Golden chance for the veterans
Published: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 12:31 a.m.
Rarely hurt, always effective, Tim Brown is the consummate NFL professional. He has been in the league 15 years. He has been to the Pro Bowl nine times. He has 14,167 yards receiving, second-most in NFL history behind Jerry Rice.
But he has never played in the Super Bowl.
``Like it or not, if I don't make it, people are going to remember me for that,'' Brown said.
His next, best and maybe last chance to make it comes today, when the Oakland Raiders play in the AFC title game against the Tennessee Titans.
The Raiders (12-5) are the most seasoned team in the league, a group put together to win a championship - now.
For the most part, their top veterans have no Super Bowl regrets.
Rice won three championships with the 49ers. Linebacker Bill Romanowski won four - two with San Francisco and two with Denver. Rod Woodson won one.
Brown, meanwhile, has never been to the show.
He is getting caught in a debate normally reserved for great quarterbacks, a question John Elway finally stopped having to answer and Dan Marino always will.
Does it take a Super Bowl ring to make a great career complete?
``A lot of people out there could say, `You've never won the big game,'' Brown said. ``But I've never played for other people. I've played for myself. I have to be comfortable with what I've done. I could walk away from the game today and say I did everything I could to help the Oakland Raiders win a championship.''
But, yes, he concedes, the championship would be very, very nice.
Of course, he's not the only one with a sense of unfinished business heading into this game.
Three years ago, the Titans (12-5) were driving for the tying touchdown in the Super Bowl against the St. Louis Rams. As the clock struck zero, receiver Kevin Dyson made a catch and was stopped one yard short of the goal line.
So close - it showed this really is a game of inches, and when the Titans were packing up for their trip to Oakland on Friday, oddly enough, the highlight film of that season was playing on the TVs in their locker room.
``Nobody had to say a word,'' Eddie George said. ``That immediately showed us what we were playing for. We know we may never have this opportunity again.''
The Titans have a sense of deja vu as they head into this title game. They are the unheralded underdogs without a single Pro Bowl player, a team that has barely been given a chance to win a big game on the road.
They take solace in the fact that four of the last five AFC championships have been won by the visitors. One of those teams was the Baltimore Ravens, who did it in Oakland in 2001. Another was the Titans, who won 33-14 as heavy underdogs in Jacksonville two years before that.
``We've got a lot of guys left over from that team,'' George said. ``They know what it takes to win on the road. We have to come in with a clear mind and really focus in on what you are going to face, because it's quite an obstacle to overcome.''
The Raiders aren't 7 1/2-point favorites for nothing. They are an all-star team of sorts.
Their stars include league MVP Rich Gannon, who surpassed 300 yards in 10 games this season.
Rice had another Pro Bowl year - his 13th - with 92 catches for 1,211 yards.
Protecting Gannon are offensive linemen Lincoln Kennedy and Frank Middleton, who have a reputation for being massive, mean and a little dirty.
They have Romanowski, who knew exactly who to call when he was released by Denver after last season.
``I called Al Davis and told him I wanted to help him win another championship,'' Romanowski said. ``This team is assembled for only one thing - to win it all, and to win it now.''
Good thing, because for 36-year-old receivers like Brown, there aren't many chances left.
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