Raiders cut Antonio Brown before he ever plays for team

FILE - In this Aug. 20, 2019 file photo, Oakland Raiders' Antonio Brown smiles before stretching during NFL football practice in Alameda, Calif. Brown was released by the Raiders, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

Raiders release disgruntled receiver Antonio Brown before he plays a game with team

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Antonio Brown provided 837 catches and four All-Pro performances before wearing out his welcome after nine seasons in Pittsburgh. He did the same in Oakland before even playing a game for the Raiders.

Brown's tumultuous tenure in Oakland came to an abrupt end Saturday, when the Raiders granted the disgruntled receiver his release two days before the season opener following a series of fines and outbursts on social media and the practice field.

"We just exhausted everything," coach Jon Gruden said. "We tried every way possible to make it work. All I'm going to say is, it's disappointing."

Instead of providing the Raiders a big star in their final season in Oakland before moving to Las Vegas, Brown provided months of headaches, from a bizarre foot injury to a fight over his helmet to the blowups this week that ended his career with the Raiders.

Brown asked for the release after he was upset about his latest team fine over an outburst during practice at general manager Mike Mayock. That fine allowed the Raiders to void more than $29 million in guarantees over the next two years in Brown's contract if he wasn't on the team.

The Raiders had been counting heavily on Brown after trading two draft picks to Pittsburgh in March for the game's most prolific receiver. They also gave him a three-year contract worth $50.1 million that now is void following the release, although Brown could still file a grievance to recover the guaranteed money.

"Now that Antonio is a free agent, we are focused on the future and I will immediately work on signing him to a new team," agent Drew Rosenhaus said. "Antonio is looking forward to a new beginning."

The final twist to this melodrama in Oakland comes a day after Brown returned to the team following a one-day banishment and apologized in a meeting and in a brief public statement. Gruden said the plan was for Brown to play in the opener Monday night against Denver, but that changed after Brown requested and was granted his release.

"It's been crazy," receiver Tyrell Williams said. "We feel how everybody else feels. It's been wild, it's been crazy, it's been unexpected. But we're going to go out there and play regardless. He made that decision. We're going to go out there and play how we're going to play."

Brown wrote on his Instagram account Saturday that he's not angry but wants the "freedom" to disprove his skeptics.

"I have worked my whole life to prove that the system is blind to see talent like mines," he wrote. "Now that everyone sees it, they want me to conform to that same system that has failed me all those years. I'm not mad at anyone. I'm just asking for the freedom to prove them all wrong. Release me @raiders. #NOMore"

A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that Brown had been fined by the team Friday for the confrontation with Mayock in practice two days earlier. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the fine wasn't announced. That dustup came after Brown posted a letter Mayock had sent him detailing nearly $54,000 in fines for missing a practice and walkthrough.

ESPN reported the new fine was for $215,073 for conduct detrimental to the team. That allowed the Raiders to release Brown before the season opener without having to pay him more than his guarantees.

Brown later sent an email to ESPN saying: "no way I play after they took that and made my contract week to week."

Brown also posted a video on YouTube on Friday night that includes audio of a phone conversation with Gruden from an unspecified date. Gruden asks Brown whether he wants to be a Raider. Brown said he does and the question is if the Raiders want him. Gruden then urges Brown to stop all the theatrics and "just play football. How hard is that? You're a great football player. Just play football."

The video ends with Brown saying: "I'm more than just a football player, man. I'm a real person. It ain't about the football. I know I can do that. I show you guys that on the daily. This is my life. Ain't no more games."

The Raiders acquired Brown after he wore out his welcome in Pittsburgh. Oakland gave up only a third- and fifth-round pick for the four-time All-Pro receiver and gave him a hefty raise.

The Raiders had been counting heavily on Brown to spark an offense that lacked playmakers a year ago. Brown had 686 catches and 9,145 yards receiving the past six seasons in Pittsburgh, the best marks ever for a receiver in a six-year span.

But now they must move on without him.

"It's been an emotional thing for me," Gruden said. "I was very hopeful about what he could bring here. Unfortunately it's not going to happen. He's a good guy. He's misunderstood by a lot of people but he's a good guy, a great player and I hope he gets what he's looking for."

Brown was unable to practice at the start of training camp after getting frostbite on his feet during a cryotherapy accident in France. He was activated July 28 and took part in one walkthrough and part of one practice before leaving the team to get treatment for his feet and to fight the NFL and the players' union over his helmet.

Brown lost two grievances with the league in his attempt to use an old helmet now banned for safety reasons. He skipped practice on Aug. 18, prompting Mayock to issue an ultimatum for Brown to be "all in or all out" and to hand him a $40,000 fine.

Brown returned to the team the following day but then missed a mandatory walkthrough before an exhibition game in Canada on Aug. 22, leading to a second fine of $13,950.

Brown had several issues in Pittsburgh as well, leading to the team's decision to trade him even though he topped 100 receptions and 1,200 yards receiving in each of the past six seasons.

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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