'I've never seen anything like that'
Browns OT O. Brown ejected after pushing referee
Posted: Monday December 20, 1999 12:47 AM
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Orlando Brown wasn't going to let this one slide, and his instincts told the Cleveland Browns offensive tackle to strike back at his attacker -- a game official.
In a fit of uncontrolled anger, Brown stormed onto the field and shoved referee Jeff Triplette to the ground during the first half of Sunday's game against Jacksonville after accidentally being struck in the eye by Triplette's weighted penalty flag.
"I saw it coming and I tried to get out there to stop it," Browns running back Karim Abdul-Jabbar said. "I could tell by his walk. I was too late."
The moment was surreal and scary for players, coaches and 72,000 fans.
"I've never seen anything like that," Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said. "I was shocked."
After he flattened Triplette, Brown was immediately ejected and had to be restrained by several teammates and members of Cleveland's security staff.
The 6-foot-7, 350-pound Brown then had a heated argument with Browns coach Chris Palmer before kicking over a sideline marker as he was ushered to the locker room.
Brown, whose right eye was nearly swollen shut moments after the incident, was taken to the Cleveland Clinic to be examined.
His conduct is certain to be reviewed by the NFL and the Browns.
"There is no question that we agree with the officials' response in ejecting Orlando Brown," Cleveland president Carmen Policy said in a statement. "It is unfortunate that he was injured by the official's flag, perhaps even seriously. We will be discussing the responsibilities of the club and ramifications of the incident with league officials tomorrow and will comment further once those discussions are conducted."
Brown's actions are certain to draw him a hefty fine and possible suspension. NFL rules prohibit players touching officials and league spokesman Greg Aiello said that the incident will be reviewed.
Press box observers couldn't remember an NFL player striking an official. Similar player-official incidents in the NBA involving Nick Van Exel, Magic Johnson and Dennis Rodman have resulted in multigame suspensions and fines.
With 12:37 remaining in the second quarter, Triplette blew his whistle on a false start by Cleveland backup center Jim Bundren and threw his penalty flag loaded with BBs toward the line of scrimmage.
It somehow flew inside Brown's facemask, striking the lineman in the right eye.
"Certainly there was every effort to apologize," Triplette said. "It was totally unintentional and inadvertent. I have been in officiating almost 30 years and never had anything like that happen."
Brown, who prefers to be called "Zeus" and once turned down an offer to join the World Wrestling Federation, signed a six-year, $27 million free-agent contract in February. An emotional player, he has scuffled with teammates in practice and was fined $5,000 for a late hit earlier this year in a game against New Orleans.
Palmer, who apologized to Triplette during and after the game, has warned Brown to tone down his act.
"I have tried to work with the player and his emotions during the course of the year and obviously I failed in that situation," Palmer said.
Some of Brown's teammates understood his anger, and dismissed any notions that he needs anger counseling.
"If that is the case," defensive end Derrick Alexander said, "then all of us need help on Sunday because we're out there trying to kill each other."
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