"I would be very surprised if I saw anything more in the newspapers about it," said Vincent, who has talked to Brown about his situation. "When I saw it last year with Lito [Sheppard] at this time and as it moved forward, it never surprised me. Because you could see by the tone and by the comments that there was more coming. That it wasn't going to end. That it was going to go through the entire season. That it would be part of the locker room. I don't see that this time."
Brown hadn't intended to take his contract differences with the Eagles public. He preferred to have his agent fight that battle behind closed doors. But when club president Joe Banner suggested in a radio interview that Brown had never indicated any dissatisfaction with his contract, his pent-up frustration went off like a geyser.
He complained that the Eagles always had treated him "like the redheaded stepchild" and said he wanted to be traded. Banner uncharacteristically fired back, suggesting that Brown's comments were "unfortunate and counterproductive" and had only served to devalue him if the team was interested in trading the 30-year-old cornerback, which he said it wasn't. Less than a week later, the Eagles sent two fifth-round picks to the Patriots for veteran corner Ellis Hobbs.
Vincent knows all about the cold, hard business of football. He was a 31-year-old Pro Bowler in 2002 when the Eagles drafted Brown and Sheppard to replace him and the team's other Pro Bowl corner at the time, Bobby Taylor.
He could have been resentful, but he wasn't. Instead of giving Brown and Sheppard the cold shoulder, he took them under his wing. Taught them how to play the game. Taught them how to carry themselves, on and off the field. And when the Eagles ultimately showed him the door two seasons later, he hugged his two pupils and wished them nothing but the best.
He has counseled both of them often in the last 5 years, telling them what they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear. That was the case 3 weeks ago after Brown went public with his contract situation.
"There are ways you can handle these situations, these issues when they arise," Vincent said. "One thing is, you don't have to handle it publicly. Because when it becomes public, it takes on its own life, its own form.
"I just didn't think that where Sheldon was in his career and what he meant to the organization, to the team, that that was the proper platform. There are other ways, other alternatives, to address your concerns.
"The one word I used [with him] and constantly use was to be professional in spite of what people are doing to you or what they say to you. Sometimes the hardest thing is to be professional. But you get more done and more accomplished when you communicate properly."
Vincent gave much the same advice to Sheppard last year when he went public with his own contract unhappiness. But Lito chose not to listen and spent a season in hell before finally being shipped to the New York Jets earlier this year.
Brown, though, always has been more mature, more sensible, than Sheppard. Deep down, he knows Vincent is right. He knows nothing good can get accomplished by continuing to fight a public war against the Eagles, other than possibly poisoning a potential Super Bowl opportunity.
"My job is to play football and that's what I'm going to do," Brown said at the team's postdraft minicamp. "I just wanted the truth to be out there, and it's out there now."
It's out there, and now Brown, who was an integral part of one of the league's best defenses last season, will turn his focus back to playing football. For a guy who once gutted out an entire season with a sports hernia, that shouldn't be too difficult.
"Some of us carry things with us and let it affect the way we perform our job, let it affect the way we treat people, treat our teammates," Vincent said. "I don't see that, haven't ever seen that, with Sheldon. I've known him for 8, 9 years. If I haven't seen any of those characteristics so far, it would greatly surprise me if I saw anything different now."
Vincent sees no similarity between the Eagles' decision last year to sign free-agent cornerback Asante Samuel, who replaced Sheppard at left cornerback, and their recent decision to trade for Hobbs, a 3-year starter with the Patriots. Samuel was brought in to replace the oft-injured Sheppard as a starter.
While Hobbs will be given a chance to unseat Brown, who has been the team's starting right corner for the last five seasons, it is Brown's job to lose. And just in case there's any doubt among those of you who think Banner secretly pulls all of the personnel strings in the organization, rest assured that defensive coordinator Jim Johnson will make that decision, not Banner.
"This is a totally different situation," Vincent said. "Not to take anything away from Ellis, but he and Asante are two different types of football players. When you're paying a guy the kind of money they were paying Samuel, it's a whole different ballgame.
"[The trade for Hobbs] was just an opportunity to get another good football player. That's what the game's all about. Whether you're coming in as a rookie or are in the prime of your career. Teams are always looking to stack the deck with as many good players as they can find. If they're affordable, you bring them in."
So, move along. There's nothing more to see here. *
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