Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown has filed a grievance against the NFL to be allowed to wear the helmet he prefers, not one of the helmets that league rules mandate, league sources told ESPN on Friday.
League sources also told ESPN that Brown’s recent absence from Raiders training camp has more to do with his helmet than with his feet. He suffered extreme frostbite on his feet as a result of not wearing appropriate footwear when he entered a cryotherapy chamber last month in France, a source told ESPN.
Brown is expected to have a hearing about the helmet as early as next week, and an arbitrator will decide whether he gets to wear the one he wants.
Long-standing NFL rules requiring players to wear certified helmets say he can’t. The helmet that Brown is comfortable in and has worn throughout his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers — believed to be the Schutt Air Advantage helmet, which the company has discontinued making — is no longer certified by the National Operating Committee for Standards and Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE).
The NFL has a policy of not allowing players to wear helmets that are not certified by NOCSAE. NOCSAE’s rule has been that no helmets older than 10 years can be worn.
It’s the latest complication in what has become a complicated summer for Brown, from his head to his feet.
The foot injury has limited his practice time, and he has not been in camp recently as he meets with specialists. Other league sources, however, told ESPN that the helmet issue has been an ongoing battle since the start of training camp.
The NFL and NFLPA want players to wear helmets designed in the most effective manner to safeguard against potential head injuries.
The Raiders are “aware and supportive of Antonio Brown, but [have] no further comment.”
During the offseason, the NFL and NFLPA added 11 helmets to their joint list of approved equipment for this season while eliminating a grace period for other models that have fallen short in laboratory testing. By the end of last season, the NFL said 32 players were wearing helmets that now are banned. Brown was one, and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady — who has openly complained about the rule — was another.
Though the league and NFLPA have tested helmets since 2015, last year was the first time they banned certain models. This season, the league is enforcing the rule and trying to make no exceptions, even saying that any player wearing a banned helmet will be subject to discipline.