Veteran Chad Brown aims to hang around in Foxboro

Glen Farley

New England Patriots linebacker Chad Brown's "Fountain of Youth" arrived at Gillette Stadium on Monday.

Vinny Testaverde reported to work.

"Sometimes you walk around and you feel a little bit old," the 37-year-old Brown admitted. "When you see a guy like Vinny in (the weight room), he's got a couple of plates in the squat bar and doing his thing and (you're) thinking, 'Wow, that's impressive.' It gives me a little hope."

Opportunity knocked for Brown.

Just as in the case of Testaverde, the backup quarterback who is six years his elder, Brown answered.

"Somebody gives you an opportunity, I think you've got to take advantage of that opportunity," Brown answered when asked what brought him back for his third summer in New England. "It would be very sad to sit home on my couch and watch this team have some kind of success in January and think, 'I turned it down and didn't try.' At least I can say I took advantage of the opportunity and I tried."

Whether he will play well enough to stay in New England for what would be the 15th season of his NFL career remains to be seen, but Brown - one of 12 linebackers currently on the team's roster - heads into Friday night's preseason game with the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium having made four tackles in the Patriots' two summertime tuneups to date.

"When it's done, it's done," said Brown. "Obviously, I'm getting to the point where it's a fine line of how much do I have left, how good does my body feel, but at this point all the answers say 'yes' so you keep going forward."

A three-time Pro Bowler in the past, Brown career took a major step backward in his first stint with the Patriots.

Employed alongside another new addition in former Kansas City Chief Monty Beisel on the inside in the team's 3-4 scheme, Brown, an outside 'backer by trade, looked out of place, like an old man, as the duo did nothing at the outset of the 2005 campaign to make New Englanders forget Ted Johnson (who'd retired on the eve of training camp that year) and Tedy Bruschi (recovering from an offseason stroke at the time).

"It was a tough situation, no doubt. No doubt," Brown repeated for emphasis. "But (if) you accept the challenge, you've got to try to fight through it.

"It was very difficult trying to convert my style of play to an inside linebacker. I think the most difficult part was not having a guy who was familiar with the position to kind of help out. I was anticipating working with Ted, who I'd played with at the University of Colorado, and then Ted retires the day training camp starts. So Monty and I were flying behind there and it was a tough situation.

"I really wish it had turned out better," said Brown. "I wish I could have helped more. In a sense, I was glad that Tedy came back. I didn't want to be the one to bring this team down in some way because I couldn't get the job done. But I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about why do I play football, what do I get out of it.

"It was a tough experience," Brown continued, "but a fantastic learning experience for me that forced me to look inside myself and how do I handle some adversity. Up until that point, I was a really good football player making Pro Bowls and leading teams in tackles and all that other stuff. So it was kind of the first adversity I've ever had in my pro football career on the actual playing field . but I think I handled it pretty well. I

learned a lot about myself."

After suffering an injury to his left hand in training camp last August, Brown was released in tandem with Beisel last Sept. 1.

Following a cameo (seven tackles in eight games in 2006) in a return to Pittsburgh - the Steelers brought him into the league as a second-round draft pick out of Colorado in 1993 - Brown has returned to New England, hoping to find a role for himself in a linebacker corps that, like the man himself, has a few years on it.

No one is expecting Brown to be the player he was during his first stop in Pittsburgh (1993-1996) or for so many years in Seattle where he moved and settled in as a free agent (1997-2004). The hope is, he can provide depth at the position.

Lining up at his more customary position on the outside the 6-2, 245-pound

Brown says he feels more at home this time around in New England.

"Much more comfortable," he said. "Although I got hurt pretty early in training camp last year, that little experience I had in training camp last year has definitely helped me toward this year - some of the terminology and being familiar with some of the checks. Although I played inside linebacker two years ago, I was playing outside in camp last year so that's helped me in my transition this year."