The NFL doesn’t want Raiders receiver Antonio Brown to wear the Schutt AiR Advantage, even though the Schutt AiR Advantage was never banned by the NFL, until Antonio Brown found a loophole in the league’s helmet protocol that would allow him to replace his more-than-10-years-old Schutt AiR Advantage with a version less than 10 yers old.
At best, confusion abounds regarding whether and to what extent the league informed Brown’s representatives that the Schutt AiR Advantage would be subject to testing if Brown intends to wear one that is less than 10 years old, and thus suitable for NOCSAE certification. At worst, someone isn’t being truthful about who said what to whom and when as the loophole was being exploited by Brown’s representatives.
On Monday, a reader named Tim Fernandez informed me that NOCSAE executive director Michael Oliver explained that the group would consider for certification any Schutt AiR Advantage that is less than 10 years old. After confirming with Oliver that he indeed had taken that position, I informed Brown’s camp of this apparent loophole.
I also asked the league whether a Schutt AiR Advantage that was less than 10 years old and that was certified by NOCSAE could be worn by Brown. In response, the league didn’t say “yes” and the league didn’t say “no.” Instead, the league sent the graphic showing the banned helmet models for 2019 and the list of preferred models, without any additional comment. The Schutt AiR Advantage appears nowhere on that graphic.
On Monday night, a source with knowledge of the situation told PFT that the Raiders had informed Brown that the league would allow him to wear a Schutt AiR Advantage that was certified by NOCSAE. There was no mention that the Schutt AiR Advantage would have to independently pass NFL/NFLPA helmet testing.
And so Brown embarked on a search for Schutt AiR Advantage helmets less than 10 years old. He found “a few” that had been made in 2010. Eventually, he found one that had been made in 2014, for a film. Through it all, and despite numerous PFT posts on the issue and a direct question that was never directly answered, the NFL said nothing to me about a requirement that the Schutt AiR Advantage must separately pass helmet testing before Brown can wear the helmet.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL found its own 2011 version of the Schutt AiR Advantage, the NFL tested it on Thursday and Friday, and it did not pass. The NFL believes that any/all Schutt AiR Advantage helmets made within the last 10 years would also not pass.
Brown’s camp insists that the Raiders said on Monday night that, if Brown finds a Schutt AiR Advantage made within the last 10 years and if NOCSAE recertifies it, Brown would be permitted to wear the helmet in practices and games. Brown’s camp also insists that the NFL said nothing about a general requirement that the Schutt AiR Advantage be tested before Brown can wear it. Brown’s camp now believes that the NFL rushed to test the Schutt AiR Advantage specifically to keep Brown from wearing it, without the grace period that others (like Patriots quarterback Tom Brady) were able to utilize before permanently ditching their helmets.
So a messy situation has gotten even messier, and the inescapable conclusion is that the NFL has done whatever it had to do to keep Brown from wearing the Schutt AiR Advantage, even though the Schutt AiR Advantage had never been banned by the NFL until Brown found one that was less than 10 years old and thus able to be worn in practices and games.