GLENDALE, Ariz. — Antonio Brown is back. Almost.
After an impressive pregame workout on Thursday, the flamboyant Oakland Raiders receiver is hopeful that he will return to training camp practice on Saturday.
That means two issues are close to being resolved: Brown said that his feet, badly burned after he underwent cryotherapy in France last month, are nearly healed. And he believes he is on the verge of settling on a new helmet that meets NFL specifications.
“My feet are healing in the right direction,” Brown told reporters after watching Thursday night’s preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals from the sideline in full uniform. “I’m just ready to get around my teammates and be with the guys.”
Asked if the target is to return for the Raiders’ next practice, on Saturday, Brown said, “We’ll see what happens.”
Antonio Brown works out prior to the preseason game against the Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. (Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)
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During the workout, Brown was fluid and fast as he caught passes from Derek Carr. He made the sharp cuts that are essential to his precision game as arguably the NFL’s best route-runner. He didn’t appear to have any setbacks.
“It feels a lot better,” he added.
DC → AB #OAKvsAZpic.twitter.com/T6SWfoYhCw
As for the helmet issue, Brown insists that reports that stated he would retire if the NFL didn’t allow him to wear his older, now-banned helmet were erroneous. He said he has tried several helmets, but wasn’t ready to commit to which one he’ll wear.
“Still working with the NFL to make sure everything is legal, appropriate,” he said.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden thinks a Saturday target is realistic for Brown to start practicing.
“I’m very optimistic after what I saw tonight,” Gruden said, referring to the pregame work.
Someone asked Gruden if the pregame work was encouraging, considering the drama that has surrounded Brown since the start of camp.
“Hell yeah, it was encouraging,” Gruden said. “It was great to have him back. It has been a strange, strange couple of weeks with frostbite, the helmet grievance. I can’t say that’s common, at least in my history in the league. We weathered the storm. It was great to see him out there with his teammates. He appears to be in great spirits, and he appears like he’s ready to get going here.
“It’s Antonio Brown! We’re excited about it. I’m excited about it. I could care less what anybody else thinks.”
And was that really a legit helmet that Brown wore in the workout?
“It was a legal, certified helmet,” Gruden contended. “Somebody approved it.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.
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