MINNEAPOLIS -- Running back Earnest Byner found new spiritual life and a revived NFL career with his trade to the Washington Redskins in 1989. But some parts of his Cleveland past he can't erase.
Like the fumble in Denver in the 1987 AFC championship that kept the Browns out of the Super Bowl.
Asked yesterday if he was concerned that he might be remembered for that one play in his eight-year career, Byner ran the equivalent of the Redskins' counter-trey against the assembled Super Bowl XXVI media.
"I'm only concerned that you all keep bringing it up," he said. "What happened in Cleveland has no bearing on us being here now."
Byner had another disastrous playoff experience in 1988 when he was guilty of two personal fouls against Houston. The following spring, the Browns traded him to the Redskins for running back Mike Oliphant. The Browns wanted speed in their backfield and didn't feel Byner was the answer. Plus, there was always someone reminding him about the fumble.
"I don't think the fans ever forgave me," Byner said. "But this is a different era and a different organization."
Indeed, Byner, 29, has enjoyed the Redskins' portion of his career. He has made the Pro Bowl and rushed for 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons, including 1,048 in 1991. Sunday he'll start against the Buffalo Bills in his first Super Bowl.
With the help of defensive tackle Tim Johnson and cornerback Darrell Green, Byner committed his life to Jesus Christ in Washington. He said his life has done a 180-degree turnaround -- "the way I approach life, the way I look at things, is totally turned around."
His is a message of hope. "A lot of people have been through tough times and wanted to give up," Byner said. "But if you work hard, and gain the proper perspective, things will work out."