When the Associated Press last week announced the results of its Comeback Player of the Year voting, Ray Brown's name was not included. And that's not right.
|Not counting playoffs, Ray Brown has started an amazing 205 NFL games. (Getty Images)|
No, what should have made Ray Brown a candidate is ... well, that he came back. Period.
And isn't that what this award is all about? Coming back? Brown wasn't supposed to. In fact, head coach Joe Gibbs and Joe Bugel, the team's assistant head coach in charge of offense, had to talk him out of retirement, and now Ray Brown not only plays but starts on a club that is two wins from the Super Bowl.
Oh, yeah, Ray Brown is 43, the oldest lineman ever to appear in an NFL playoff game.
"I've been blessed," said Brown. "Good coaches. A family that supports me. Friends. So the ride isn't just my ride."
Five years ago I asked an NFL assistant what Brown's future was, and he shook his head. "Can't play anymore," he said. But Brown could. And he did. He continued to play in San Francisco. And Detroit. And Washington.
When it appeared his career was over after two seasons with the Lions, Washington unexpectedly re-entered the picture -- calling after Jon Jansen ruptured his Achilles tendon in the 2004 exhibition opener, sidelining the right tackle for the season.
It was on the charter flight home that Washington coach Joe Gibbs asked where he should turn for help. When someone mentioned Ray Brown's name, Gibbs nodded.
"Perfect," he said.
And he has been. Ray Brown can play tackle or guard. Plus, he's the ideal addition for a team with young offensive linemen in search of a mentor. He knows the game. He's smart. He's experienced. And he's upbeat.
In fact, he's so positive, so kind and so helpful to others that San Francisco's beat writers dubbed him "the professional gentleman."
But that's not what keeps him in the game. Ray Brown can play, and at 43 he can start if you need him -- which Washington did a year ago when he spent most of the season filling in for Jansen.