|09-30-2006, 04:05 AM||#1|
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Arcadia, CA
Broncos' Brown out ... but not down
Broncos' Brown out ... but not down
In unfamiliar position, Broncos' Brown has a ton, and town, of people rooting for his return
By Lynn DeBruin, Rocky Mountain News
September 30, 2006
ENGLEWOOD - There was a time when Shirley Brown didn't have to strain her eyes to spot her youngest son on the television set.
When he was at Penn State, she always could locate No. 86, chasing after an opposing quarterback, making a tackle or creating havoc with the size, strength and speed he first displayed in tiny Alvin, S.C.
Then, when he went on to Cleveland as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2000 draft, she simply followed No. 92, an easy task, considering he started every game as a rookie and flashed the ability that had earned him the nickname "Quiet Storm."
In 2006, times are different, and as NFL opening weekend kicked off, she managed to see her son's familiar physique only once, when cameras panned to the Broncos sideline.
"I think I saw a glimpse of him," she said hesitatingly, noting that he was dressed in a jacket, not jersey No. 98.
"You just hope and pray that everything gets better for him. Whatever is to be is in the Lord's hands."
At 6-4, 285 pounds, Courtney Brown still is one of the most impressive physical specimens at the Broncos' Dove Valley training facility.
And he's still the guy coaches and trainers say they'd gladly adopt as their own, because of his strong character, solid work ethic and high values.
What no one can say, though, is when a bum left knee that has kept the defensive lineman out of the lineup all season will improve enough so he can play again.
Some say he hasn't progressed as fast as he or the team initially expected after August arthroscopic surgery intended to alleviate swelling in the knee.
The pessimism has only increased as time has passed.
Either way, the quiet big man, the one who has suffered major injuries to seven different body parts in the past six years, the one who was hoping for a fresh start when he signed with Denver last year, keeps pushing and praying.
"For anybody that plays this game, dealing with injury is pretty tough," Brown admits. "But it's adversity. You've got to find a way to overcome adversity. Faith is the main ingredient. It's the only thing that's gotten me through. God's given me the opportunity to come back from injury (before), and I'm thankful."
While Brown's deep voice is as steady as his belief, it gives little hint as to how he might be suffering inside, forced to watch as Denver's defense rolls on without him.
There are those who look beyond the words.
"You can tell in his eyes," trainer Steve Antonopulos said. "I know him well enough that even though he's quiet, you figure it out. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell a guy like him is frustrated by not being out there."
Teammate Gerard Warren said he can see the frustration in Brown's face, but not because Denver is winning and he's not playing.
"It's just, the injuries keep occurring. Mentally, it has to take its toll," Warren said.
Alvin hasn't grown much in the 10 years since Brown left for Penn State.
It's still a dot on State Route 45, about 40 miles northeast of Charleston, S.C. It still has no stoplights and no restaurants.
But it has a rec center, and it still has Kinlaw's Barbershop and Pool Hall, where folks have gathered for years around a television set, now a 52-inch big screen, to cheer on three native sons.
Besides Brown, defensive back Pierson Prioleau has eight years of service in the NFL and former Heisman Trophy runner-up Joe Hamilton had backup stints at quarterback with Tampa Bay and Indianapolis before becoming an Arena Football League standout and guiding the Orlando Predators to the finals this spring.
When Prioleau tore up his right knee on opening weekend this year, it was one blow for Alvin.
Not seeing Brown suit up the past three weeks because of the nagging knee problem has been a double whammy.
Barbershop owner Tommie Kinlaw said the town still feels the pain.
"This is a small community, and we grew up together," he said. "We see each other daily, we go to church together. We feel for one another."
Remembering how dominating a player Brown was in high school and college only makes it all the more difficult.
"When Courtney was healthy, and everybody was gathered around the TV, people who don't normally watch (football) watched when Courtney was playing," Kinlaw said. "Whenever he'd make an exciting play, we were about to jump out of this building, just about to take the roof off."
Was it that long ago that Brown was being called the best ever at his position by legendary coach Joe Paterno?
Or that NFL analysts were comparing Brown to Bruce Smith and Lawrence Taylor?
Or that Alvin residents were piling in buses for long trips to wherever the Nittany Lions or Browns were playing that weekend?
Hamilton, a year older than Brown, recalls cheering Brown from his Georgia Tech apartment, watching him score his first-ever touchdown, and thinking back to the day he realized how good Brown was going to be.
"All the way through eighth grade, he was just about even with everybody - height, weight, strength . . . but that next year, the guy was unstoppable . . and no one wanted to go against him. He was a monster," Hamilton said.
That makes it all the more amazing that Brown has been beset by such tough injuries. Problems with his neck, foot, knee and arm forced him to miss 33 games during his last four seasons with Cleveland, and now elbow and more knee problems have sidelined him already four games early into his second season with the Broncos.
"The funny thing about it is, (I) don't know this Courtney Brown that had such bad luck with injuries," Hamilton said. "The only injury I remember is when he was in fourth or fifth grade, a separated shoulder, and a lot of people blame that on me, because I tackled him. But he never got injured. He was never injury-prone."
