Antonio Brown is 'getting some magic ready' for the NFL’s relaxed celebration rules

By Thomas George

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- Antonio Brown is walking in the MetLife Stadium tunnels from the locker room to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ team bus. He is wearing a conspicuous black-and-white speckled jacket, a white-collared shirt, black pants and white sneakers. His throaty fans along the route already know who he is.

But Brown always likes to give them something a little extra.

"Is that right, did my handlebar mustache go out strong earlier on social media?”

He asked about his picture he plastered across the world before the Aug. 11 preseason game between Pittsburgh and the Giants.

"I thought it might be a hit. I thought they might take a little notice."

They did. They do. They will. His finesse as a receiver is matched by his charisma as a showman. Brown knows they can’t wait to see what he will do during the 2017 season when he scores a touchdown. He can’t wait, either.

That is because the NFL has relaxed its celebratory scoring rules for 2017. It now welcomes fun and innovative ways for players to acknowledge their touchdowns.

It’s a green light for Antonio Brown, he of the twerk, the flip, the fanatical in prior end zone prances. The league mandates that players keep it clean — no sexual gyrations, no directly ridiculing opponents.

It is open season for creativity. Brown says he’s equipped.

"Oh, I’ve been thinking about it," Brown said. “This game is big business. Anytime you get an opportunity to put more fun into the game, that’s good. I’ve got a lot of positive energy."

He is eager to share it.

We saw Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton "dab" in the end zone a couple of seasons ago at Tennessee in a move that created a national sensation. We saw Denver linebacker Von Miller creatively dance and twist his way toward a Super Bowl championship the same season.

Who can forget Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s imaginative work, those triple jump, Michael Jackson, marriage proposal to the kicking net celebrations?

"In this way, the game is going for the young people in this nation, because that is the group that likes it the most," former NFL receiver Billy "White Shoes" Johnson said. His fancy shoes and "Funky Chicken" scoring dance in the ‘70s and ‘80s, mostly with the Houston Oilers, were among the first to light the league and ignite its fan base. "It’s excitement. It’s a celebration that’s worthy, because it takes work to get into that end zone.

"I like to see the linemen celebrate when they score. Don’t forget about them — I think they’ll have something special this year. And a lot of times people only think offensive players celebrate best, but there are some defensive guys out there who I think this year will be noticed. You’ve got to go for the crowd."

Put on a show.

Nobody does it better than Antonio Brown.

"It takes a lot of hard work to be successful in the NFL," Brown said. "It takes a lot to get in the end zone just to get the chance to do it (celebrate). I’m getting some magic ready."

Something a little extra.

The NFL's Five Best Celebrators

Billy "White Shoes Johnson," an NFL receiver from 1974-88 who was one of the league’s first to flaunt touchdown dances, ranks the top five celebrators to anticipate in the 2017 season.

  • Antonio Brown Steelers – "He’s in a class by himself."
  • Odell Beckham Jr. Giants – "Very creative. Watch out!"
  • DeSean Jackson Buccaneers – "I’ve always liked watching DeSean do his thing. He’ll be hard to miss."
  • Richard Sherman Seahawks – "He just has the personality to make you pay attention."
  • Josh Norman Washington – "He’s got a lot of fire. It’ll come out when he gets in the end zone."