Thanksgiving day, 1993. Detroit Lion left tackle Lomas Brown versus Chicago Bear right defensive end Richard Dent. Good day for Dent, bad day for Brown, one of his worst. It was so bad that after the game, Brown's wife, Dolores, met him in the tunnel of the Silverdome.

"You owe him," she said. Four weeks later the debt was repaid. Dent was held sackless.

Brown, who has been to four Pro Bowls, tells the story with a smile. This particular tale is not in his usual repertoire, because it has a happy ending. Most of his accounts are honor stories. And you wonder why offensive tackles in the NFL, particularly left tackles, like to dwell on the bizarre It's probably for the same reason that people knock on wood. Don't tempt fate. Don't brag. Disaster is right around the corner.

"My worst game as a pro was my first game," Brown says, "against the Seahawks [in a preseason game]. I faced Jeff Bryant most of the afternoon, but sometimes Jacob Green would flip over to my side, and that's when the big trouble came. Jacob was a lot smaller than what I figured NFL defensive ends would be—I thought they'd all be monsters—and a whole lot faster. It was just a game of survival. I held him every time I could. Ezra Johnson of the Packers, there's another guy who gave me hell. Joe Ferguson was our quarterback, and every play I was either getting off Joe or pulling Ezra off him or helping Joe up off the ground. Ezra just had my mind. I was gone. A basket case."

The Lions had made Brown the sixth overall pick in the 1985 draft, and he was an instant starter. At Florida he had played the weakside tackle, always flip-flopping away from the tight end side. It was the best possible training for an NFL left tackle. The only thing wrong with the position was its name.

"I'd meet people and they'd say, 'And what position do you play?' " Brown says, "and I'd say, Weak tackle,' and they'd say, 'Oh, that's too bad. Maybe you can lift weights or something.' "

In college, Brown had weighed in at about 265, and LSU's Leonard Marshall had overpowered him. "Just pushed me around," Brown says. "And that was the only time that ever happened, and I vowed it would never happen again. So I came into the NFL at 285, and the next year I played at 303.

"Uh-uh, not a good idea these days, with all those pass-rushing linebackers to block, guys coming around the corner at 90 miles an hour. So now I'm back down to where I should be right now—265.

"I'm in the best shape I've ever been in. I'll bulk up to 270 maybe, for the start of the season, but I'll never play at more than 275. It's a different game now. It's called speed."

PHOTODAVID LIAM KYLEThe Lion veteran has shed weight to keep pace with younger, speedier pass rushers.

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