Deal thrusts Brown into Bucs' plans
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tim Brown calls his reunion with Jon Gruden a no-brainer.
The former Oakland star joined forces with the ex-Raiders coach on Tuesday, signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a move the 38-year-old receiver thinks will rekindle a Hall of Fame career.
"There was really only one place for me to play, and that was here," Brown said.
"After so many years at one place, certainly you want to be comfortable with how you go about your business. Being around Jon, he knows me, he knows what I'm capable of doing and he knows how to use me on the football field."
Brown was released last week after 16 seasons with the Raiders, who told one of the most popular players in team history that he was no better than the fourth or fifth best receiver in a group that included starters Jerry Rice and Jerry Porter.
Brown said other teams expressed an interest in signing him -- though he wouldn't say which ones -- but only the Bucs wanted to bring him in immediately.
In Tampa Bay, Brown could wind up being a starter with leading receiver Keenan McCardell staying away from training camp in hopes of getting a new contract and Joe Jurevicius out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery this month.
The Bucs also think rookie receiver Michael Clayton, the team's first-round draft pick, can benefit from being around and learning from the nine-time Pro Bowl selection.
"My whole deal is I know I can still play this game," said Brown, who agreed to a one-year contract with no signing bonus.
"I think with Jon I'll be put in situations where I'll be able to make plays. And if I can't make the plays, then everybody will know at the end of the year what time it is. If I can make plays, then we'll look at continuing on."
Brown played a franchise-record 240 games for Oakland, and his streak of 173 consecutive games with at least one reception is the second-longest in NFL history behind Rice's 273.
"It's amazing to see how this league works," Rice said from Raiders camp in Napa, Calif. "You never know where you're going to be or where you're going to end up."
Brown is second on the all-time list with 14,734 yards receiving, third in receptions with 1,070, tied for fourth with Hall of Famer Don Hutson with 99 touchdowns and fifth with 19,434 all-purpose yards.
The 1987 Heisman Trophy winner played for Gruden from 1998-2001, the last four years in a stretch of nine consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards receiving. Two years ago, he helped lead the Raiders to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Gruden-led Bucs.
Last season, Brown had 52 catches for 567 yards and two TDs.
"His accomplishments are well-documented ... and he's not done," Gruden said, adding that Brown's role with the Bucs will be defined as the season progresses.
"There are things that you can do creatively to help him continue playing and do some things that this team needs. This is a guy that if he's right physically, and his frame of mind is what I think it is, we will let his performances speak for themselves."
"He is going to come into this locker room and bring some leadership and stability," Garner said.
"He's a Hall of Famer, there's no doubt. He can teach our young players a lot about being a professional athlete both on and off the football field. It will be great to be back with him."
Brown could get a chance to face his former team early in the year as the Bucs travel to Oakland on Sept. 26 for a Sunday night game.
"The hype is already there," Rice said. "The second I heard he might sign with Tampa, I went, 'Oh my God. Here we go."'
Brown isn't making any bold predictions. Nevertheless, he averaged 84 catches, 1,162 yards and nearly nine TDs per season in his first go-around in Gruden's system, so he's confident he can flourish again.
"I could have stayed with the Raiders and waved the towel on the sidelines and played whenever they wanted me to play and let my career go out that way. ... But that's not who Tim Brown is," he said.
"If I fall on my face this year, I'll pick myself up, go about my life, move on and thank the Buccaneers for the opportunity. But I don't see that happening."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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