SALT LAKE CITY — Lomas Brown might not remember all the details about how he let ex-Ute Scott Mitchell get nailed with a season-ending sack.
But he does know a good story.
It would be hard to find a better one than this: Brown, an ex-Detroit Lions lineman, claimed last week to have purposely allowed Mitchell to be tackled in a 1994 game against Green Bay. The play ended in a broken wrist for Mitchell, benching him for the rest of the season.
Problem is, like a lot of sports stories, it was overcooked.
"Lomas is on TV," Mitchell said in a phone interview with the Deseret News. "He's paid to be controversial."
In that case Brown should be banking big bucks. Few things are more controversial than throwing your quarterback under the bus. Still, Mitchell said, "I know Lomas does not hate me; I have a hard time buying that."
How Mitchell, who retired in 2000, became news last week happened thusly: Brown, now an ESPN radio personality, brought up the aforementioned game with the Packers on-air. Mitchell had played poorly in that game 18 years ago, and Brown said he had become frustrated. He subsequently decided to let Green Bay's Sean Jones take an unobstructed shot.
Mitchell told USA Today that such a move would be "reprehensible," but on Saturday he seemed more philosophical. Brown later said he regretted the incident.
"I don't believe Lomas was like, 'Here goes; good luck, Scott," Mitchell said.
In a related twist, The New York Times reviewed video of the aforementioned game. Brown said the Packers were leading 24-3 when he decided to take matters into his own hands. But the video showed that Mitchell was hurt in the second quarter with the Lions down 10-0.
Though Brown ostensibly allowed Jones to roar past him, the video showed Brown successfully blocking Jones on second down. On third down, Brown appeared to make a decision to block a blitzing linebacker, which allowed Jones a nearly unimpeded path. In the ensuing jumble of bodies, Mitchell struck his right hand against the shoulder pad of an offensive lineman.
In other words, it was a normal play based on judgment calls, not purposeful neglect.
It ruins some of the best tales.
"One thing as we get older — you don't remember everything perfectly," Mitchell said. "You embellish everything in your favor. Who knows and who cares? The only thing that matters is that you get to tell your friends."
When your friends happen to be a nationwide radio audience, so much the better.
The Times concluded that Brown might have juxtaposed the aforementioned play with a different game.
Mitchell tends to think that rather than Brown having evil intent, he more likely had a mental or physical lapse.
"Whether consciously or subconsciously, if you walk on the field and know the guy you're playing with stinks, and you have no shot of winning, you may think you're giving your best effort, but subconsciously, you're not," Mitchell said. "So on a conscious level, did the Lomas thing happen? Probably not. He may have said, 'I'm tired' in his mind, 'something's got to change.'"
If nothing else, the controversy last week underscored that sports have similarities to real life. Some people are team players, others aren't. Some are selfish and sneaky, others loyal and altruistic.4 comments on this story
Mitchell said he entered the NFL "with rose-colored glasses" until he realized there were different agendas. Successful teams, he added, find "a commonality of purpose." He thought he was fostering that when he invited Brown and other teammates to his house, providing what he called "meals for these guys that were off the charts."
And while Mitchell says the whole thing "came out a little bit more dramatic than it should have," there's an underlying moral to Brown's betrayal or letdown — or whatever it was: Whether it's the NFL or a downtown office, beware. Your teammates might not always have your back.