Frustrating Season

Gilbert Brown is at home playing football, especially for the Green Bay Packers. He enjoys living in Green Bay. He likes being part of the team. He loves putting on the pads and squashing opposing running backs.<p>

The training room?

Like most players, Brown doesn't want any part of it. Going in there usually means a player is dealing with some kind of injury or ailment, from a in-grown toenail to pulled hamstrings and beyond. Brown has been in the training room often this season receiving treatment for knee, groin, leg and turf toe injuries.

It has been a frustrating season for Brown, one that began with such promise. "Anytime you come into the season you're hoping it's a healthy season," Brown said. "You're hoping everything goes your way, but nine times out of ten it never does. This has been one of those long seasons."

Brown did not suit up for five games of the regular season and all but five plays of the Packers' Nov. 11 game at Chicago because of injuries. The groin and quadriceps injury forced him to miss Green Bay's Nov. 18 game against Atlanta. On Dec. 3 against Jacksonville, he injured his right foot, spraining his large toe plus three other toes. That injury caused him to miss four of the last five regular season games and a number of practices.

When Brown is in the middle, the Packers often play well against the run. He often takes on two blockers, which frees other linemen and linebackers to run to the ball. In the games that he has played, the Packers have done well against the run. When he's not in the lineup, the Packers have been forced to move Jim Flanigan to nose tackle. The 6-foot-2, 290-pound Flanigan is more suited to play defensive tackle where he can utilize his quickness.

Coach/general manager Mike Sherman opted to keep Brown over veteran nose tackle Russell Maryland, who started all 16 games at nose tackle in his only season with the Packers in 2000. Maryland was slowed by a sore back early in training camp. Brown missed about two weeks of camp after spraining the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during practice on Aug. 1. But Brown showed enough upon returning that he was ready to go and perhaps revert to the form that he had in 1996, his best season as a pro when he finished with 64 tackles in 19 games, one sack, 5.5 tackles for a loss, and a Super Bowl championship ring.

When it came down to the final cuts, Sherman released Maryland after the veteran refused to renegotiate the three-year, $8.25 million deal he signed with the Packers prior to the 2000 season. It included a $1.65 signing bonus.

Brown signed a one-year, $485,000 incentive-based deal with the Packers last spring. The Packers have been getting performance but not the mileage they had hoped for from the ninth-year pro.

"As far as a player, yes," said Sherman. "As far as being on the field on a regular basis, he's disappointed that he's not healthy, as am I. I'd like to see him out there playing. He certainly solidifies our defense. (But) when he plays one week and has to sit out of a couple of weeks, it gets a little bit tough to plan, so that's been a little bit disappointing, but it's nothing that he can control. The injuries that he's had are a result of playing football. They could have happened to anybody that was playing nose guard at that time. I asked our doctors that specific question: Are these injuries specific to him? They said, ‘No, these are injuries that can happen to any nose guard.'"

Brown has every intention of returning to the Packers next season, as long as they want him back. To beat the injury bug, he plans to head back to Kansas University as soon as the season is over and concentrate on losing more weight. He worked out with former strength coach for about three and-a-half months last off-season, which helped him shed about 60 pounds. He is listed at 339 pounds.

"I want to lose some more weight and get in better shape than what I am now, which will be a plus for me," said Brown. "I've got a lot of things on my plate that I want to get done."

Brown, 30, said that he has been able to continue to lift weights and do cardiovascular exercise during the time that he was out with the toe injury. He returned to practice Jan. 4 and is expected to play in Green Bay's Wild Card playoff this Sunday against San Francisco.

Brown is as disappointed as anybody that he hasn't been able to play more this season, but he feels more hungry than ever to extend his football career. "I ain't done yet," Brown said. "I think I have three, four or five good years left in me if I just do my body right and keep working on doing what I have to do. I think I'll be there.

"I always love Green Bay. If Green Bay gives me an opportunity to stay and keep playing, then I'll do it. Green Bay is one of my favorite places."

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