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Brown Looks for Different Route as Raider Career Ends

August 05, 2004|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

After 16 seasons with the same NFL franchise, receiver Tim Brown's last pattern as an Oakland Raider was a predictable one:

A down and out.

"This is a very emotional day for me," Brown told reporters Wednesday after learning he would be released today. "I have fought the battle as much as I possibly could and tried to restore the image as much as possible to the Raiders."

He added, "This won't be the end of Tim Brown. I'll surface somewhere else, probably."

Brown, 38, the team's last link to the Los Angeles Raiders, holds most of the franchise's receiving records and played in 240 games, more than any other Raider. In an age when players change teams almost as frequently as they change phone numbers, Brown was a rare exception. His leaving Oakland is on par with Emmitt Smith's leaving Dallas for Arizona.

"It's emotionally difficult. It's a part of your life," said Raider owner Al Davis, who spoke at length to Brown earlier this week and decided to release him because Brown faced a greatly reduced role this season and Davis wanted to create salary-cap space.

"Other than your family, this is your family. We've had many great players, but there are certain players you fall for. It's tough to lose him."

Davis has long embraced a philosophy that seasoned minds are often preferable to young legs, that has-beens can be more valuable than those yet-to-be. At the core of some of the best Raider teams were castoffs who had reinvented themselves at the NFL's version of the last-chance saloon.

This time, the sports world was reminded that saloon doors swing both ways.

Brown is second in NFL history with 14,734 yards receiving and third with 1,070 catches. His 99 touchdown receptions tie him with Don Hutson for fourth, and his 14,734 all-purpose yards are fifth. His streak of 175 consecutive starts ended in December, after he'd frequently battled with since-fired coach Bill Callahan.

The starting receivers for the Raiders this season are expected to be Jerry Porter and 41-year-old Jerry Rice. Brown was to be used sparingly. New Coach Norv Turner expects big things from young receivers Alvis Whitted and Ronald Curry.

Brown, who had 52 catches for 567 yards and two touchdowns last season, has expressed an interest in playing for Dallas, where he grew up and resides in the off-season, and says he can make a meaningful contribution to a team.

"I didn't want to be a distraction," Brown said. "I think those guys have great respect for me, and I think you lose some of that if you accept a role where you're not playing.... When you've played at the level I've played at, it's tough to be on the sidelines, waving a towel."

A Heisman Trophy winner at Notre Dame, Brown was drafted by the Raiders in 1988, and, after the departure of Marcus Allen and Howie Long, emerged as the team's leader. He played in nine Pro Bowls and had nine consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards receiving, from 1993 to 2001.

He had his most prolific season in 1997, when he caught 104 passes for 1,405 yards, but the Raiders finished 4-12 and coach Joe Bugel was fired.

"It's a shame that Timmy couldn't graduate from that program because he gave so much to it," said Bugel, who now coaches the Washington Redskins' offensive line. "He's a real Raider. The Steve Wisniewskis, the Tim Browns, the guys that were drafted by the team and played double-digit years for them, those are the guys you hate to see go."

Bugel said Davis and Brown respected each other, even though they had their differences. In a tense period in 1994, Brown signed an offer sheet with Denver but stayed with the Raiders.

"Al loves Tim Brown, believe me he does," Bugel said. "I think that's why they loved each other, because they could quarrel together. Hate each other one day, love each other the next."

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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