This week, Brown may finally learn what his future holds.
"We are going to have an updated medical report probably by Wednesday and certainly no later than Thursday," Browns president Carmen Policy said during a press conference Monday in advance of this week's opening of training camp.
According to Policy, the report will include both "the sophisticated aspects in a review of the situation from the eye specialist, and it will also include a report from the trainer (Mike Colello) as to how he's been doing with his workout program."
Brown is finally able to take part in some light workouts, training on a stationary bike and doing some cardiovascular exercises without causing further damage to the blood vessels behind his right eye.
Even with that promising news, the Browns appear to be expecting the worst from this week's medical report. During Monday's press conference, Policy and Browns director of football operations Dwight Clark hinted that the club is considering several options with Brown. Those options could include the release of the eight-year veteran or placing him on the team's physically unable to perform list.
"We are going to talk to the player and we are going to talk to the player's agent, hopefully at the same time," said Policy. "We are reviewing all of our options, and we are going to try to work it out in a way that is truly in the best interest of the player and in a way that would be mutually beneficial to the club."
Should Brown be forced to retire, it could lead to a legal battle with the National Football League. Brown was injured in a Dec. 16 game with Jacksonville when he was hit in the eye by a penalty flag thrown by referee Jeff Triplette. Famed trial lawyer Johnny Cochran has already been approached by Brown to represent him should he decide to file suit.
Second-year offensive lineman Steve Zahursky (Kent State), who started seven games at right guard and left tackle in 1999, is slated as Brown's replacement at right tackle. Zahursky, who added close to 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason, is a favorite of Browns coach Chris Palmer. The coach has also been impressed by 23-year-old tackle Roger Chanoine, who appeared in one game in 1999 after being signed as a free agent midway through the season.
"We like the chemistry on the offensive line right now," said Clark. "We think that Steve Zahursky and Roger Chanoine had great offseasons, and we feel like they can get the job done. There is just an unknown there because of a lack of experience."
That fear of the unknown has led Clark to explore the prospects of bringing in some veteran help at right tackle.
The top candidates are 35-year-old New England free agent Bruce Armstrong and 30-year-old Miami free agent James Brown.
"We've discussed bringing both players in with their agents," said Clark. "Bruce Armstrong has a desire to stay in New England first of all. He wants to work on that. He is close to setting a record (with the Patriots) in terms of starts. He would like to do that, so he is apparently going to give them every chance possible to sign back there."
Armstrong, a 13-year veteran who appeared in six Pro Bowls, is 11 games short of Julius Adams' Patriots record for games played (206). The Patriots released Armstrong in February to clear room under the salary cap.
"If it doesn't work out and he doesn't re-sign with New England, then we would like to have him in for a physical before we take it any further since he has had ACL surgery," said Clark. Armstrong had reconstructive knee surgery before the 1993 season.
"I've talked with James Brown's agent, and we are just starting to get into that," said Clark. "We've had conversations about it the last couple weeks. We'll start looking into that more seriously now to see if that is something we want to do. As of right now, it's a possibility, but there is nothing certain."
Brown is an eight-year veteran who has played with Miami and the New York Jets.
In other news, the Browns agreed to terms with four members of their 2000 draft class on Monday by signing offensive lineman Brad Bedell, offensive lineman Manuia Savea, defensive end Eric Chandler and defensive back Rashidi Barnes.
All four agreed to three-year contracts.
Wide receiver Dennis Northcutt, running back Travis Prentice, tight end Aaron Shea and quarterback Spergon Wynn are the only four Browns rookies who have not come to terms.
Browns director of football operations Dwight Clark said he hopes to have all four signed by the start of training camp Wednesday.
"Most of those guys were the first pick in their round," said Clark. "Sometimes problems occur because their agents expect them to get the best deal of their rounds."