Former Notre Dame and Raiders great (Los Angeles and Oakland) Tim Brown is getting back on the gridiron this year, in video game form. Brown joins a long list of past Heisman Trophy winners featured in EA's college football game, NCAA '14.
Brown recently sat down with SB Nation to talk about the game, his "special powers," paying college athletes and the state of the NFL.
So what makes this year's game, NCAA '14, different?
I was happy to know that I'm a part of NCAA '14. That's a big deal. They've got me with special powers, man. You can unlock the Heisman winners. Some of the best players of the last 25 years are available. You've got the ability to play me with some of the Notre Dame greats Jerome Bettis, Ricky Waters, Golden Tate and Joe Montana. Me and Joe Montana, that should be fun. I think it's just one of the incredible ways they've made this game true to life. They even have Touchdown Jesus up there.
What's your special power?
Being a Heisman winner, once you earn the right to unlock my box, you're going to get something pretty special. My punt return and kick return ability is off the charts. It's just a matter of if you're man enough to kick me the ball.
Are you a game player?
Yes and no. I don't really have a controller in my hand. I'm like the offensive coordinator. Me and my nephew try to beat my son, who just kills us. That's my involvement right now.
Are you surprised at the popularity of these games?
No. These games over the years have become so realistic. My last couple years in the NFL, guys were bringing these games to training camp. They were running out of meetings at nine-o-clock to get two hours of play before lights out at 11. I know that because most of these game took place right next door to me, when I was trying to get to sleep at 9:30 and these guys are ranting and raving over there about these games.
Do you think college athletes should be paid?
I don't really want to get into that, but I'll answer this very quickly. Before they leave college, no. After they leave college, yes.
Does that include when their likeness is used in video games, jersey sales, et cetera?
Absolutely. If money's being made, why not have these guys participate in it? But while you're in college, no. You just can't get into that because you open up Pandora's Box and all kind of crazy things happen. But I don't think there's any harm in players participating, but it's such a very difficult thing. I'm just going to leave it at that.
How has the game, both at the college level and the NFL, changed since you played?
I don't know that college football has changed much. There's been some changes with the rules and all. Instant replay is probably the biggest change that's happened.
In the NFL, the game is so different now. From the receiver contact rules to all the hitting rules ... the rules they implemented this year, I don't know how an official is ever going to be able to throw a flag on a running back that's trying to protect himself. It's going to be crazy to see how that goes.
If you tell a running back that he can't lower his head to protect himself, I think what you end up with is a lot running backs with helmet impressions in their chest. I think it's going to be a difficult rule. Instinctively, what you do is protect yourself, and to protect yourself, you drop your shoulder. It's really not about your head. It's about getting your shoulders over your knee. That's what every running back in the history of the game has been taught. When contact is coming, tuck the ball away and get your shoulders over your knees. I don't how you not do that and live, especially in the NFL where these guys know how to hit you.
Do think these rules are well thought out or more of a reactionary move by the league?
I definitely think it's reactionary. I know they're trying to plan this stuff out, but even the rule protecting the receiver when he catches the ball ... to me, if I'm still looking at the ball, then I'm unprotected. When I have the ball in my hand and I'm able to see you and I'm able to protect myself by trying to get my shoulders down, if I get hit in the head while I'm trying to duck my shoulders, then I don't know how they can call that on a defensive player.
What you're going to have happening is the one thing as a receiver you never want to happen. You didn't want a guy to take your knees out, because the lower they duck their shoulders, the lower you have to go. Sooner or later these guys are going to have to take knee shots.
The problem with that is twofold. One, for a receiver, there's going to be a season-ending [injury]. For a defensive guy, you catch a knee the wrong way, it can be either game-ending or career-ending. That's how you get your neck broke, you get caught in the wrong position like that.
I think they're forcing these guys to hit below the waist, and that's just not what you want to have happen.
Let's switch to the Raiders. What kind of expectations do you have for your old team this year?
Last year was a tough year. Everybody knew it was going to be a tough year, and everybody accepted that for what it was. I think this year, they have to show improvement. It's going to be tough on Raider Nation if the team wins three or four games again.
They've had a year now to really put a plan together. They had an offseason where they had a chance to bring in some players. They did that, and did a good job of that. Now, it's time to go out and compete and win some football games. I'm not talking about winning the division and going to the playoffs, but six, seven, eight wins is something that has to happen to give everybody hope, from the team to the administration to the fans. I think if they can do that, then everybody can see the improvement. Improvement gives you hope, and then it's something to look forward to in 2014.
What NFL teams really stand out to you this season?
I think you have to look at San Francisco. I think they're the ones that come back with the best shot to get back to where they were.
Everybody's high on Denver, but I don't know. I'm trying not to look through my Raider glasses when I say this, but I'm not feeling that team. I would be shocked if Peyton had as good of a year as he had last year. I hope I'm wrong about that, but we'll see what happens. I think Wes [Welker] was let go from the New England Patriots. You don't see that happening unless they have a feeling that a guy is not where he needs to be. They had an opportunity to sign him, and they chose not to.
Besides those two, I think Seattle is going to be interesting. Can Russell Wilson repeat any of the magic he had last year? That's a tough deal to do, but he's a solid football player. I'm sure they can go out and make something of it. It hurts them dramatically not having Percy Harvin. He could have really added something to this team.
Usually everybody goes to New England. I think New England is really going to struggle this year, for many reasons. It'll be interesting to see how they do.
I want to ask you about the young QBs in the league now, players like RGIII and Colin Kaepernick. Do you think that style of play can continue?
When you look at these guys and the hits they took last year, especially RGIII, the hits they took were not designed runs, they were from him scrambling. [RGIII] just has to be very cognisant of what's around you and what's not around you and just getting your butt down. He just needs to be a little smarter about his body and not try to be Super Man at all times.
Look at Colin (Kaepernick), when did he take a big hit last year? I just don't remember that happening. Same with Russell Wilson. Those designed runs, when they pull that ball down, they have to see five to seven yards. As long as they're making the right decision, things are going to happen for them.
I'd rather be a guy running with the ball than a guy standing back there and not seeing a guy about to take my knee out or hit me in the back of the head. I think it helps them being on the run, at least they have control of what happens.