The Oakland Raiders officially released Antonio Brown on Saturday, ending his surreal seven-month career with the team before he ever appeared in a game.
Brown's release finally comes after at least three instances this week when it appeared the ex-Steelers star had crossed the line with Jon Gruden's Raiders, who in March thought they'd outsmart the league in acquiring the increasingly combustible 31-year-old for third- and fifth-round draft picks and an agreement on a three-year extension including $30-plus million guaranteed.
Brown has repeatedly broken terms of his contract, giving Gruden the fortuitous leverage to void the deal and walk away with everything but pride and, predictably, the game-changing advantage the spectacular talent once provided in Pittsburgh.
But Gruden, in Year 2 of a 10-year, 100-million contract after an embarrassing 4-12 debut in his second Raiders stint, and new GM Mike Mayock, whom Gruden hired in January, had different levels of tolerance for Brown's acts. While the general manager's patience had already seemingly worn out, Gruden continued enabling Brown and sending a mixed signal of invincibility to the troubled star.
That all finally changed Saturday, and because it's hard to know what may have finally tipped the scales, here's a brief timeline of the turbulence and toxicity that led Brown and the Raiders here.
Most recent in Brown's long line of erratic behavior, he posted a video to his YouTube page Saturday including audio of Gruden asking his new receiver, "Do you want to be an Oakland Raider or not?" and "please stop this shit and just play football." It came less than 48 hours after a near-physical altercation with Mayock over his boss informing the receiver he was being fined for missing portions of camp in a letter that Brown subsequently put on social media.
These are clearly contract violations, if not legal ones.
In August, the receiver missed virtually all of training camp with frost-bitten feet after a cryotherapy session mishap in France and amid a war with the NFL over the receiver's insistence on wearing his banned 10-year-old helmet that didn't pass safety tests. Brown later inferred on Twitter that the helmet spectacle was a money grab and way out of partaking with his new teammates in his first camp.
A former sixth-round pick out of Central Michigan, Brown leads the NFL in receptions and receiving yards since his 2010 arrival. But he left the Steelers the Wednesday before a must-win Week 17 game last season over what he called an irreparable spat with QB Ben Roethlisberger. The franchise's all-time second-leading receiver then spent the first two months of the offseason continuing to burn bridges in Pittsburgh before refusing a trade to Buffalo and winding up in Oakland — the only other known team that seriously pursued him.
Brown, who led the NFL with 15 receiving touchdowns last season but posted his lowest receptions per game, catch rate and yards per target since 2012, is eligible to sign with any of the other 31 teams at 3 p.m. Saturday. Our best guess: Until Brown convinces a team that his motivation is football and not solely AB business booming, we'll surely hear from him but won't see him on a football field.