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AB returns, says he’s found newer old helmet

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NAPA, Calif. — Antonio Brown returned to Oakland Raiders training camp for the first time in two weeks on Tuesday, with a compromise on his helmet issue seemingly in sight and his frostbitten feet continuing to heal.

The four-time All-Pro receiver came out to the field at 11:05 a.m. PT, about 15 minutes before practice ended.

“I’m extremely grateful to be here,” Brown said. “Been dealing with a lot of adversity. I’m excited to be back, see my teammates, and get in the groove of things.”

Brown and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, acknowledged the helmet issue has been weighing on the player. He accepted Monday’s decision by an independent arbitrator that went against him using his 10-year-old Schutt Air Advantage helmet, but now he’s looking at a possible resolution that can result in him wearing the same model, just more recently produced.

Earlier Tuesday, Brown put out a post on social media — with incentive, of course — asking fans for their help in finding a version of his old helmet that has been manufactured since 2010.

Rosenhaus said they had located some and that it was just a matter of getting one of those reconditioned and re-certified.

“So, it’s all reasonable,” Rosenhaus said. “I mean, it’s all very plausible.

“Understand that this is a guy that’s worn this helmet for nine years. He’s taken a million hits and he’s been healthy and one of the most durable players ever at his position. So you can understand why he’d want to continue to wear that helmet. It’s very important to him. It’s a big part of his safety. … The Schutt Air Advantage is what he’s worn his whole life.”

If Brown can get a model that’s been manufactured since 2010 certified by the National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association (NAERA), it is not clear whether the NFL would sign off on it, because the technology is outdated.

Schutt discontinued the Air Advantage in 2009, according to Glenn Beckmann, Schutt’s director of marketing communications. But the company continued to manufacture the model for a short period afterward to ensure a supply of parts for reconditioning and warranty claims.

Beckmann said he “can’t imagine” any Air Advantage models were manufactured after 2011, and the company does not have any in stock. Helmets are registered with an eight-character number stamped inside the product, similar to a VIN number for automobiles, that confirm its manufacture date.

“There was nothing wrong with the Air Advantage,” Beckmann said. “It had just outlived its life.”

Brown has tried out the new certified helmet and believes it protrudes and interferes with his vision as he tries to catch the football. He also argued that his helmet made him feel safe.

Rosenhaus reiterated that his client, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Steelers in March and promptly given a three-year, $50.125 million contract, had been working on the helmet issue for “months.”

Brown had reportedly threatened to retire if he was not allowed to wear his helmet.

“All the talk about retirement and everything else, that’s not a consideration right now,” Rosenhaus said. “He’s committed to the team, he’s committed to the season and everyone can take solace in that. He’ll be playing this year and playing for the Raiders.”

Rosenhaus also said that Brown’s absence from the Raiders had everything to do with the extreme frostbite on his feet he suffered in a July cryotherapy mishap in France.

“It wasn’t his intention to leave the team for the period of time that he did; he’s always had a good line of communication with the club,” said Rosenhaus.

The Raiders have held 12 practices, with Brown participating in just one pre-practice walkthrough on July 28. He was limited before leaving early on July 30, and he had not been with the team since that day.

“It’s a process,” Brown said. “We don’t make excuses. I’m here today just to get things on the up and up. I’m feeling a lot better. It’s been a process through all the adversity, but I’m still here standing, so it’s an opportunity for me to do what I desire to do.

“Feel a lot better, you know? Working towards 100 percent. Been a process with the feet. Anytime you’ve got a lot of blisters, it’s hard to change directions, cut and run and do what I do naturally.”

Brown, who still appeared to be walking gingerly Tuesday, smiled when asked if there was a time frame for him to return to the practice field.

“I guess you’ve got to stay tuned,” he said.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden was not sure if Brown, who was a mainstay during the Raiders’ offseason program and put in extra work with quarterback Derek Carr, would play in any of the team’s three remaining exhibition games.

Asked, though, if Brown would be ready for the season opener on Sept. 9 against the Denver Broncos on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” Gruden had no doubt.

“Oh yeah,” Gruden said. “Yup. We’ll work him back in.

“Obviously, it’s great to have him back. We’ve had a pretty good understanding, in spite of what people think. … We’ve had a pretty good understanding of the foot injury. We know where he’s been. We know what he’s been through. We’re thrilled to have him back and, obviously, we think he’s a great player and we’re anxious to get the men together and get rolling.”

Count Carr among them.

“Can’t wait for him to suit up and be out there with us,” Carr said. “… Anytime a teammate comes back, it always brings life to the team.

“We’ll be ready to go Week 1. We’ve got a lot of time until then. … Get some game-plan plays down, some routes, certain cuts he’ll run for us. The fact that he’s here is a good sign. It’s good for us.”

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert contributed to this report.



