By: Bob George/BosSports.net
May 22, 2005

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There are a ton of football reasons to not keep Troy Brown.

Where does he fit in on the Patriot depth chart? Deion Branch and David Givens are the established starters. Bethel Johnson and newcomers Tim Dwight and David Terrell back them up. No one knows for sure what role P.K. Sam has in the future other than to start showing some people something and soon.

Keep him only as a punt returner? This is no Billy "White Shoes" Johnson we're talking about (and by this we mean that Brown is more than just a punt returner). Besides, given Brown's veteran status, with the salary he would command, how do you justify spending that much money on a punt returner?

Cornerback? Sheesh. That chapter in Brown's career is thankfully closed. Not that his efforts weren't appreciated.

So, why is Brown coming back after all?

There is no other explanation other than if you root for the Patriots, you just know. Down and through the years, you have seen a consummate professional who has selflessly done everything possible that his coaches have asked him to do to help his team win. He did this coming from the humblest of beginnings, and he molded himself into one of the most, if not the most, exemplary Patriot.

Much has been made about Brown's locker nameplate not being removed since his option for 2005 was not picked up earlier this year. Now we have seen why. Bill Belichick had hoped that his most veteran player would somehow find his way back to Foxborough for 2005, and now it looks like that will be the case.

Brown has agreed to a one-year deal, terms of which have not been disclosed. It will certainly reflect an amount which helps the Patriots from a salary cap standpoint. Moreover, it will continue a pattern of various veterans who continually agree to have contracts redone to help make salary cap room and to help bring in the necessary talent to enable the Patriots to remain at the top of the NFL heap.

This is still another case of someone wanting more to remain a Patriot than anything else. It is a proud expose on what everyone envisioned when the Patriots got their new stadium and then a consistent championship team. The Patriots can't and won't keep them all, but keeping Brown is nothing but great news for the Patriots in several ways.

Brown's mere presence will help keep the veteran core intact, and engender good leadership in the locker room. Brown, a captain, will continue to provide a mature attitude which is vital in bringing new players into the team's general way of thinking. This was one of the main elements which was missing during the Pete Carroll era, despite Brown being one of the few remaining players who did play for Carroll.

Brown's return also helps the Patriots continue and promote their financial frugality, something which took a minor hit with Tom Brady's new deal. While Patriot Nation waits with bated breath as to how contract extension talks with Richard Seymour are coming along, Brown in all likelihood took a pay cut just to come back to the team for one more season and try to win another Super Bowl. It is another case of a Patriot choosing winning over more money than Donald Trump, Bill Gates or Davy Crockett.

But Brown is much more than all this material analysis. His Red Sox equivalent, Tim Wakefield, recently signed a deal which will keep him a Red Sock in perpetuity at $4 million a year, and the move was widely hailed by Red Sox Nation. Brown will get no such deal, but keeping him in New England plays well for the very same reasons that the Wakefield deal does.

One of the reasons Brown is held in such high esteem is because of how many different things he has been asked to do down and through the years, and how well he has done every one of those things. Like Wakefield, who would love to be nothing other than a starter but has had to be everything at one time or another (including at one time the team's closer), Brown is a jack of all trades who will do anything to help the team win.

Brown has his 281 receptions from 2000 to 2002 (including 101 in 2001), and Wakefield has his 14-game win streak in 1995. Other than that, Brown and Wakefield do the yeoman work which championship teams badly need. Wakefield was credited with saving the 2004 ALCS by eating innings in the 19-8 Game 3 loss to the Yankees, saving the bullpen for the extra inning wins in Games 4 and 5. Brown's work at cornerback included three interceptions (which tied for second on the team), one of them off former teammate Drew Bledsoe, and helped get the team through some key midseason games.

These are just two isolated incidents of these two men and their heroic deeds. But they help define the two men, and nobody in Patriot Nation wants Brown to finish his career anywhere else but Foxborough. While Brown is no longer the starter and the productive receiver he was in the early 2000s, he can still help the team with his penchant for clutch receptions, return skills and veteran leadership.

The way things are right now, Brown may be more than a luxury. Johnson is currently injured and has had maturity issues. Terrell, a former Brady teammate at Michigan, had manchild moments in Chicago. Sam did not distinguish himself in his first year, mostly spent on the injury shelf. Dwight is largely a return man, and also has injury issues. Brown may find himself as high as number three on the depth chart, especially with David Patten gone. Branch is Brady's current go-to guy, but Brown, Brady's former go-to guy, may be making a few more clutch plays before his time in the NFL is finally up.

The Brown signing is refreshing considering that the Patriots are long on winning despite being short on sentiment. Belichick will say nice things about Brown publicly, but privately Belichick will be saying things like "We signed him only because we need him, not because we want to give out a roster space for sentimental reasons." If the Patriots signed him for need over sentiment, fine. It's just that in this case, there is a tremendous amount of sentiment that goes along with that need. Having Brown here for at least one more year plays well with everyone.

This may be Brown's last year in the NFL, who knows. It's just that when Brown has finally played his last game, he should be able to receive a thunderous ovation from the very same fans who have cheered for him his entire career. And they'll be thanking him for some of the best personification of the "team first" concept anyone has ever seen.

But for now, Patriot Nation gets one more year of Troy Brown. Life is good.


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