Commentary: Waiting for the Storm

The Owl has peered down the Berea fields for many ages. He has the wisdom which comes from experience, and his finely-tuned ears can even hear a quiet storm. Today he shares some of the early word on Courtney Brown's status and offers us his thoughts about the team's immediate future holds. Listen, now, to the wisest of the birds perched and waiting in the Northern Ohio forest...

Rookies like to strut. They feel pretty cool being in an NFL locker room, wearing NFL duds. They are kings of the sod for three days.

Then the veterans show up and the rookies shrink into the sideline chalk.

Veterans practice for the first time Friday at the Browns Berea training complex. This is Butch Davis' third season, and the veterans know exactly what is expected of them.

The vets on the defensive line have to carry the young linebackers, at least for a while. The secondary, young but not raw, has to prove Davis made the right decision to part with Corey Fuller and ride Anthony Henry, the third-year cornerback, to a second straight playoff berth.

Courtney Brown, the defensive end who has had to endure hardship after hardship the last two seasons, must stay healthy.

Offensively, the players have to set any personal preferences aside and accept Davis' decision on the starting quarterback. The offensive line has to get a little meaner. William Green has to pick up where he left off at the end of the 2002 regular season. The receivers have to continue their steady development.

This team is not good enough to slack off and make the playoffs. Maybe no team in the well-balanced NFL is. But this team is good enough to confound the experts in love with the Steelers and Ravens and make the playoffs again.

Wednesday came the good news that Brown is healthy and ready to sack the goblins that troubled him in 2001 and 2002. Knee injuries, an ankle injury and a neck injury have forced him to miss 17 of the 33 games Butch Davis has coached.

When we say Brown is healthy, it should be noted that Brown is doing the talking - not the Browns' doctors. They will either give their blessing or tell Brown to sit out a while longer when he is examined Thursday along with all the veterans required to take a pre-training camp physical.

Brown had tricky microfracture surgery on his left knee Dec. 19. Most of the seven months following have been grueling rehab.

"I feel pretty confident I'm ready to go," Brown said Wednesday in the Browns' locker room. "They want me to take a couple reps and see how it feels, but I'm ready to get out there and play football again. I'm excited about the season."

Brown's teammates are behind him 100 percent. There is no jealousy that he is making the big bucks while those around him make less money and produce bigger results. There is no getting away from the fact Brown has not been a consistent impact player, however.

"This is the year for him," left defensive end Kenard Lang said. "He has to produce this season. If someone doesn't produce on their, it's in jeopardy. Same thing here as everywhere.

"Courtney has to do it this year. I'm confident he will. He's not the type to get down on himself. He has his faith in God and he keeps going."

Lang said Brown, 6-4, 280 pounds, could be as good as Bruce Smith, the Redskins' defensive end who played most of his career with the Buffalo Bills. He boldly predicted Brown could go to five straight Pro Bowls if he stays healthy.

"I ain't trying to jinx him, but that's what I see," Lang said. "He has the right demeanor and the capability of making things happen. But he has to do it every game, not just like Pittsburgh last year when he got two sacks and a third was taken away because of penalty.

"The thing is, when you do that once, it's good to see it the next game and the game after that. That's the level he's trying to get to. I am and everybody else is, too."

A healthy, hungry Courtney Brown could go a long way to making those young, untested linebackers look good. Kevin Bentley, playing on the weak side, won't have much clutter in front of him if Brown occupies two blockers.

The OBR Top Stories