For Raiders receiver Brown, the ring's the thing

Veteran is hoping to run by Titans, into Super Bowl

Nfl Playoffs

January 18, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. - Tim Brown has one final route to run.

The 15-year Oakland Raiders receiver has always gotten sidetracked trying to reach the Super Bowl, going 0-2 in AFC championship games. Tomorrow's AFC title game will give him the chance to remove that asterisk and move one step closer to adding a ring.

"When you're going to play this game, especially as long as I've played it, and the sacrifices you make being away from your family, you want to be the best you can be," Brown said.

"That doesn't mean going to the Pro Bowl; it means being the absolute best, the one that's holding the trophy up at the end of the year. Obviously, I've never done that at any level, high school, college or pro. So for once, I would like to be able to say I played on a team that was the best in the world. That's why you do it. That's why you kill yourself in the offseason to keep in shape."

Brown has been this far twice previously, losing at Buffalo in January 1991 and to the Ravens in January 2001.

In a 51-3 blowout by the Bills, Brown was primarily a return specialist. In a 16-3 loss to the Ravens, he was limited to five catches for 48 yards.

With the Raiders' aging roster and pending salary cap problems, Brown's third chance could be his last.

"If it doesn't get done," Brown said, "I would say there are definitely missed opportunities."

Brown is the third player in NFL history to catch 1,000 passes in a career during which he has played in a Raiders-record 224 games. He has gained 14,167 receiving yards, second only to teammate Jerry Rice in NFL history.

Beyond the statistics, Brown has become a motivational figure for Oakland.

A Raider since 1988, Brown still puts on the same faded and ripped practice jersey that has withstood 1,800-plus practices. His teammates refer to him as "Captain."

"I really hope we can get there for Timmy," said safety Rod Woodson, who played in the league 13 years before winning the Super Bowl with the Ravens in the 2000 season. "It'd be a great feeling to get that ring on his finger."

Earlier in the week, Tennessee Titans safety Lance Schulters called Brown a "crybaby" for continually lobbying officials for pass interference calls.

"I've been called a lot of things, but I don't know if I've been called crybaby before," Brown said. "I rolled up here today and my offensive line, they're like my protectors. It was like, `Miss Brown, Miss Brown, what's going on with this?'

"He don't have to worry about me. It's the offensive line he has to worry about."

Brown, though, has been known to take matters into his own hands.

In the Raiders' last meeting with the Titans on Sept. 29 at Oakland, Brown took on a player who outweighed him by 100 pounds.

Angered by defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth hitting him away from the ball at the end of a play, he chased Haynesworth into the Titans' huddle and head-butted him.

Although officials did not call a penalty on the play, several personal fouls ensued.

"I don't think anybody can look at that and say it wasn't a cheap shot," Brown said, "but, hey, it was what it was."

This time, Brown is fighting for another shot at getting to the Super Bowl. And if he fails again, Brown is not sure how he would react.

"While I'm in the midst of this, it's hard to say I'll be fine," said Brown, whose wife is expecting twins this month. "But if I'm away from it and I've honestly done everything I could possibly do to get there, I have to be fine with it.

"Otherwise you'd go crazy, I believe. But I don't think I'll be that kind of player. I know that I've dedicated myself as much as I possibly can to this game, and if I walk away without a title, that's just the way it's meant to be for me."

NFL playoffs

Tomorrow's games

NFC championship

Tampa Bay (13-4) at Philadelphia (13-4), 3 p.m. TV: 45, 5. Line: Phila. by 4. AFC championship

Tennessee (12-5) at Oakland (12-5), 6:30 p.m. TV: 13, 9. Line: Oak. by 7 1/2 .

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