Jim Brown talks player protection, passing torch to Ray Lewis


'Five Minutes With ...' is an NFL.com series in which NFL Network reporter Michelle Beisner sits down in casual conversation with football newsmakers. Today, Beisner shares her recent discussion with Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, who last week was named a special advisor for the Cleveland Browns and also is heavily involved in a court case that seeks to pay retired players millions of dollars for the commercial usage of their names.

Michelle Beisner: Can you give us an update on the court case and the progress that's been made -- why you're here today and why it's an important day?

Jim Brown: The notice went out today -- the court sent the notice of the settlement terms to the retired players. Today is important. I'm an advocate for the settlement. I'm happy that the process is going to be effective for a lot of players, and it's going to lead to mental health for a lot of players. It's going to lead to some financial help for a lot of players. It's going to show that we have the consideration that we never had before in the history of the game -- because our players' association never did what they could have done. We have the worst pension plan in the world. And now we have individuals that are making sacrifices for the body of players -- the greater good -- and that greater-good fund is so significant, because it's a way to look out for those that we've never looked out for before. Today is a great day, and I think there has to be one more day to make this totally official.

Beisner: How frustrating has this process been?

Brown: Well, I don't deal in frustration. I'm a fighter. And everything I've ever gotten, I've had to fight for. Ya know, America's a great country. It's great because it allows you to fight (laughs), and you can win -- if you have the stamina and tenacity. So I think that there's a reward that shows up today, because we're one step closer, and I think, finally, people are starting to give respect to players that played lesser roles, or what's considered lesser because it's not flashy like a running back, wide receiver or quarterback position. We're looking out for the health care of our players. The game is not only known now for its ability to raise a lot of money, but now it's known for caring about their players. Our players. Our superstars looking forward to helping other players, not just themselves.

Beisner: What more would you like to see the NFL Players Association or the NFL do to help alumni?

Brown: Well, the NFLPA has developed an attitude and position. Their attitude is that the older players don't pay our salaries, and that the older players should step out of the way. They're just beginning to be exposed, so what I would want them to do ... I think a part of that is going to happen when our organization -- former players -- really takes hold and becomes a reality, showing the way that it should really be done. We have $42 million to work with right now, and then we'll have the ability to use our images and be benefited by that. Then we'll have a chance to look at the health-care situation realistically. If we make all of that become a reality, that's going to change the lives of so many players. So I don't expect too much for the NFLPA, per se, because they identify with the modern players and they proclaim that we don't count. They do it in a brazen manner, but because of some new happenings, we might not have to depend on them. It's a good day today. It's a great day today.

Beisner: It is a great day today. When you're Jim Brown, is it a good day, a great day, every day?

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Brown: Well that's an interesting question and comment. I'll tell you what, it's a great day every day to have the ability to be relevant -- and to utilize things that can make a change. But to be relevant, let me give you an example, to sit with my wife and kids on a plane and we're going to be together, but we're mostly there for a mission. I just got back from Cleveland, on a mission. And Ray Lewis and I are working with Reggie Howard on a mission. And most people wouldn't think that Ray and I would be working together, but we are. He's a modern player that just retired -- probably the most influential player out there. So, there are some good things happening.

Beisner: Can you tell me about your mission with Ray Lewis and Reggie Howard?

Brown: We sort of look at it in a funny way and say, "Jimmy, it's time for you to hand over the torch." So I'm handing the torch over to Ray Lewis and Reggie Howard. And that torch means, simply, that they're taking responsibility for impacting the communities across this country. Work with the toughest, craziest individuals out there. Gang members who have a lot of power. Gang members who have the power of life and death over individuals. But Ray has a charity. Reggie has a charity. And we help each other in every way that we can. Because the three of us are working together, we can influence others. I just left Wall Street with them, because they're developing a fund to work in our schools, and that fund is going to be very important, and to be able to break into that Wall Street community will mean a lot in the future.

Beisner: Being a fighter, being relevant, doesn't necessarily allow you to show weakness. One of the many things I've read and heard about you is that, while you were playing, you always got up at the same speed after every play, whether you were 100 percent or 70 percent (Brown chuckles) -- a very calculated and smart strategy. Talk to me about that, and what your thoughts on weakness are.

Brown: Showing weakness will encourage your opponents (laughs). It inspires them. It encourages them to hit harder. To come faster. But when you don't show any fear, or when you don't show any hurt, you have the opportunity to discourage your opponent. You discourage your enemies. But the bottom line is, if you think properly, you don't even have to think about all of that. All you have to think about is that ... that guy across from me is human, and so am I. And he'll never out-work me. He'll never out-think me. And if you can't out-work me, and you can't out-think me, you'll never beat me.

And you can take that as arrogant or braggadocious, but it's really the opposite. It's taking on the thought of being able to think beyond the ropes and to work out physically beyond the average person, or beyond even champions. If you can show up equipped with that -- and trust me, that's hard to do, it's very difficult to do. But if that guy over there, across from me on the field, is my opponent, what about him should I worry about when he's just a dude over there, and I'm over here? As a warrior, you say, "Bring it on." But you have to be dedicated. You have to work hard. That's where success comes from.

Beisner: What were your emotions when you got the call that you were going to be reunited and back working with the Browns organization?

Brown: It was a great feeling. It was a great feeling to be respected enough to be re-hired. And it proved to me that if you have patience and you do the right thing, you can be rewarded. The owner (Jimmy Haslam) and I hit it off. He's a bright man. His wife is extremely bright. And my wife and I just look forward to working with them. But it was a wonderful feeling because of all those things. His wife. My wife. The camaraderie, the quickness of his mind and the way that he does things. It sets up a challenge for me to prove my worth.

Beisner: What's going to be your message to the young players that you'll be able to mentor as they begin their careers with the Browns?

Brown: I don't have one message. I participate with them. They can contact me and so forth. But when I have to give a message, I always say, "Don't let anyone out-work you. Don't let anyone out-think you."

Follow Michelle Beisner on Twitter @MichelleBeisner.

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