Jaron Brown ‘way, way ahead of schedule’ in ACL rehab

May 24, 2017, 12:44 PM | Updated: May 25, 2017, 6:18 pm
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Jaron Brown (13) celebrates his touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buc...

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Jaron Brown (13) celebrates his touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Jaron Brown was just beginning to discuss how good he feels in his rehab from a torn, left ACL when fellow Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald interrupted what had been a one-on-one interview to take Brown down a peg.

“He’s looking good so far,” Fitzgerald said. “The only thing that is looking bad is that bald spot in the back of his head. It becomes more pronounced every single year.”

With that, the interview was off the rails.

“What he does is he goes like this with his fingers,” Fitzgerald said, demonstrating how Brown hides the thinning area.

“All you’ve got to do is mix it up a little bit,” Brown said without missing a beat.

“Or you could do what [a person we are protecting] does and spray paint it,” Fitzgerald said.

“I get there, I’m gonna let it go,” Brown said, shaking his head.

And now back to our regularly scheduled feature story.

Brown is still rehabbing an injury he suffered Oct. 23 in that infamous 6-6 tie with the Seahawks. It’s been a lonely and frustrating process that negated any chance he had of enjoying his offseason.

“He’s worked his ass off all offseason, been here every single day, ain’t taken no vacations, really,” said Fitzgerald, who wouldn’t leave the interview. “He’s way, way ahead of schedule.”

Brown started running routes two months ago and he started doing individual drills on Tuesday. He has no idea when he will be cleared for full contact. It could be Thursday, it could take until training camp, but he believes he is over the hump.

There were times when he wondered if he’d ever get to this point.

“It’s definitely a big step,” he said. “I was getting tired of the weight room. It’s a process every day. I’ve been working since the season ended and never really had an offseason. That’s what rehab is for and it’s a long process.

“My speed is back where I want it but my strength is not 100 percent — not yet, but that’s to be expected.”

Brown said the greatest challenge of his rehab was mental.

“Coming in with the right attitude every day and just trying to attack it,” he said. “Some days are better than others… it’s not going to happen overnight; the knee’s not going to be 100 percent overnight.

“When it first happened, Month 2, I’m not gonna lie, I was like, ‘geez, it’s taking forever.’ Around Month 4 when I started to see some progress, that’s when I started to feel a little better about myself.”

Brown caught 11 passes for 187 yards and a TD last season in 6-plus games. With Michael Floyd gone, Brown has an opportunity to become a more regular part of the receiving rotation, in addition to his special teams duties. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, he is a candidate to fill that big receiver role Floyd was supposed to fill.

“There’s always opportunity,” he said. “Every year, I come in with the same mindset that I have to work on me, work on getting better. I’m not really focused on any of the extra curricular stuff. I’m just really focused on getting my knee right and coming back in training camp, full speed.”

Brown has a few things working in his favor. Coach Bruce Arians almost always singles him out for praise, as he did on Wednesday.

“He’s actually running full speed,” Arians said. “We’re keeping him out of the team drills. I don’t want to see him cut but he’s running routes, looks great. His computer numbers are faster than they’ve ever been.”

Brown has never shed the chip on his shoulder that came with going undrafted in 2013.

“It does help,” he said. “It gives me an extra boost, and now more than ever, I’m having to prove myself again with this injury. It’s a challenge, but one I’m ready to face.”

Brown also has the respect of his teammates, including the one who likes to hijack his interviews.

“He had a torn ACL and came back and played on it for that [Seattle] game,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s the ultimate team guy. To see him back on the field… we take great pride in seeing him back out there.”

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