ALAMEDA, Calif. — He’s playing.
It turns out reports of a suspension were premature. Raiders coach Jon Gruden issued a brief statement Friday and said wide receiver Antonio Brown was back with the team and the plan was for him to play Monday night against the Denver Broncos.
Sure enough, Brown practiced and issued a brief statement to reporters, taking no questions.
“I’m excited to be out here today. I want to apologize to my teammates, the organization,” Brown said. “Enough talk now. I’m excited to be out here with my teammates and grateful for all the fans and I’m excited to be a part of Raider Nation and see you guys soon.”
Gruden delivered the news before practice, walking over to reporters during the media window.
“Antonio is back today,” Gruden said. “We’re very excited about that, ready to move on. He’s had a lot of, obviously, time to think about things, and we’re happy to have him back and I know Raider Nation’s excited about that too.
Gruden took one question after the initial statement. Asked if Brown would play, Gruden said, “That’s the plan.”
Brown’s had issues from his helmet to his frostbitten feet this preseason, culminating in a shouting match with general manager Mike Mayock in which the wide receiver reportedly called Mayock a “cracker” and hurled swear words at him.
Friday morning, Brown reportedly gave an “emotional apology” to the Raiders in a team meeting, flanked by team captains.
Reports Thursday after Brown’s spat with Mayock suggested that Brown was likely to be suspended, and positioned the Raiders as exploring the option to void Brown’s 3-year, $50 million contract signed this spring due to conduct detrimental to the team.
Now, he’s set to make his Raiders debut matching up against Denver’s Chris Harris.
At the time the media window of Friday’s practice ended, Brown was not on the field, but that is not unusual for him.
It was important to Brown financially to be suited up for Week 1. As a vested veteran, Brown will be guaranteed this year’s salary of more than $14 million in the form of termination pay.
Although there were initial reports of an impending suspension, it was clear when Gruden spoke to the media Thursday that wasn’t necessarily the case. Gruden owns the final say on all football matters.
“I’m emotional about it. I hope you understand why,” Gruden said. “I think a lot of this guy. I think Antonio is a great receiver and I think deep down he’s a really good guy, so I’m frustrated. I’m not going to say any more about it. I hope it all works out, but I don’t have anything official to say about anything else until I get all the facts and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Denver coach Vic Fangio was unfazed regarding Brown’s availability on Monday night.
“It hasn’t effected (preparation) at all because No. 1, the players weren’t here yesterday when everything happened and we’ve just been assuming he was going to play all along and obviously that’s the way it looks right now,” Fangio told the Denver media.