Former Packers defensive end Robert Brown owns a team record he wears proudly, and he’ll also joke periodically about it having taken one of the club’s all-time greats to replace him.
Among Green Bay’s roll call of defensive linemen, none have laced up their cleats for more games than Brown, who appeared in 156 contests up front from 1982-92. The defensive end was dependable and consistent, and with a laugh Brown can claim that only the landmark free-agent signing of Reggie White in ’93 was able to fill Brown’s spot in the lineup.
“The Packers have such a tremendous history and tradition that to be the all-time leader in games played at my position is quite an honor,” Brown said.
Brown actually played in 164 games for the Packers, but as a rookie he played outside linebacker. Green Bay had selected him in the fourth round, 98th overall, after an honor-filled career at Virginia Tech. At 6-2, 235, he was a perfect fit at outside linebacker, but he was a better pass-rusher than he was a pass-defender.
Following his first season, the coaching staff called, told him to get ready to switch to the defensive line after the departure of Mike Butler to the USFL, and that Brown would need to get bigger. He also went from standing up on the line of scrimmage to a three-point stance.
“By my third year, I had gotten up to 270 pounds, and I was lucky that I had the frame to handle that,” he said. “I was a situational player at first as I gained experience, because for the first three or four years I was learning how to play the position.”
Brown was also versatile, playing both sides of the defensive line, and he was a grinder. The games piled up. From 1985-92, he started all 108 contests he appeared in.
Once he found his footing, he started at both left and right end, but right end was his home. Brown was never a sack star, with 25½ in his career and five being his highest yearly total, reached in ’84, but part of the reason was that he often left the field on third down.
“I had Ezra Johnson behind me, who was a tremendous pass-rusher, and after that Tim Harris,” Brown said. “In the 3-4, the defensive end did a lot of the dirty work. We were taking on a lot of double-teams and giving up our bodies, so we weren’t going to see a lot of sacks.”
So how did Brown keep rolling along while playing a position where the physical demands were so fierce? He ranks 12th in club record books for games played, and he credits his longevity to good genetics and staying in near game shape throughout the year.
Not long after leaving Green Bay, Brown opened ProSpeed, Inc., a 10,000-square foot performance enhancement facility in Herndon, Va. It was designed to help young athletes get to the next level, with a weight room, tracks and other training equipment. Brown operated the facility for 15 years before moving to Columbia, Md., where he now lives.
During his career with the Packers, Brown played for four head coaches, saw the lengthy bridge at quarterback from Lynn Dickey to Brett Favre and a nearly complete roster turnover from his start to finish. Brown ended his playing days strong, opening all 16 games in his 11th season for first-year head coach Mike Holmgren.
“It was a new coaching staff and they wanted to get more youth in there,” Brown said. “Free agency came in ’93, and of course the Packers got the biggest free agent on the market in Reggie.”
Despite White taking over at left end, the opposite side that Brown played, it’s a pleasure to claim it took a future Hall of Fame end to fill Brown’s shoes, though he says that in jest.
“Sometimes I say they replaced me with him,” Brown said. “They brought in Reggie after I left, and I don’t feel too bad about that.”
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