Raiders coach Jon Gruden stands by Antonio Brown
Raiders coach Jon Gruden came to the defense of wide receiver Antonio Brown, who has missed all but one of the team’s training camp practices after suffering frostbite on his feet during a cryotherapy machine treatment. He also is reportedly threatening to retire if he doesn’t get to wear his old helmet in 2019.
“I support this guy. I think that’s what needs to be said,” Gruden said after the Raiders’ 14-3 preseason win over the Rams on Saturday night. “I don’t know what anybody’s writing or what anybody thinks, but this foot injury wasn’t his fault. This was a total accident. It really wasn’t his fault and it’s a serious injury. I know some people are smarting at it, but it’s really not a laughing matter.
“And the helmet thing is a personal matter to him,” Gruden added. “He has a strong feeling about what he has worn on his head and we’re supporting him. We understand the league’s position as well so we’re in a tough spot. And we hope Antonio is back here soon, because he’s exciting to be around. I’ve got some plays for him. I hope we can start calling them.”
The league enhanced enforcement of helmet regulations would force Brown to switch to a new model this year. Brown and other NFL players had a one-year grace period to switch models. Brown has worn the old model for all 10 seasons he’s played in the NFL and it has now been discontinued.
Steelers’ Drake dies
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, who spent more than 30 years molding some of the best players at the position at both the collegiate and professional level, died. He was 62. The team said Drake, who joined the coaching staff in 2018, died early Sunday morning. No cause of death was given.
‘‘Darryl had such an impact on the players he coached and everyone he worked with throughout his entire career,’’ Steelers president Art Rooney II said. ‘‘He was a passionate coach and had a tremendous spirit toward life, his family, his faith and the game of football.’’
Drake went into coaching as a graduate assistant at Western Kentucky in 1983, the beginning of a career that included stops in the college ranks at Georgia, Baylor, and Texas.
Drake reached the NFL as a receivers coach in 2004 with the Chicago Bears. He moved on to the same position with the Arizona Cardinals in 2013 before joining Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s staff in 2018. Drake’s pupils through the years include Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald, longtime NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall, and Antonio Brown, who played for Drake in 2018 before being traded to Oakland last spring.
Vikings get kicker
Looking for solutions for their longtime kicking issues, the Minnesota Vikings traded for Kaare Vedvik from the Baltimore Ravens.
Vedvik has kicked and punted for Baltimore, which was set at the position with standouts Justin Tucker and Sam Koch. The Ravens announced the trade via Twitter with an undisclosed draft pick as the compensation in the deal for Baltimore.
The Ravens had hoped to trade Vedvik because of their consistency at each of the specialist positions, and the former Marshall University kicker and punter demonstrated his ability in Baltimore’s first preseason game on Thursday. He was 4 for 4 on field goals, hitting one from 55 yards. He converted two extra-point attempts and punted twice for a 55.5-yard average.
Minnesota has veteran kicker Dan Bailey, who missed seven field-goal attempts last season with a career-worst 75 percent conversation rate, and punter Matt Wile in training camp.
Jets CB Johnson out
New York Jets cornerback Trumaine Johnson will be sidelined indefinitely after injuring a hamstring Sunday in practice. Johnson, the team’s most accomplished corner, apparently was injured on a long interception return. He came out after that play and never returned to practice. Afterward, coach Adam Gase sounded concerned. “Anytime a guy that makes a living running has a hamstring . . . we’ll see how it goes,” he said. “He’s going to have to get a lot of treatment and strengthen it up and we’ll get him back as fast as possible.” The Jets’ remaining top cornerbacks are Darryl Roberts (11 career starts), Atlanta Falcons cast-off Brian Poole, and rookie Kyron Brown, an undrafted free agent from Akron. The Jets also announced that kicker Chandler Catanzaro has retired after a shaky start to training camp. The team signed kicker Taylor Bertolet to replace Catanzaro on the roster. Catanzaro, 28, signed with New York during the offseason for a second stint with the team. He struggled with consistency during camp, and then missed two extra points in the Jets’ 31-22 preseason-opening loss to the Giants on Thursday night . . . The Buffalo Bills signed veteran defensive end Sam Acho and released former UMass guard Vlad Duccasse. Acho has eight seasons of NFL experience and spent the past four with the Bears, where he had four sacks in 51 games. Duccasse is a nine-year veteran who had one season left on the three-year contract he signed with Buffalo in 2017 . . . Denver Broncos running back Theo Riddick will miss 6-8 weeks after sustaining a slight fracture in his shoulder during Thursday’s preseason game against the Seahawks, NFL.com reported . . . San Francisco 49ers tackle Shon Coleman will likely miss the entire season with a serious injury to his right leg suffered in the exhibition opener Saturday night. The team said Coleman had surgery Sunday for a broken fibula and dislocated ankle. Coleman is expected to be placed on season-ending injured reserve. Coleman was projected to be the backup swing tackle to starters Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey . . . Cornerback DeAndre Baker, the last of the Giants’ three first-round draft picks, sprained his left knee in practice. The Giants said an MRI was done after the injury and the 30th pick overall will undergo more tests Monday . . . Cardinals executive Ron Minegar was arrested on suspicion of DUI in Chandler, Ariz. Minegar, 60, is the Cardinals’ executive vice president and chief operating officer. He has been with the team since 2000.