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Brown clarifies 'sabotage' comment from Bucs' title win

TAMPA - Former Oakland Raiders receiver Tim Brown backtracked Wednesday after making comments that intimated Coach Bill Callahan intentionally sabotaged their 2003 Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brown's clarification came a day after Callahan said it was "defamatory" and "ludicrous" for anyone to allege otherwise. Callahan also called for a retraction. Earlier, Brown and at least two Oakland teammates hinted that the Bucs' 48-21 victory was a product of Callahan's hatred of the Raiders and friendship with Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden. On Wednesday, Brown told radio's "Dan Patrick Show," that he "never said (Callahan) sabotaged the game. That's something that can never be proven. We can never go into the mind of Bill Callahan. I should have said, 'We could have called it sabotage.' It was a question, not a statement. You cannot prove it."
The title game, played Jan. 23, 2003 in San Diego, pitted the league's top-ranked offense (Raiders) and defense (Bucs). Tampa Bay dominated, limiting Oakland to 269 total yards and intercepting three Rich Gannon passes for touchdowns. Brown told Sirius XM NFL Radio on Saturday that Callahan changed the Raiders' game plan the Friday before the Super Bowl from running the ball to primarily passing. "We all called it sabotage ... because Callahan and Gruden were good friends," Brown told Sirius XM. "And Callahan had a big problem with the Raiders, you know, hated the Raiders. You know, (he) only came (to Oakland) because Gruden made him come. Literally (he) walked off the field on us a couple of times during the season when he first got there, the first couple years." Gruden was the Raiders' head coach from 1998 to 2001. Callahan, his offensive coordinator, took over when the Bucs acquired Gruden in a trade before the 2002 season. Brown told Patrick's listeners on Wednesday it made more sense for the Raiders, whose offensive line averaged 350 pounds, to try to run on the lighter Bucs' defensive line. Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, who caught five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown in the game, concurred. "Why would you wait to the last second to change the game plan?" Rice told ESPN on Tuesday. "Maybe because (Callahan) didn't like the Raiders, he was willing to sabotage just a little bit and let Jon Gruden go out and win this one." Callahan, now Dallas' offensive coordinator, said in a statement he was "shocked, saddened and outraged" by the comments. "To leave no doubt, I categorically and unequivocally deny the sum and substance of their allegations," Callahan said. "Like every game I ever coached on the professional or collegiate level, I endeavor to the best of my professional ability to position my team to win. To suggest otherwise, especially at this time when it involves the Super Bowl, is ludicrous and defamatory. I have always honored the spirit of competition that drives us to sport as children and, for the lucky few, sustains us in adulthood." Former Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks, who returned an interception for a touchdown in the game, said "no one gave us anything." "No one, as far as I'm concerned, sabotaged anything," he told WDAE (620 AM) host Steve Duemig on Tuesday. "We went out and we earned that victory and we're celebrating 10 years later." Brown has said the disappearance of Raiders center Barret Robbins the day before the game could have been tied to Callahan's game plan change. Robbins, who was later diagnosed as bipolar, did not take his medication for depression and disappeared the Saturday before the game. Robbins was found in Mexico and did not play. Brown told Patrick that Robbins' difficultly with the late changes may have contributed to his breakdown. That echoed comments he told Sirius on Saturday. "Barret Robbins begged Coach Callahan, 'Do not do this to me. I don't have time to make my calls, to get my calls ready. You can't do this to me on Friday. We haven't practiced full speed, we can't get this done,'" Brown told Sirius XM. Brown added that the team knew Robbins "was unstable anyway" but that no one could imagine that Callahan would change plans at the last minute. "So to put (Robbins) in that situation - not that he was putting him in that situation - but for that decision to be made without consulting the players the Friday before the Super Bowl? I played 27 years of football. The coaches never changed the game plan the Friday before the game." Jon Ritchie, who started at fullback for the Raiders in the game and is a former ESPN analyst, told ESPN's Chris Mortensen in a text that he agreed with Brown. "I've said it for years. What we practiced heavily during the week is not what we ran in that game," Ritchie wrote. "Could have been due to Barrett's absence. It was never explained to me. I believe I said it on the record every year we talked about the Super Bowl (when he was with ESPN for four years). I always thought it would get sensational like this." Many of his teammates did not agree, including Gannon, linebacker Bill Romanowski and tackle Lincoln Kennedy. "Gruden gave them our complete playbook, our checks, they knew what we were doing," Kennedy told KGMZ-FM in San Francisco.  "They knew where we were going.  That's how they were able to have so many interceptions for touchdowns.  Because honestly that was the difference in the football game." Romanowski said he was blown away by Brown's accusation. "What is (Brown) trying to do? He absolutely couldn't be further from the truth," Romanowski said in an interview Tuesday with WPEN-FM in Philadelphia. "So you're saying that a man has a chance to cement himself in history with winning a Super Bowl and he wants to hand it over to his buddy? Give me a break, OK? "It couldn't be further from the truth. He (Brown) doesn't know what he's talking about. I'm blown away that something like that would come out of an intelligent man's mouth."

TBO.com staff writers Scott Brown and Rick Mayer contributed to this report.

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