Thursday, July 07, 2005

T.B. Retires | by Jay

Tim Brown signed a one-day contract with the Raiders yesterday and promptly hung up his cleats. From

After 17 decorated NFL seasons, Brown has decided to retire, those close to him confirmed. Brown is expected to sign a one-day contract with the Raiders so he can retire with the team that he spent 16 of his 17 NFL seasons.

A part of Brown wanted to continue playing. Even last week he admitted the fire still burned in him. But as Brown surveyed the NFL landscape this offseason, he found that there was little interest in his services. As it turned out, there was more interest in him from the television side.

FOX-TV would like Brown to join its team and become an analyst. NBC has mulled the idea of Brown joining its team to commentate on Notre Dame, where the wide receiver won the Heisman Trophy for the 1987 season. Other business ventures have also appealed to Brown, who always has been one of the classiest players representing the NFL. In the end, Brown decided it was time to take off his cleats and slip on his loafers.

The numbers are now complete on one of the greatest careers any receiver ever has had: 1,094 catches -- third most in NFL history; 14,934 receiving yards -- second most in NFL history; 100 receiving touchdowns -- tied for third most in NFL history; nine Pro Bowl selections; nine straight seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards; a streak of 175 straight starts for the Raiders; most every significant Raiders receiving record. And now, Brown will be an almost-certain first-ballot Hall of Fame selection.

Brown will first be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2010, a class that is expected to include running back Emmitt Smith, the leading rusher in NFL history. Brown, the last Raider left to have played in Los Angeles, will celebrate his 39th birthday on July 22.

Away from the field, one of Brown's trademarks was his candor. It almost was as if he served as the Raiders spokesman. Yet at times, it left him at odds with team management. But even through some of those rough times, Brown always remained one of the most popular players in the locker room.

Though Brown will be remembered as a Raider, he did finish his career in Tampa Bay, where he caught 15 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown in the first three games of the 2004 season before watching his playing time diminish. Brown might have made his greatest mark in Tampa with rookie wide receiver Michael Clayton, who consistently credited Brown for being a role model on and off the field. It is the way Brown always has handled himself.

(For some more background on No. 81, including a retrospective of his Irish career, take a look at our reflection on Brown from back in January.)

So, whither Brown? To Fox Sports? To the Irish broadcasting team on NBC? To the Irish staff?

There was a report in January from the Tampa Bay Tribune (complete with quotes from Brown, detailed in our retrospective linked above) that Tim was headed to work with Charlie's staff in South Bend once his career came to an end. Rumors circulated that he'd be an assistant coach or some kind of recruiting liaison. Since then, he's appeared on campus as a guest coach for the Blue & Gold game, but there was no further confirmation that he'd be rejoining ND in a staff position anytime soon.

Yet even if he takes a broadcasting job in the near-term, I wouldn't be surprised to see Brown back on campus someday in an official position. It's clearly something he's pursued as recently as a few months ago.

Last note: I love these one-day contracts for retiring players. Emmitt Smith did it earlier this year, returning to the Cowboys for 24 hours; Jerry Rice will most likely do it sometime in the next fifteen years, or whenever he decides to hang it up. For the record, when I retire, I would be deeply honored to sign a one-day contract with St. Louis, so I could go out a Cardinal. It just seems like the right thing to do.