Ravens sign O. Brown, C. Brown agrees to terms

OWINGS MILLS - His outlook was bleak. His right eye had been severely damaged in a bizarre accident. Three years ago after an errant toss of a weighted penalty flag by referee Jeff Triplette caused Orlando Brown temporary blindness, doctors told the enormous offensive tackle that he might never play football again.

Unlike the controlled chaos of the line of scrimmage, this unfamiliar, sterile environment was a hospital room. Because of a Dec. 19, 1999 incident while playing for the Cleveland Browns, Brown's eyesight and professional future were both in doubt.

 "My whole life, people have told me that I couldn't do it," Brown said after signing a one-year contract worth $1 million Tuesday morning with the Baltimore Ravens. "I've never been like the praying type, so I started praying. I got on my knees went to the altar, and started praying. That was my wake-up call."

Besides signing the 6-foot-7, 350-pound Brown to play right tackle, the Ravens also announced a four-year agreement in principle with last year's starting outside linebacker, Cornell Brown.

Meanwhile, Orlando Brown said he has passed several eye exams, but still plans to wear goggles and a protective visor. With a reputation as an intimidator who employs rough tactics and the nickname "Zeus," Brown said he'll take every precaution.

"I know guys are going to probably come after my eye," Brown said. "I know I would."

Although offensive line coach Jim Colletto didn't declare Brown an instant starter, his initial skepticism about the bulky bully's mobility was erased by a recent workout.

"To be honest with you, I was not real sure he could do the footwork," Colletto said. "We put him through the paces, and we were all surprised at his ability to move. Seeing 360 pounds moving around like that was pretty impressive."

Since Brown left Baltimore after the 1998 season, the Ravens have enlisted nine different men to start at right tackle. They are: Harry Swayne, Everett Lindsay, Spencer Folau, Leon Searcy, Sammy Williams, Erik Williams, Kipp Vickers, Edwin Mulitalo and Ethan Brooks.

Now, Baltimore could potentially sport the imposing duo of All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden (6-8, 340 pounds) and Brown. Colletto quipped they should be the first two men to exit the team bus.

"He brings a temperament to that offensive line," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of Brown. "The offensive line that existed here before I got here had a certain personality to it. It was a tough, nasty group and that attitude is something I welcome to our current offensive line."

A Washington, D.C. native who owns a home in Hunt Valley, Brown said he declined the Minnesota Vikings' four-year, $15 million offer because he didn't want to be separated from his family. Apparently, money isn't a major concern to Brown. He was granted a confidential settlement reportedly worth between $15 and $20 million from a $200 million lawsuit he filed against the league through attorney Johnnie Cochran. Plus, he signed a seven-year contract for $27 million when he joined the expansion Browns.

"It ain't about money for me," Brown said. "I just want to play football."

Brown acknowledged that he'll be rusty after a three-year layoff. He said he stayed in shape by playing racquetball, lifting weights and doing cardiovascular workouts.

"It's not going to be long before I knock the rust off," Brown said. "I've got something a lot of other guys don't have. I love pain and I love to hit."

Cornell Brown's contract was terminated before the 2001 season by Baltimore after incurring a misdemeanor drug charge that was eventually dropped. After Brown received his undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech, Baltimore gave him another chance and he started 14 games last season and collected 67 tackles.

"What he brought to the locker room last year, a guy that's been through some tough times, was huge," Billick said. "He was having fun, because he knew what it was like to be out."

As for Orlando Brown's hiatus, caused by a yellow flag sailing inside his face mask, the lineman said he's going to follow a revised golden rule of football: "Nobody get hurt. Watch out for flags."

NOTE: One day after former Ravens All-Pro return specialist Jermaine Lewis said he was in favor of returning to Baltimore, he has eliminated them from consideration. According to a published report, Lewis has narrowed his choices down to the Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars.

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