Antonio Brown is the most prolific wide receiver in football over the last eight seasons (or so), even while being a smaller and less imposing physical specimen than nearly every “No. 1” receiver in the NFL. How does he do it?
His dominance starts with his feet. Antonio Brown has the best feet in the NFL. His route running is masterful. His ability to change directions is unmatched. Coaches used to always tell us to take the time to win on the line of scrimmage, but for most NFL receivers, the internal clock moves too fast to spend a lot of time there. The voice within is screaming GO! Get into your route!, so you rarely see a receiver really work the line of scrimmage to get his cornerback off-balance or out of position. But Antonio Brown makes a school of it. He will wait until the ball is snapped, pull out a map, unroll it, point to exactly where he wants you to think he’s going, roll it up, put it back in his pocket, then run to another spot just as the ball arrives in his hands.
But Brown is not just a small guy with good feet. Because he is so successful, so “controversial,” and so paid, he has a target on his back. A big one. He draws double-teams from defenses then gets smothered on Twitter. Specific coverages neutralize him while Stephen A. Smith excoriates him. All of that weight, plus an ill-timed trip to the cryotherapy chamber, has resulted in his feet being compromised, which I’m sure has him already feeling a certain way.
And now they want his helmet.
If Antonio had the time or inclination to sit down and write things down for us, I imagine it would be a mash-up of the following points: the new helmet doesn’t fit right; it gives him a headache; the chinstrap feels weird; he can’t see his periphery (which makes him more vulnerable to big hits and less likely to track the ball in the air); the league’s “health and safety” initiative is bogus and just an attempt to limit liability; there’s no such thing as a “safe helmet”; NOCSAE is a political organization; “helmet technology” is a PR stunt; and we’re all going to die anyway. All of these things are absolutely true.
Fact is, there’s a WARNING sticker on each and every helmet, including the new and improved NOCSAE-certified models. It reads: “No helmet can prevent serious head or neck injury a player might receive playing football.” No helmet.