In college, Brown rarely was injured, and the one time he was, as a sophomore in 1997, he played his final nine games while wearing a cast to protect his dislocated left thumb.
That didn't stop him from bull rushing two blockers to tackle Minnesota quarterback Cory Sauter late in the fourth quarter to preserve Penn State's 16-15 win.
The left knee injury, though, is different. In 2002, he underwent microfracture surgery, where small holes were drilled into the bone to cause bleeding in hopes of creating artificial cartilage.
Two years later, he had arthroscopic surgery on the same knee, then a second scope Aug. 9.
That was after he returned to Alvin for a two-day youth camp that he, Prioleau and Hamilton conducted.
"It was so wonderful. You saw the joy and passion and what we played for in the backyard," Hamilton said.
Prioleau was coaching like he never would coach again, Hamilton said, and Brown was demonstrating drills with the passion of a teenager, even dropping to the ground to show the youths proper technique.
Kinlaw remembers talking to Brown that weekend.
"He said this would be his best year. He doesn't show much emotion, but the people who were raised up with him know when he's emotional about something," Kinlaw said. "He was all geared up to get the job done."
Time will tell if the pain and limp disappear and Brown once again can go full speed, and thus give coaches reason to put him back in the lineup.
"Our defense has kind of rolled on," Warren said of a unit that has allowed only one touchdown in 13 quarters. "But in the back of our minds, we wonder if just that extra aspect, having Courtney on the field, how much better the defense could be."
Until that happens, Shirley and Ervin Brown will continue cheering on the Broncos, even if they admit the games aren't the same as they used to be.
"In the back of your mind you want to say, 'Why does this continue to happen?' " Brown's father, Ervin, said. "But I'm a strong person and I'll always think positive."
He said his son, the consummate team player, is just as strong mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Broncos defensive line/tackles coach Andre Patterson knows what he means.
"He's a football player, but a football player is not who he is," Patterson said. "It doesn't validate him as a man. He knows he's a husband, a father, a son. That's who he is. That's what makes him special. It helps him handle the ups and downs of an NFL career."
Though Brown has missed the first three games, Patterson remains hopeful.
"There's no panic in me over the situation, and there's no panic in Courtney either," Patterson said.
Brown's half brother Rodney Kinlaw feels the same.
"When the doctors turn him loose, he'll be ready. When he's healthy, Courtney is probably one of the best athletes in the NFL."
His Broncos teammates know it.
"Knowing him, he will (be back)," said Kenard Lang, who also played three seasons with Brown in Cleveland. "There's no quit in him. It's like that Nike commercial. It ain't the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. CB is going to keep on fighting, no matter what."
The big hurt
Courtney Brown has started and finished one of seven NFL seasons. The 2000 No. 1 overall pick has missed 37 games because of injury. The injuries:
• 2001: A partially torn ligament in his right knee in Cleveland's final preseason game caused him to miss the first six games. A high left ankle sprain forced him to miss five more games later in the year. He was placed on injured reserve the week of the season finale.
• 2002: Held out of Sept. 15 game because of a neck injury. Suffered left knee injury Dec. 1 and missed the remainder of the season.
• 2003: Ruptured right biceps tendon Dec. 8 and placed on injured reserve.
• 2004: Tore the Lisfranc ligament in his left foot Sept. 19. Placed on injured reserve Sept. 21.
• 2005: Dislocated left elbow during practice Aug. 4 but missed only the season opener as a result. He was held out of the regular- season finale after Denver clinched home-field advantage.
• 2006: Underwent arthroscopic surgery Aug. 9 to relieve swelling in left knee. Has not played any preseason or regular-season games this year.
|10-01-2006, 01:38 AM||#4|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Nov 2005
I wonder what makes it so some people are so fragile. I'm 5'10 and 160, 165 tops. In the past I had been layed out numerous times by much larger people, hit by countless 80+ mph fastballs, and the result of all of that was nothing more than a small bruise at worst. Yet time and time again we see these big guys hurt for little or no reason.
|10-01-2006, 01:45 AM||#5|
WE SUCK AGAIN
Join Date: Apr 2005
Any truth to the theory that the weight he gained upon entry into the NFL might've caused these injuries?
I'm truly saddened by his plight. Such a friggin' downer...
I read in the Denver Post's Chukwurah article that we were going to bring in some FA defensive linemen for work outs this week. Wonder who's on the list? Finding someone to hold blocks shouldn't be that hard...
|10-01-2006, 02:29 AM||#6|
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Wash DC
Often times these guys frames are just not built to sustain their current weights, especially while participating in high impact activities. Also injuries can be a slippery slope. TD and Eddie Mac are prime examples, neither retired due to their major injury (knee and leg) it was the injuries that follow due to the bodys compensation for the percieved weaker parts. This takes the body out of balance and can cause more and more injuries. Sometimes all it takes is that first injury to start the chain reaction.