Monday, July 18, 2005
NASCAR may fuel his retirement
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Nearly a year after the Oakland Raiders thought Tim Brown was ready to retire, their most prolific receiver finally agreed.
Brown signed a one-day contract and retired with the Raiders on Monday, putting a graceful end to the turbulent final months of his 17-year NFL career.
Brown, the Heisman Trophy winner at Notre Dame in 1987, spent his first 16 seasons with the Raiders in Los Angeles and Oakland, becoming the self-proclaimed "Mr. Raider." But after refusing to accept a minor role with Oakland last year, Brown spent one last disappointing season in a small role with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Though that career choice might have hurt a few feelings among the Raiders' executives and fans, Brown always wanted his final NFL jersey to be silver and black.
"At some point in my career, I didn't think this day would ever come," Brown said. "I thought I'd just keep playing and keep playing. But I'm very glad this day has come, and I can move on to the next phase of my life.
"I feel great. I feel as if I can still play five years of football ... but maybe the reason to retire is because I feel so good," he said.
Brown, who turns 39 on Friday, had 1,070 receptions for 14,734 yards and 99 touchdowns with the Raiders before they released him last August. Reuniting with former Raiders coach Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay, Brown had just 24 catches for 200 yards and one touchdown last season.
Brown, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, is tied with Steve Largent for third on the NFL's career touchdown catches list, and only former Oakland teammate Jerry Rice has more career yards receiving. His 1,094 career catches rank third in NFL history.
The Raiders said owner Al Davis couldn't attend the ceremony at a hotel near the Raiders' training complex because of scheduling conflicts. Chief executive Amy Trask was on hand to present Brown's ceremonial contract.
Brown and Davis had an uncommonly close relationship during their years together, with Brown becoming one of the few players whose opinion Davis sought. But Brown knows he strained that bond when he reunited with Gruden and former Raiders executive Bruce Allen in Tampa Bay last season. The Raiders hoped Brown would retire with them last year.
"I don't think they like the fact that I went to Jon Gruden and Bruce, but I was unemployed," Brown said with a grin. "I needed a job. What was I to do? Mr. Davis and I, we've had our cross words, but I think there's a mutual respect. ... [Tampa Bay] obviously didn't work out the way I planned, but if I had to do it over again, I'd do the same thing."
Raiders receiver Jerry Porter and former teammates Lincoln Kennedy and Chester McGlockton attended the event -- and so did Marcus Allen, the Hall of Fame running back whose career with the Raiders ended with a nasty public dispute. His rift with Davis still hasn't healed.
"The great thing about Tim was his consistency," Allen said. "When they look back on the receivers from the era that we played in, his name is going to stand out with Jerry and only a couple of other guys. That's how good he was, and how important."
Rich Gannon, Oakland's quarterback during Brown's only Super Bowl season in 2002, didn't attend. Gannon and Brown were at a celebrity golf tournament in the Lake Tahoe area last weekend, when Brown sought advice from retired superstars including John Elway, Michael Jordan, Dan Marino and Charles Barkley.
"They said to enjoy your retirement, but keep yourself busy," Brown said. "When you're used to being in the locker room every day, it can take a toll on you."
That shouldn't be difficult for Brown, who is in talks with Fox and Sirius satellite radio for broadcasting jobs. He also plans to remain active in charity work.
And Brown also announced an unlikely venture -- he hopes to become the first black majority owner of a NASCAR team. Brown, a Dallas native with no background in auto racing, plans to partner with Roush Racing on a team based in Charlotte, N.C., and to begin competition next year.
"It's going to be a big deal to try and get accomplished, but I think it's going to be great to try," said Brown, who said he was approached by Roush Racing for the job. "Obviously there's a diversity issue that needs to be addressed [in NASCAR]. They thought I was a good guy to do it."