Browns bring it home to Ravens

Cornell agrees to 4 years

Orlando signs for season after 3 years out of game

March 19, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

On the same day linebacker Cornell Brown agreed in principle to a four-year contract, offensive tackle Orlando Brown finally signed the one-year, $1 million deal the Ravens have had in place since late last week.

In bringing back both Browns yesterday, the Ravens added two potential starters with distinctly different attitudes.

While Cornell Brown's upbeat disposition brought a degree of levity to the locker room last year, the Ravens expect the on-field nastiness of Orlando Brown, nicknamed "Zeus," to be as contagious.

Orlando, who played for the Ravens from 1996 to 1998, has been out of football since December 1999, when referee Jeff Triplette's thrown penalty flag inadvertently hit him in his right eye, leaving him with distorted vision.

He subsequently sued the NFL and recently settled the suit, one in which he was awarded millions of dollars. His eye was not well enough for him to play the past three seasons, but it's fine now.

"I got something a lot of guys don't got - I love pain and I love to hit," said Orlando Brown, 32, an eight-year veteran who signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Browns before the 1999 season. "I like to take a guy's heart. I haven't lost that, and that's why I'm back."

If he returns close to the form that made him one of the better right tackles in the league, the Ravens may have solved a revolving door there - nine players in the years since Orlando Brown left.

If he should struggle early, the team can turn to Ethan Brooks, who started 13 games last year and signed a two-year contract last week.

The Ravens put Orlando Brown, 6 feet 7, 350 pounds, through a 30-minute workout March 5 and walked away surprisingly impressed with his footwork and physical shape.

"He did not sit on his duff [the last three years]," offensive line coach Jim Colletto said.

"He's worked hard the last couple of years and been working on pass protection in Florida. We put him through those paces, and we were all surprised at his ability to move. That was the only question I had in my mind."

Orlando Brown said he had an offer on the table from the Minnesota Vikings of about $15 million over four years, but felt more comfortable returning to the Baltimore area, where he has three children and much of his family resides.

"I know I turned down a lot of money, like $15 million or whatever, to sign a $1 million contract," Brown said. "But I like the city, and my kids are here, too. I know I have to come back and prove myself.

"The eye is great. I passed all my eye exams. I'm going to wear visors and goggles. I know the way I play, and I know guys are probably going to come after my eye. I know I would."

The fact that he's willing to attack a vulnerability is one of the main reasons the Ravens were one of the first teams to contact him about a return last October.

"The offensive line that existed here before I got here, which was a very good offensive line, had a certain personality to it. It was a tough, nasty group," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

"That attitude is something that I welcome to our current offensive line."

Re-signing Cornell Brown, who started 14 games last season after spending the previous year out of football, means the team will likely return every defensive starter except end Michael McCrary (whom Adalius Thomas replaced for much of the season).

Thomas and safety Anthony Mitchell are restricted free agents who are expected to sign one-year tenders.

Cornell Brown has started 22 games in his six NFL seasons, all with the Ravens. "That's where he wanted to be," said his agent, Joel Segal.

"We're excited to have him back," Billick said. "What he brought to the locker room last year, what he was able to [demonstrate] for those young guys was huge."

He made good on his second chance with the Ravens, registering 67 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks after the team released him for conduct reasons before the 2001 season.

Now, in what may wind up being one of the comeback stories of next season, Orlando Brown is looking to do the same.

"My whole life people always were telling me what I couldn't do," he said. "I'd never been the praying type, but I started praying [after the injury].

"I got on my knees, going up to the altar and started praying. That was my wakeup call. I'm going to still be Zeus now, using the Lord's name in vain and cursing. I'm going to still say my ... words.

"But I have to show them that I'm still a starter. I know that, that's why I signed for the minimum. I'm going to show people that I still got it."

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