And it didn’t happen in a way that would make Brown proud.
People were buzzing – and shaking their heads – before Saturday night’s Lions-Falcons game over comments Brown made in a radio interview in which he claimed to have deliberately missed a block in a 1994 game with the intention of having his own quarterback, Scott Mitchell, injured and knocked out of the game.
For a player who had such an illustrious career and was so popular with fans, teammates, and media, Brown’s openness in explaining his action is no less baffling that a person bragging about swiping donations out of a Salvation Army kettle.
Brown played 11 of his first 18 pro seasons with the Lions, from 1985-95, and was one of the best offensive linemen in franchise history. He made the Pro Bowl six times as a Lion before moving on to Arizona, Cleveland, the New York Giants and Tampa Bay. Brown played in the 2000 Super Bowl for the Giants and was a backup on the 2002 Tampa Bay team that won the Super Bowl.
For all the good things Brown did in his career, he cast himself in a bad light by saying on a radio interview on ESPN on Friday that he deliberately missed a block in a 1994 road game against the Packers.
Mitchell indeed was injured on the play. It was Game 9, and Dave Krieg came off the bench to replace Mitchell. Krieg finished out the season and led the Lions to a 9-7 record and a wild-card berth in the NFC playoffs.
The Lions lost in the wild-card round at Green Bay, 16-12.
On the play in question, Brown said he deliberately missed a block to let Packers defensive end Sean Jones get past him and hit Mitchell. Mitchell sustained an injury to his left (throwing) hand that put hm out for the season.
The Lions had fallen far behind in the game. In the radio interview, Brown said he gave center Kevin Glover a heads-up on his intention to get Mitchell out of the game.
Brown’s interview was picked up by the Pro Football Talk website.
“I got the gator arms on the guy at the last minute,” Brown said, using a term that means a player did not extend his arms in a given situation. “He got around me. He hit Scott Mitchell. He did something to his finger -- and he came out the game.”
Brown has alluded in the past to his involvement in the play, but having it on tape in an interview and picked up by Pro Football Talk certainly cannot put Brown in a favorable light.
Brown went on to express no regret about the play and spoke of his lack of respect for Mitchell.
“As you can tell, I’m just not a big fan of Scott Mitchell,” Brown said. “He’s just not on my Christmas list. He won’t be getting any Christmas presents from me this year.”
Mitchell signed with the Lions as a free agent in 1994 and spent five seasons in Detroit. He was benched two games into the 1998 season by former Lions head coach Bobby Ross and never played again as a Lion. Mitchell was traded to Baltimore in the offseason, and his career as a Raven flamed out early.
Mitchell had one big season as a Lion, throwing 32 TD passes in 1995. The Lions made the playoffs that season and again ini 1997 with Mitchell as the full-time starter. Mitchell was not a strong leader, and that kept him from being popular with his teammates.
However, it’s hard to fathom how any player could brag openly about getting a teammate injured on purpose. That’s an act that violates a basic code of pro football – that players compete as hard as they can but don’t try to deliberately injure an opponent.
Brown is one of the players suing the NFL, claiming the league withheld held information on concussions and did not do enough to protect them.
Brown was highly regarded in Detroit as an outstanding player and teammate, but that reputation has taken a hit. And he has no excuse. He did it to himself with his comments.
It’s doubtful that he’s on Mitchell’s Christmas list.