I don't know Lomas Brown, the former Detroit Lions offensive lineman who is now an ESPN analyst. Everything I know about him, however, reflects the classic lovable-giant persona he has cultivated in his post-playing career.
"Santa Lomas," is a term I've heard more than once to describe him.
That's what makes Brown's startling admission this past Friday all the more surprising. If you missed it, Brown said on ESPN Radio's "SVP & Russillo" show that he had his own way of calling out quarterbacks.
"Know how I did it?" Brown said. "Let the guy hit them. Just let the D-linemen get a shot at him."
In fact, Brown recalled a specific instance when he allowed a Green Bay Packers defender to hit Lions quarterback Scott Mitchell in 1994. Mitchell suffered a broken right hand and was replaced by backup Dave Krieg, who led a comeback from a 24-0 deficit in a game the Packers ultimately won 38-30.
Brown had a few of the details wrong about the score, but as Kirkland Crawford of the Detroit Free Press notes, the basics line up. Brown said that "I'm not a big fan of Scott Mitchell" and made clear he wasn't joking. "He's just not on my Christmas list," Brown said. "He won't be getting any Christmas cards from me."
Here's how Brown described what he did:
"We were playing Green Bay in Milwaukee. We were getting beat 24-3 [sic] at the time, and [Mitchell] just stunk up the place, throwing interceptions, just everything. I looked at Kevin Glover, our All-Pro center, and I said, 'Glov, that is it.' I said, 'I'm getting him out of the game.'
"So I gave it the set out, but I got the gator arms on the guy at the last minute. He got around me. He hit Scott Mitchell. He did something to his finger. I don't know what he did to it, but he came out of the game. Dave Krieg came into the game. We ended up losing that game 27-24 [sic]. Now that man came in the game and got some work done. That man who came out of the game? I don't know what he was in there doing."
Told of the gravity of his admission, Brown said: "I've been out of the game since '02. I don't think much can happen to me. Yes, America, yes, I did it."
It should go without saying that what Brown described runs counter to every intuition we have about being a teammate, about sportsmanship and fair play. Regardless of the sport, teams are built on the basic understanding that teammates are all on the same side, have the same goals and are working toward the common good. In football, the quarterback literally trusts his linemen to protect him -- and needs them to succeed in order to do his job.
The ease with which Brown told the story suggests it happens in the NFL more often than any of us want to know. But, quite frankly, it doesn't seem like something to be proud of or to brag about. Some things are better left unsaid.
There is no doubt Mitchell was having a terrible game -- five completions in 13 attempts for 63 yards and two interceptions -- and his tenure with the Lions was a tremendous disappointment. But there is no on-field crime that merits such twisted justice. Purposefully tanking on your job is a reflection of you and your character, not of the culpability you think your victim might have earned.
We've all spent time this year discussing the New Orleans Saints' attempts to intentionally injure players. What Brown admitted to -- doing his best to get his own teammate injured -- is worse. Everyone has a weak moment, and I don't think this should define Brown's career or his life. But in the context of a professional team game, it's as bad as it gets.