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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."

The signing also reunites Brown with former Raiders general
manager Bruce Allen and one-time Oakland teammates Charlie Garner,
Rickey Dudley and Matt Stinchcomb.

"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."