Opportunity knocked and wide receiver Tim Brown didn’t waste any time answering the door, or in this case, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ call to service.
Less than one week after he was released by the Oakland Raiders, Brown, a future Hall of Famer, signed a one-year contract worth what is believed be $760,000. Brown said he did not receive a signing bonus.
Brown is reunited with Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, general manager Bruce Allen, running back Charlie Garner, guard Matt Stinchcomb and tight end Rickey Dudley, all of whom worked in Oakland.
“This is a weird day for me,” Gruden said. “I’m really excited to be reunited with a class act and a great football player. His accomplishments are well-documented.
“This guy brings a tremendous amount of class. He gives us credibility and adds, I think, to a group of receivers that has a chance to be a highlight, a strength of our football team.”
Brown worked under Gruden from 1998-01, catching 338 passes for 4,649 yards and 35 touchdowns. His best season came in ’01, which was Gruden’s last year with the Raiders, when the receiver hauled in a career-high 104 passes for 1,408 yards (13.5 avg.) and five touchdowns.
He’s caught 1,070 career passes for 14,734 yards (13.8 avg.) and 99 touchdowns.
Brown, who spent his first 16 seasons in the pros with the Raiders, asked for his release last week after he was informed that his playing time in Oakland head coach Norv Turner’s offense would be limited this season.
The Denver Broncos and Bucs were the front-runners for Brown’s services, but the 6-foot, 195-pound receiver said Tuesday that playing in Tampa Bay was his best option all along.
“When the situation came about, there was really only one place for me to play and that was here,” said Brown. “To have an opportunity to be with Jon, to be with Bruce Allen, to be with (strength and conditioning coordinator) Garrett Giemont, to be with some of the players who I’ve played with in the past was very important to me.”
Although he isn’t exactly sure what his role in Tampa Bay’s offense will be, Brown said he was happy to have both Gruden and Allen guarantee him one with the Bucs.
“I think what was important here was Tampa Bay and Jon and Bruce made it known that they wanted me now, and everybody else wanted to wait to see what happened,” said Brown. “A couple weeks and maybe bring me in as a third or fourth receiver, or maybe a second receiver. It just depended on what the situation was. But these guys made it known right away, as soon as they were able to, that they wanted me as part of the program.”
He probably won’t play in Tampa Bay’s first preseason game on Saturday night, but Brown will work at the flanker (Z) position, and his familiarity with Gruden’s offense along with his abilities could help him earn the No. 2 job alongside Joey Galloway.
Should that scenario play out, Bucs first-round draft pick Michael Clayton, who was elevated into the starting lineup because of Keenan McCardell’s holdout and Joe Jurevicius’ injury-plagued offseason, could wind up with a limited role on offense.
While he won’t go down without a fight, Clayton said he’ll benefit from either scenario.
“This is a dream come true. I’m playing with Tim Brown, a guy I used to play with on Tecmo Bowl on Nintendo,” said Clayton. “Having him here to serve as my mentor is going to be an excellent situation.
“The best player is going to play. I’m not too worried as far as a playing issue. This might be a chance for me to play and start, or this might be a chance for me to learn. If I’m ready I’ll be in there. If not, I’ll play my role.”
The Bucs feel Clayton should gain from some of the tutelage he may have missed during the first four months of his pro career because of the absence of both McCardell and Jurevicius.
“He’s excited,” Gruden said of Clayton. “This is a great thrill for him. Unfortunately Joe and Keenan aren’t here to show Mike how it is and how it’s supposed to look, and to give him some feedback. ‘Man, I’ve ran this route one hundred times. Don’t listen to Coach… he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Do it like this.’ Sometimes players are the best teachers. Great players might not be the best coaches because it comes so easy to them, but I’ve seen Tim work magic with players.”
According to Gruden, the addition of Brown will have no impact on McCardell’s status with the team.
“Well Keenan is still a member of our team and this acquisition has no impact whatsoever on his situation,” said Gruden.
Bucs general manager Bruce Allen was unavailable for comment.
At 38, some wonder if Brown, who ranks second all-time in league history in receiving yards (14,734) and third in career receptions (1,070), has anything left to offer, but the nine-time Pro Bowler and 1987 Heisman Trophy winner begs to differ.
“All I can say to you is I feel good,” said Brown. “I’m healthy. My workouts this offseason went great, training camp out in Oakland, things were going very good. That’s all I can say, what’s going to happen in the future I can’t make any bold promises here. I know I’m going to give it everything I have and we have to go with that. I’m not coming here to be just a guy, I’m coming here looking to be the Tim Brown I used to be, before the last couple years and I think that Jon gives me that opportunity to be the guy I am capable of being, whether that’s a five-catch (per game) guy or a one-catch guy a game. It’s a situation where we’ll see what the deal is, but I think I have a lot left in the old, proverbial tank. So I’m looking forward to going out and playing.”
Gruden concurred with Brown’s sentiments.
“A lot of the plays that I have come up with have been because of great players,” said Gruden. “They make your lines and your drawings dance and come to life. There is a certain spin on plays that only Tim Brown has been able to do and hopefully he can help us continue to do that and add some things.”
Brown will sport jersey number 81 in Tampa Bay. That’s the same number he had with the Raiders. Bucs tight end Dave Moore previously had 81 but will switch to No. 86, which was worn by WR Edell Shepherd. Shepherd will select a new number on Wednesday.
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