Cleveland Browns tackle Orlando Brown was in the hospital yesterday being treated for impaired vision after a referee's weighted penalty flag inadvertently struck him in the eye during the Browns' 24-14 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Brown, a Washington native who played for H.D. Woodson High in the District, pushed referee Jeff Triplette to the ground after the flag hit him in the eye. Brown was immediately ejected from of the game.
Television replays indicated swelling already had begun at that point. Brown spent yesterday at the Cleveland Clinic, where he is expected to be treated for another two days.
Browns Coach Chris Palmer visited Brown in the hospital yesterday and told reporters afterward that "it's not good. . . . He is concerned about losing his eyesight."
Palmer said doctors were concerned about pressure building around the eye, which was swollen shut and covered by a patch. Doctors told Palmer that because Brown is predisposed to eye problems, any injury could lead to permanent damage.
Brown said in a statement he became enraged after being hit with the penalty flag because he has a family history of eye problems. His father lost his sight to glaucoma in 1993, according to Brown, who also apologized for the incident.
"My actions yesterday were based upon an incredible amount of pain which affected my judgment," Brown said in the statement. "This situation was very scary due to my father's blindness and having to deal with that for many years.
"My injury and those facts still do not justify pushing an official. I regret what happened a great deal. Nothing like this will ever happen again."
The NFL is considering disciplinary action, which could include a fine and suspension. The minimum fine for physical contact with an official is $10,000. An NFL spokesman said last night that any disciplinary action will be meted out by Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, most likely in the next day or two.
"The commissioner talked to [team president and part owner] Carmen Policy to check on his condition," spokesman Greg Aiello said last night of Brown. "Initially we were told that they thought he'd be all right, but his medical condition is unclear. They began a review today, but there was no decision made on anything."
Because Brown already had poor vision, he couldn't see the flag right away as it was coming toward him, Palmer said. After he was hit, the 6-foot-7, 350-pound Brown dropped to one knee, and Triplette rushed to his side to pull the marker from inside his helmet.
Brown then staggered toward Cleveland's sideline, but returned to confront Triplette, whose full-time job is as an energy company treasurer. Brown knocked the referee to the ground with a two-handed shove to the chest.
Policy, who appeared at a news conference with Palmer, said the league should not treat Brown differently because of the injury.
"The pushing of an official should never be ignored," Policy said. "With that premise in mind, I don't think what happened can simply be written off. I don't think the league should totally waive what happened, but I do think they should weigh all the details."