Brown Gives Raiders A Reminder
Joey Johnston, The Tampa Tribune, published 27 September 2004

Weird. Emotional. Exhilarating. And ultimately, disappointing. That's how Tim Brown described Sunday night's visit to Network Associates Coliseum, when he faced the Oakland Raiders, the team to which he devoted heart and soul for 16 seasons.

Brown had a 7-yard reception early in the fourth quarter, extending his NFL-best streak of catching at least one pass to 175 straight games. Later in the same series, he became the fourth NFL player ever with 100 career touchdown receptions when he hauled in a 16- yard strike from Brad Johnson. But they seemed like hollow accomplishments in light of the Bucs' 30-20 loss to the Raiders. ``Tim Brown does not have to worry about his legacy with the Raiders,'' said GM Bruce Allen, a former Raiders executive, before the game. ``They love him [in Oakland]. And rightfully so.''

Raider fans gave Brown a standing ovation after the touchdown. The ball was tossed to the Tampa Bay sideline for Brown's safe-keeping. Coach Jon Gruden gave Brown a congratulatory tap on the shoulder. The ovation was no surprise. Brown, 38, appeared in a franchise-record nine Pro Bowls, while catching 1,070 passes for 14,734 yards and 99 touchdowns for the Raiders. In August, with his role due to be diminished under Coach Norv Turner, he asked for his release, then signed a one-year contract with the Bucs and his old coach, Jon Gruden.

``Really, there was no choice [other than a release] if I wanted to continue playing [in a prominent role],'' said Brown, who caught four passes for 41 yards, before the game. ``You know how it goes. In the NFL, loyalty is a one-way street. When they don't want you anymore, they get rid of you. Of course, you'd like to think after [16 seasons], there would be a different ending. But that's how it went down. I'm glad I landed in a good place for me. But to say I've put everything aside [from the Raider years] and coming back doesn't mean something, that wouldn't be truthful.''

Nearly an hour before kickoff, Brown sprinted onto the field and headed straight for Raiders receivers Alvis Whited and Doug Gabriel. The trio embraced. Breaking briefly from pregame warm-ups, Brown visited with lunatic fans in the Black Hole, slapping high-fives all around. As a former Raider legend, he was cheered. As an opponent, he was jeered. ``I couldn't imagine anything else, other than Tim Brown being welcomed back warmly,'' Gruden said before the game. ``He's one of the greatest Raiders of all time, the face of that franchise.''

That was evident when scanning the stands, which were filled with No. 81 Raider jerseys and assorted banners, one of which read, ``Tim Brown: Once A Raider, Always A Raider.''

``The majority of our fans hated to see Tim go,'' said Raider fan Shannon O'Callahan of Antioch, Calif. ``We'll never forget his commitment and his class. But he had to do what was best for him and his family.''

Irene Florez of Roseville, Calif., who lived across the street from the Coliseum when it was built in the 1960s and traveled to Los Angeles for Raider games when the team relocated to Southern California, said Brown's example won't be forgotten. ``Seeing him go to Tampa Bay was kind of hard to swallow,'' Florez said. ``He's such a part of our history. I still have the utmost respect for him. He might be wearing those Tampa Bay colors tonight. But he'll always be a Raider in my heart. That will never change.''