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Must-see sports photos of the week

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The most interesting sports shots from around the globe this week include a 120-kilometer race through the Peruvian desert, NASCAR stock cars spinning donuts in Nashville, Tenn., and a gold-medal-winning takedown in the Philippines.

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After 57 days and one win, Bengals superfan comes down from roof

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MILAN, Ind. — Chrissy Lanham stood next to a cardboard cutout of her husband as the final seconds ticked off the clock inside Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium.

The flesh-and-bone version of Jeff Lanham was watching roughly 45 miles west in the makeshift tent atop the couple’s restaurant and bar in Milan, Indiana. After two months, he was ready to get off the roof.

An offhand comment about living above the Lanhams’ Hog Rock Cafe until the Cincinnati Bengals won a game turned into a 57-day period that unexpectedly transformed Lanham into his town’s biggest celebrity since the basketball team that inspired the movie “Hoosiers.”

When the Bengals finally picked up a win by beating the New York Jets in Week 13 to improve to 1-11, everyone around Chrissy celebrated with “Cardboard Jeff” while the real person was surrounded by screams and flying beer at the bar in southeastern Indiana.

A few drinks, a tree-trimming truck and belief in one of the worst teams in the NFL put Lanham on the roof of his own restaurant. Resolve kept him there.

“I didn’t do it, really, for anything,” said Lanham, 42. “I just made a comment and owned up to a comment and did it.”

Back in 1991, Dennis “Wildman” Walker spent 61 days on a Cincinnati billboard under similar circumstances, a feat that inspired Lanham’s comments.

Cincinnati was 0-4 when Lanham said he would live on the roof until the Bengals won. It was hours before the Bengals hosted the Arizona Cardinals, the NFL’s worst team last season. Jeff and Chrissy watched from the usual spot in the stadium as Arizona won 26-23 on a last-second field goal. Cincinnati started its course toward the NFL cellar, with six consecutive losses to come.

When they drove back to the Hog Rock in their black and orange party bus, Lanham knew where he had to go. A friend grabbed a tent; someone else fetched their tree-trimming truck; and Lanham headed to the roof on a rainy night. Once he woke up the next morning, he realized he might be stuck up there for a while. He moved down a story to the lower portion of the roof so he wouldn’t have to use an extension ladder to climb down to the bathroom and shower.

Decades earlier, people actually paid to live in the building. Back then, it was called the Railroad Inn, a reference to the train tracks that are less than 100 feet from the entrance. But when he and Chrissy started the restaurant, Milan (pronounced MY-lan) was vastly different.

Phyllis Coe, 72, said she bought the building at a sheriff’s auction after the previous owner let the building rot. She charged the Lanhams $500 rent. Lanham, who hadn’t worked for a year after a leg injury forced him to stop working in a mill, poured all of his money into fixing the place up.

“You can’t discount the kid,” Coe said.

When Lanham received international media attention for his stay on the roof, it was the biggest thing to happen to Milan since the high school’s boys basketball team won the Indiana state title in 1954 against Muncie Central, which inspired the 1986 film “Hoosiers.”

Lanham said he used his growing media exposure to remind people about the ’54 champions. He also used his brief window of stardom to raise money for the medical costs of a friend’s daughter who was born with spina bifida. He came down for roughly 12 hours during a benefit event.

During his time on the roof, he held 50/50 raffles during Bengals games and sold $5 raffle tickets for people to eat in a tent that was donated by a friend’s company. He donated most of the things he received, including a pallet of soup from Campbell’s.

He had heaters and plenty of people to keep him company, but it was still tough.

Jeff and Chrissy watched Netflix simultaneously in different places, calling to start shows at the same time and see whether they liked them. She, along with others, brought laundry and food up to his tent, including meals from Skyline Chili topped with habanero cheese. They put up another tent and had Thanksgiving up there.

After nearly two months, he came home. The Bengals easily trounced the Jets, 22-6 on Sunday, for their first win of the season. People near Chrissy at the stadium gave Jeff’s cardboard cutout high-fives, while the watch party back in Milan erupted when the game ended. By the time Chrissy arrived home, Jeff was celebrating with everyone at Hog Rock. They stayed until 11:30 that night.

“Jeff was ready to come home,” Chrissy said.

After the victory, Bengals running back Joe Mixon said he’d like to give Lanham something for staying up there that long. Lanham said that’s not necessary.

“I can’t say I want something from somebody because I didn’t do it for that,” he said.

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Source — Patriots re-signing veteran kicker Nick Folk

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The New England Patriots will be re-signing kicker Nick Folk, a league source confirmed to ESPN.

The move, which was first reported by NFL Network, was expected after the Patriots waived Kai Forbath on Monday and were left with no kickers on the roster.

Forbath was signed to replace Folk, who had an appendectomy last week. In Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans, Forbath went 1-for-2 on extra points and made a 23-yarder on his only field goal attempt.

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