Sure enough, Earnest Byner is in the middle of his best game in two years, and what do they flash on the network telecast? A replay of "The Fumble."
"It's part of the mentality of society to always concentrate on things that are negative," Byner said Sunday after he scored two touchdowns in the Cleveland Browns' 35-17 victory over the previously unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs.Like it or not, Byner will forever be linked with one of the most disappointing moments in Browns history, his fumble at the goal line as Cleveland was driving toward the tying touchdown in the closing minutes of the AFC championship game at Denver in 1988.
"That's one thing that has caused me a lot of heartache for a number of years," Byner said. "If we can teach people to concentrate on the positive . . . we'll be better off."
"The Fumble" was also one of the defining moments in the career of Marty Schottenheimer, then the coach of the Browns, now the coach of the Chiefs. Yet Schottenheimer remembers Byner as a remarkably gutty and productive back who has achieved far beyond what might have been expected of a 10th-round draft pick.
"He's a great professional, a great person, and I know that type of individual. They're going to be successful in whatever they do," Schottenheimer said. "He's got a heart like a blowtorch."
On Sunday, the 33-year-old Byner turned the clock back 10 years, looking more like the youngster who ran for 1,002 yards for Schottenheimer's Browns in 1985 than like the situation player he has been since Cleveland brought him back from Washington as a free agent last year.
He spun up the middle for a 7-yard touchdown on Cleveland's second possession, then caught a short pass from Vinny Testaverde with 10 minutes left in the game, building the Browns' lead to a comfortable 21-3.
Byner ran nine times for 38 yards and caught seven passes for 59.
The Browns ended all doubt by scoring twice on defense late in the fourth quarter, getting interception returns from linebackers Gerald Dixon (18 yards) and Mike Caldwell (24 yards) just 19 seconds apart.
Testaverde also threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Andre Rison in the third quarter.