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Brown Will Attempt Comeback


When Gilbert Brown ruptured his right biceps in the Green Bay Packers' second preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons, August 9, it was supposed to be a knockout blow to the rest of his 2003 campaign.

When it's all said and done, it still might be. But less than 10 days after sustaining the injury there remains hope that Brown will return even after most had counted him out.

Monday night, Packers medical staff and Brown himself confirmed that the 10th-year NFL veteran is bypassing surgery and rehabbing the injury instead with the intent of returning to the field this season. He is slated to participate in the team's Wednesday practice to monitor his progress.

There are no guarantees of course that the comeback attempt will last throughout the week, but that won't stop Brown from trying.

"It's not going to be an easy road for me," Brown said Monday. "But this is what I love to do. I love to play football, so I'm going to give it a try and see how it goes."

By even attempting a comeback, Brown is defying the odds.

The normal course of action when a player ruptures his biceps at the elbow, as Brown did, is surgery. That's exactly the treatment Packers team physician Dr. Patrick McKenzie recommended to Brown after the Atlanta game.

But to Brown, any course of action that would bring an end to his season wasn't in his best interest -- it was his last resort. So, less than 48 hours after he sustained the injury, Brown proposed the idea of moving on without surgery, a course of action that means more than just prolonged pain.

"By doing that, he will lose some strength in his arm forever," McKenzie said. "Whether that becomes a significant deficit remains to be seen. How much that will affect his life, we don't know."

It's a risk Brown is willing to take.

While there is some urgency to make a final decision soon if Brown wants surgery to remain an option, should he play he can't worsen the injury.

"He isn't at risk of rupturing anything," McKenzie said, "because the muscle is already completely detached. The only thing that can get worse is the pain in his arm."

By continuing his present rehabilitation, McKenzie expects that Brown could continue to regain strength in the arm over the next four weeks. After that point, he'll likely plateau.

Brown said that even a day after the injury, his right arm -- which is his dominant arm -- still felt stronger than his left. And in a week's worth of rehab and testing, Brown has amazed the Packers' medical staff with his levels of function and strength.

Head trainer Pepper Burruss called Brown's progress to this point "nothing short of remarkable."

And so although they haven't seen enough to say that Brown will indeed return to the field this season, they haven't seen anything to definitively suggest that he won't.

"We think it's reasonable to give him a chance," McKenzie said. "We have such a great relationship with Gilbert that he trusts us and what we tell him, and we trust that he understands what we've given as advice. That's the only reason we're able to do this."

Mounting a comeback from a biceps injury like Brown's is almost unheard of.

In 1993, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Ken Norton Jr. played with a similar injury, but he tore his biceps in November and was able to have surgery after the season. Brown has a much longer road ahead.

No one knows how he'll hold up to a full season, or even if he'll be able to make it that far. Passing strength tests is one thing, being able to withstand the chaotic thrashing of live football is something else entirely.

But at least now Brown has hope.

"I'm very excited right now because I have another opportunity to play football," he said. "If I didn't have another opportunity, I'd be sick. At least now, there's a chance."

It's a hope Brown has himself created from an almost hopeless situation.

Players aren't supposed to come back from an injury like this without surgery, but he'll try. And even though Brown can't flex his right biceps any longer, McKenzie believes there might be enough left in that 6-foot-2, 340-pound frame to succeed.

Not just because of muscle, but desire.

"In this day and age, it certainly is rare for a pro athlete to be aware of all the risks and long-term consequences and want to play so badly that he accepts them," McKenzie said. "I don't think there's a way to estimate how big it is when a person says, 'I want to accomplish this, and I'm going to do everything in my being to see that I do.'

"That power of being at peace with a decision and throwing everything toward that goal without looking back, that's what gives him a chance."

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