Wherever the truth lies within the silver and black cauldron of nonsense created by the Raiders trading for wide receiver Antonio Brown, the conclusion should be obvious.
Whether he still wants to play for them or at all, whether this is some orchestrated ploy by coach Jon Gruden to move on from the player and his massive contract — it’s time to cut the proverbial cord.
The Raiders need to be out of the Antonio Brown business.
Forget about knocking on wood if you agree. Try hammering on concrete.
But most won’t.
He’s an incredible player, after all.
It’s such talent that convinced the Raiders to look past Brown’s diva nature and tendency to create locker room strife when they sent third- and fifth-round picks to the Steelers for him in March, selections that have produced rostered rookies in Pittsburgh, by the way.
Such talent that the Raiders altered Brown’s three-year contract to a new deal that included $30.125 million in guaranteed money; such talent that they put up with frozen feet and two helmet grievances and Brown staying away from the team during large parts of training camp.
They might even remain on that course now, amid reports Thursday that Brown would be suspended after engaging in a heated exchange with general manager Mike Mayock a day earlier.
They shouldn’t. Whatever deserving public relations hit that might come the Raiders way for releasing Brown, given they are hardly innocent spectators in all this needless buffoonery, is nothing compared to the continued issues that will arise if they keep him.
Think about it. The guy hasn’t even played a game for the Raiders yet.
And you think he’s going to magically awake as the consummate team player?
Nothing will change
It’s not changing. Brown isn’t changing. He’s self-destructing right before the eyes of a team that knew of his knucklehead tendencies when trading for him and yet continued to support him via comments from Gruden and teammates throughout camp.
“I wouldn’t read into Antonio Brown being a distraction,” Gruden said on Aug. 20. “There have been no distractions … If you see a distracted football team, I disagree with you.”
Wow. With absolutely no threat of any real repercussion like that, it’s no wonder Brown believed himself untouchable.
But what message was he sending by blasting across social media this week a copy of a letter from the team informing him of a $13,950 fine for missing a walk-through and stating he had previously been fined $40,000 for missing camp on Aug. 18?
Why would anyone who truly wants to compete for a team go public with such a notice just days before a season opener, adding his own words of, “When your own team want to hate but there’s no stopping me now … Devil is a lie … Everyone got to pay this year so we clear.”
Why would he yet again become such a distraction in regard to a fairly standard letter known only to the team, his agent and himself about fines that are often not even collected?
Are those the actions of someone who wants to be a Raider?
Who wants to continue being an NFL player at all?
NFL teams have gone to the wall and employed star players whose transgressions are far worse than those of Brown, but it’s also true that by suspending him for conduct detrimental, the Raiders could void some or all of the guaranteed $30 million.
They could cut him at this point without suffering a serious salary cap hit.
Still, the Raiders share much of the blame here. They traded for him and then threw a boatload of cash his way, with full knowledge of his off-field troubles in Pittsburgh.
That they would now potentially release him shouldn’t absolve them of such culpability.
But the roster is also young. There are 18 rookies, including those on the practice squad, wearing a Raiders uniform. Gruden and Mayock are obviously building a certain way.
What good is it to keep a malcontent of a superstar who is sure to continue causing more and more drama?
Brown is Hall of Fame terrific when a ball is snapped, but he’s not winning games by himself.
I’m not sure what the Raiders will do, but never dismiss the hunger of a franchise for featuring such talent.
They should cut the cord. Move on. Be out of the Antonio Brown business.
For those in agreement, just don’t hold your breath or knock on wood yet.
It’s the NFL, where second (and sometimes third and fourth and 10th) chances are as much part of the culture as betting lines.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.