Packers better off without ‘Gravedigger'

Gilbert Brown is looking for a job in the National Football League.

The big guy, who played all 10 of his NFL seasons with the Green Bay Packers, has gotten into playing shape and is seeking an employer that will allow him to work in the heart of the trenches each weekend in the fall. There is no team that Brown would rather play for than the Green Bay Packers. His heart is still in Green Bay and "The Gravedigger" has always been a fan favorite.

"I'm gonna be playing this year," Brown said earlier this spring while interviewed on a Green Bay radio station. "I want to play for the Green and Gold because I bleed Green and Gold. That's where I want to finish up."

Brown, 34, last played football in 2003. Never was his value as a team leader as high that season when he played through a biceps injury that he suffered during the preseason. Most players would have chosen to sit a year out with an injury like that, especially for a defensive tackle, but Brown played on. He was honored by his teammates after the season when he received the "Ed Block Courage Award" for displaying "commitment to the principles of courage and sportsmanship."

The biceps injury along with other minor injuries that season took their toll on Brown in 2003 and his contract was terminated on March 2, 2004. Like in 1999, the "Gravedigger" stepped into retirement.

In 2001 when Brown came out of retirement, the Packers needed his help in the middle of the defensive line. Green Bay had Santana Dotson and Steve Warren at tackle, but Dotson was nearing the end of his contract and coming of a serious quadriceps injury. Warren was coming off of the same quadriceps injury and the depth along the line was shallow at best. Re-signing Brown, who had gotten himself into shape after eating himself out of football in 1999, was a relief. Still injuries took their toll on Brown and he missed four of the last five regular season games.

Brown again is in good condition, but the Packers are in much better shape with the interior of their defensive line than they were in 2001. Grady Jackson anchors the middle, and the Packers have high hopes for tackles Corey Williams, Donnell Washington and James Lee. Cullen Jenkins will be used more at end this season, but also can play tackle. Same with Kenny Peterson.

Cletidus Hunt has the potential to help the Packers along the line, but he needs a serious attitude re-adjustment in order for that to happen. There is still time and the Packers have the right coach – Jim Bates – to get the most out of Hunt.

With a groundswell of youth ready to make a name for themselves in the trenches, this leaves Brown out in Green Bay. Brown probably would better serve a team that can use him in spots during a game. Playing defensive tackle is perhaps the most physical of all the positions. Tackles get blocked, chop-blocked and double-teamed often. Sometimes all of the above on one play. There is constant contact. Williams, who played mainly end as a rookie last year, got a taste of life in the trenches early in the June minicamp when he was wrestled to the ground by an offensive lineman, falling hard on his hip. Williams was forced to sit out of the remainder of the practices, which were conducted in shorts and no pads, because of the injury.

It would be great to see Brown, with the tinted visor, taking imaginary scoops of dirt out of the Lambeau Field turf after a big play. But don't expect him to be celebrating with the Packers this year. Though he has provided many memories for Packers fans, he doesn't fit into the overall picture.

Todd Korth

Editor's note: Todd Korth is managing editor of Packer Report and E-mail him at

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