For those who have missed it, Antonio Brown is again doing Antonio Brown things. He has apparently been absent from the Raiders training camp over a combination of his mysterious foot issue and a dispute over helmets. He has reportedly threatened to retire if he is not allowed to continue using his current helmet. The league has a list of approved helmets that have met minimum safety standards in independent testing, and his Schutt Air Advantage, which he has worn his entire career, isn’t on it. The Raiders have reportedly sent him several approved models and he has rejected all of them, saying they protrude too far and interfere with his ability to track the ball. He even tried an amateurish paint job on his old helmet to try to sneak it on to the practice field. So far this just looks like more AB diva stuff. As Chiefs fans it is always good to savor the rich and complex flavor of Raiders dysfunction.
But the Tyreek Hill situation has taught us that sometimes the main narrative isn’t entirely justified. This isn’t to say that AB is being set up or falsely accused; he’s definitely not handling the situation like a professional. However, an article posted on The Athletic today https://theathletic.com/1119716/2019/08/11/source-raiders-antonio-brown-would-hold-nfl-liable-for-head-injury-if-forced-to-change-helmets/gives some additional details that make me think he may have a case, albeit a weak one.
Part of the issue is that the NFL requires helmets to be approved by the National Operating Committee for Standards and Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE), and Brown’s helmet, which is a twelve year old model, is no longer approved. The thing is, it was dropped from the approved list because the NOCSAE stops testing helmets after they have been on the market for 10 years. So Brown isn’t demanding to use a helmet that has been shown to be inferior; it just hasn’t been tested recently. Last year the league published a list of banned helmet types, along with some that could be used for one year by players already wearing them but that would have to be replaced with approved models in 2019. Here is an article about that which includes a table of the helmets tested: https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/nfl-nflpa-announce-ban-of-10-helmet-models-after-laboratory-study/ Brown’s helmet isn’t on the list because it wasn’t tested.
A quick Google search reveals that the Schutt Air Advantage can still be purchased, at least in a youth version. So the question is whether Brown is demanding to wear a twelve year old helmet or a new helmet that just happens to be a twelve year old model. If he wants to wear a twelve year old piece of foam and plastic while large humans try to crush him into the ground then he’s just a dumbass. If, however, he wants a new helmet of the same model he’s been wearing then the league doesn’t have data to say that it is unsafe. The solution there would be to actually test the Air Advantage to see if it meets safety standards. I’m sure the NOCSAE would make an exception to their 10 year policy if offered enough money. If it failed, then Brown would be out of luck. If it passed, the league could add it to the approved list. Either way it would at least be a data driven decision.