MIKE O'HARA

Lomas Brown acknowledges his ESPN comments regarding Scott Mitchell

Posted Feb 15, 2013

Lomas Brown, who is being inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame Monday night, discusses his career in Detroit and recent comments regarding his former teammate Scott Mitchell

Lomas BrownBefore he set foot in Detroit for the first time, Lomas Brownhad heard all the stories ... all the bad stories. Cold weather. Crime. Tough town.

It was enough to make a 22-year-old kid from Miami who was an All-American offensive tackle at Florida wonder what he was in for as a rookie with the Detroit Lions.

"I was scared," he said, laughing about the memory. "I'm serious. I was really scared when I first got up to Detroit. The only thing I heard was there were a lot of murders. I knew it was real cold.

"Everything you kind of heard about Detroit was hardcore, blue collar. You knew it was a rough, tough place."

Brown couldn't have gotten a warmer welcome when he arrived in Detroit for the first time on Aug. 9, 1985.

The Lions had drafted him in the first round that year, and the Lions and Brown had finally come to terms on a contract after protracted negotiations that caused him to miss the first two weeks of training camp.

The Lions played their first exhibition game of the season that night against the Buffalo Bills at the Pontiac Silverdome. Brown signed his contract in time to join his new team on the sideline early in the first half.

As Brown walked to the Detroit Lions' bench, the fans gave him a big ovation.

"I remember everything about that day," Brown said. "That was awesome, man. I was anxious to hurry up and get in and get going and find out what the NFL was all about."

He found out quickly – and the Lions found out fast that they had a prospect who would be one of the NFL's premier offensive tackles for almost two full decades.

And Lomas Brown discovered something, too ... Some of the stories about Detroit were true. Yes, it gets cold in the winter. And Metro Detroit has more than its share crime. But he got stuck on living here.

He spent the first 11 of his 18 NFL seasons with the Lions before moving on to the Cardinals, Browns, Giants and Bucs, but Metro Detroit has remained his home – even today, 10 years after his last season as a member of the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers who won the Super Bowl.

"I turned in my Florida residence a while ago," Brown said. "Most of my kids were born here in the State of Michigan. This is where I do my business, my foundation. Everything I do revolves around the State of Michigan.

"I think I qualify as a Michigander."

Brown is being honored for his long career with induction into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame Monday night at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit.

Brown will be in good company. Also in the eight-member Class of 2013 are Tony Dungy, Mateen Cleaves, Mark Howe, Tyrone Wheatley, Dick Kimball, Pam McGee and Steve Smith.

Since his retirement from football, Brown has made a second career as a studio analyst for ESPN. The combination of his easy-going personality, experience and insights into the game make him popular on the many ESPN platforms that showcase his work.

Unfortunately, the broadcast platform got him in trouble late last season.

In a free-flowing radio interview, Brown claimed that he deliberately let an opposing defensive lineman sack then-Lions quarterback Scott Mitchell in a 1994 game at Green Bay because Brown was convinced that Mitchell's poor performance was costing the Lions a chance to win.

Brown was severely criticized for making the comments. Even Brown agrees that the criticism was warranted.

Brown quickly apologized on ESPN, and played back the interview to hear himself.

"That was the most hurtful part, how I said it," Brown said. "You can hear the excitement in my voice. It was just wrong. I just really made myself sick when I heard myself."

Brown said he called Mitchell to discuss the comments, and said they had a long conversation and parted as friends. He would not have blamed Mitchell if he hadn’t forgiven him, Brown said.

"It was foolish," Brown said. "If that would have been me getting a phone call from me after what I said, I wouldn't have reacted the way Scott reacted," Brown said. "I would have been mad. I wouldn't have been laughing on the phone with me.

"Scott wasn’t like that."

One comment cannot overshadow all that Brown accomplished in his career.

For one thing, the comments were 180 degrees contrary to his reputation as a leader on the field and in the locker room.

"He was one of the leaders on our offensive line," said Herman Moore, a teammate of Brown's for five seasons and a four-time Pro Bowler at wide receiver. "Those guys were the vocal guys."

And Brown's track record shows he played at a high level, or he wouldn't have lasted 18 seasons.

He played 251 regular-season games, tied for seventh-most in NFL history for nonkickers. He was voted to the Pro Bowl seven straight years – from 1990-95 with the Lions and in ’96 with the Cardinals after signing as a free agent.

He was first-time All-Pro in 1995 and second-team All-Pro in 1991 and ’94.

Two career highlights were going to the Super Bowl – with the 2000 Giants team that lost to the Ravens, and with the 2002 Bucs who beat the Raiders for the championship.

Losing to the Ravens was a crushing lowlight, but winning with the Bucs made up for it. The Bucs signed Brown to be a backup on the offensive line, but a more important role was the leadership and toughness he brought to an offensive line that was ordinary at best.

"I gave it everything I had my last year," Brown said. "I figured that was my way to help the team. It seemed like it almost put a period at the end of career. Right there. If I didn’t play another down, that's the end of your career. You could put a period at the end of it and feel great about your career."

As proud as he is of finishing his career as a champion, there is still some emptiness in the accomplishment. Brown wishes he could have done it as a Lion.

Former Detroit Lions kicker Eddie Murray expressed the same sentiment recently about winning a Super Bowl championship with the Cowboys after kicking for the Lions for 12 years. Murray wanted a championship for Detroit.

The Lions had a good run at the end of Brown's tenure in Detroit. From 1991-95 they made the playoffs four times, won two division titles and had 10 or more wins three times.

The roster was stocked with talent. The 1995 team that won its last seven games to finish 10-6 had 11 players who were drafted by the Lions and made the Pro Bowl at least once.

"People don't realize how much talent we had on that team," Brown said. "We had talent all over that team. We used to be entertaining. Even if we lost, we were an entertaining team. That's what I loved about us, too.

"I feel the same way Eddie feels. I actually say that a lot. I have my ring on and people look at it, and I say before they say it: 'Too bad it doesn’t say Detroit.'

"I'm a Detroit Lion for life. It doesn't matter the other four teams I went to. That's why I live in Detroit. I bleed Honolulu Blue and silver."