed the Steelers on Sunday night, but Gruden is correct in passing on any more thoughts about the March trade gone terribly wrong for his team.
Besides, the Raiders played far too well Monday to extend the narrative.
It’s one game and Denver isn’t all that good, but for a team that finished 4-12 last season and stayed with Brown throughout months of nonsense that only frozen feet and helmet grievances and unbalanced social media posts can produce before finally waiving him Saturday, the Raiders couldn’t have responded better.
On a night when a rookie (Josh Jacobs) became the franchise’s first running back to gain 100 yards from scrimmage and score two touchdowns since Bo Jackson did against Seattle on a Monday night in 1987, the Raiders showed that they’re perhaps more capable moving the ball than most believed without Brown.
You’re not going to see Carr much more efficient than a 121.0 passer rating and Tyrell Williams calmed some nerves as the No. 1 receiver now that Brown is gone, the former Charger catching six passes for 105 yards and a score.
Things won’t be as smooth most weeks and the questions about Brown probably won’t totally disappear should he begin tearing things up with Tom Brady while the Raiders enter the teeth of a brutal early schedule, but as exorcisms go, this was at least a successful beginning.
Hey, have you seen his social media traffic?
He’s a tough dude to totally expunge.
Message for Brown
The clock read 11:53 remaining in the game Monday and Jacobs had just scored his second touchdown, with an extra-point to follow for a 21-6 advantage.
And from the highest points of the Coliseum, sifting downward and through each section of fans, finally landing in the famed Black Hole, the chant grew louder and louder.
“(Bleep) AB! (Bleep) AB!”
“Let’s get the elephant out of the room,” Carr said afterward. “Antonio is no longer with us. We love Antonio and wish him the best. But we knew with the guys in our locker room, we already had a good football team. If he wanted to be part of it, awesome. If he didn’t, awesome. We still had to come out and play a game, you know.
“I hope he goes off and has a great year. But the guys in this locker room, the guys who competed during training camp and all offseason, we’re a family. And this family is pretty special, and I’m glad to be quarterback and part of it.”
There’s a message in there for Antonio Brown, despite the niceties.
Listen, rebuking a guy doesn’t always have to include (bleeps).
Contact columnist Ed Graney at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.