|Orlando “Zeus’’ Brown played 10 NFL seasons with Cleveland and Baltimore. (File/Getty Images)|
Orlando “Zeus’’ Brown, the 360-pound tackle who in 1999 was accidentally hit in the eye with a penalty flag and missed three seasons because of the damage it caused, was found dead at his Baltimore home. He was 40.
Firefighters were called about 11 a.m. yesterday because Brown was unresponsive at his home near the Inner Harbor, fire spokesman Battalion Chief Kevin Cartwright said. He said Brown was dead when firefighters arrived. The cause of death wasn’t known. Police said there were no signs of trauma or suspicious activity.
Brown, a 6-foot-7-inch offensive tackle, played 10 NFL seasons - four with the Cleveland Browns (1993-95 and 1999) and six with the Baltimore Ravens (1996-98 and 2003-05). He started 119 of his 129 games.
Brown will be remembered for the game between Cleveland and Jacksonville a dozen years ago when the massive tackle was struck in the right eye by a weighted penalty flag thrown by official Jeff Triplette. Brown stormed on the field and pushed Triplette, drawing a suspension.
Brown was hospitalized for six days with bleeding behind the eye. He sued the NFL for $200 million, settling the lawsuit for $25 million.
He missed the next three seasons because of the injury, returning to football and the Ravens for the 2003 season. The Ravens learned of Brown’s death during practice.
“Everybody knew what he meant to this organization,’’ Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “We’re forever grateful for what he did for the present team. We can’t express enough sorrow for his loss.’’
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he was shocked by the death of Brown, whom he signed and coached for three years with Cleveland.
“Orlando improved as a player as much as anyone I have ever seen, as he went from being a defensive lineman at South Carolina State to becoming one of the game’s top offensive tackles, when he sustained his unfortunate eye injury,’’ Belichick said in a statement. “Orlando was a true throwback player who loved football and was as tough as they come.’’
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