LATROBE (AP) – Antonio Brown made it clear that he wants a new contract, but never considered holding out despite greatly outperforming his current deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The wide receiver spoke about his contract status for the first time on Sunday following the Steelers’ first padded training camp practice at St. Vincent College. Brown insisted he’s focused on preparing for the upcoming season and not his contract situation.
“The Rooney family has been first class with me,” Brown said. “I would never hold out. It’s not a good representation towards people who have been taking care of me.
“I’m a first-class guy … and the first way of getting better is showing up. So I’m always going to show up, do my part and be ready to go.”
Brown currently has two years left on his current contract, which expires in 2017. He established franchise records by recording at least 120 receptions and 1,600 receiving yards in consecutive seasons. The 28-year-old Brown also set NFL records, becoming the first player in league history with 526 receptions in his first six years and the first to catch at least 125 passes in consecutive seasons.
He believes that kind of production deserves a reward.
“I know you have to take care of your guys,” Brown said. “If a guy underperforms, you get rid of him. If a guy over performs, you take care of him. That’s the kind of business we’re in.”
Brown said his agent Drew Rosenhaus is in talks with the team and he hopes an agreement can be reached. The Steelers historically do not give players new contracts until there is one year remaining. The team has said it will only negotiate with quarterbacks when there are two years left on a contract.
Brown currently makes an average of $8.3 million, less than the $14 million average earned by the top five receivers in the league. Last season, the Steelers paid Brown $2 million of future salary to appease the star receiver.
Brown didn’t indicate if he would be satisfied with another restructured deal.
“It’s solely up to my agent to handle that part,” said Brown, who signed a five-year, $42.5 million deal in 2012, after his second NFL season.
“I don’t know what they can do. I know there’s a lot of possibilities. Right now, I’m focused on getting better each day and bettering my game.”
If Brown is upset about his contract, it certainly doesn’t show. Brown, who appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” during the offseason, arrived at training camp in a custom-wrapped black-and-gold Rolls-Royce and regularly acknowledges fans with a wave and a smile during practice.
“I love camp because you get a chance to interact with fans, and I get to compete against other guys,” Brown said. “It’s the beginning of the journey. It gets you ready for the season.”
Brown, a two-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler, said he’s trying to grow in all areas and seeks continued improvement even after he set the NFL record for most receptions in any three consecutive seasons.
He won’t have Martavis Bryant on the opposite side after the talented wide receiver was suspended one year because he violated the league’s drug policy. Star running back Le’Veon Bell could also sit out four games after missing multiple drug tests.
It could affect the team’s Super Bowl aspirations, but Brown isn’t worried.
“In the course of the year, there’s always going to be adversity,” said Brown, who missed the Steelers’ January playoff loss to Denver with a concussion. “The only thing we can control is how we deal with it.”
That’s the way he’s handling his contract situation, too.
“I could get into contract talk, but that’s not my focus,” Brown said. “I’m confident in the Rooney family and the Pittsburgh Steelers in getting something done. Right now, I’m just focused on the season, working on my game and continuing to get better.”