Jon Gruden is standing behind wide receiver Antonio Brown's commitment to his old helmet.
The Raiders head coach said he supported Brown's decision to file a grievance against the league regarding new NFL rules requiring players to wear helmets certified by the National Operating Committee for Standards and Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE). The helmet Brown wore during his tenure with the Steelers is no longer certified by NOCSAE and therefore fails to meet the standards of the NFL's new policy.
The 31-year-old star has reportedly said he won't play football again unless he can wear the previous version of his helmet. As soon as news of Brown's grievance began circulating, speculation also started that the helmet issue may actually be what's kept him from joining Oakland's training camp in Napa, Calif.—as opposed to the foot injury he suffered after reportedly sustaining "extreme frostbite" during cryotherapy.
Gruden dismissed those rumors after the Raiders' 14–3 preseason win over the Rams on Saturday night, saying the helmet situation was "personal" for Brown.
"I support this guy. I think that's what needs to be said," Gruden said. "I don't know what anybody's writing or what anybody thinks, but this foot injury wasn't his fault. This was a total accident. It really wasn't his fault, and it's a serious injury. I know that some people are [joking about] it, but it's really not a laughing matter. The guy is hurt, he didn't do anything wrong, and the helmet thing is a personal matter to him."
Brown has said that the shape of the newer, NOCSAE-certified helmets block his vision.
No ruling has been issued regarding Brown's grievance but an independent arbitrator could issue one as early as next week, per reports. Players, including Brown, who wear gear that doesn't adhere to the newly enforced standards will be subject to discipline and fines. A handful of other Raiders players have also reportedly been impacted by the new rule but have complied. Brown, however, has continued to try to wear his old helmet despite the change, even reportedly trying to sneak it into practice after the team's equipment manager denied his request.
"He has a strong feeling about what he's worn on his head, and we're supporting him," Gruden continued. "We understand the league's position as well, so we're in a tough spot, and we hope Antonio is here soon because he's exciting to be around. I'm excited. I've got some plays for him. I hope we can start calling them."
Gruden said the team would support Brown "whatever his decision is."
Oakland traded for Brown in March. He was a four-time All-Pro in nine years with Pittsburgh, catching 100-plus passes in six-straight seasons.