Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown seemed to have everything going his way in 2020, having his best season yet in the NFL on the way to earning his first Pro Bowl honor.
Behind his big smile, Brown said Thursday he was battling so hard with depression back then he thought of killing himself. He shared a video on social media Nov. 12 on the one-year anniversary of that dark time, encouraging people to ask for help, and Brown told reporters Thursday that’s why he finally spoke up.
“It was a dark moment, and it was a year ago where I had thought about taking my life, you know? And it was special to me because it just came with my heart that I wanted to share with others and help others so much as I can," Brown said of sharing his own struggle.
Growing up in Mississippi, Brown said he always brushed off his feelings and didn't consider what depression really was. Brown wouldn't share what led to his depression. Those feelings wound up almost overwhelming him.
Brown said he thought long and hard about posting the video he recorded earlier Nov. 12. He was nervous about whether he should share his personal struggle with the world. Brown described what gave him the courage to do it.
“I just wanted to put out a positive message that I’m still here,” Brown said. “I’m still growing. I’m still learning. I’m blessed. I’ve got a lot of things to be grateful for and someone was there for me. So reach out to your loved ones and ask them how they’re doing and listen to them, you know, because it’s important.”
The response to Brown's video has been very positive. Brown said a lot of men reached out, telling him what he shared was powerful. He also sat down with several Titans teammates who talked about their own struggles, which Brown says they need to do more often.
“You need to look out for one another,” Brown said. "I know we play this beautiful game, but you know, life is beautiful.”
Brown said it’s easy to put on a smile and pretend everything is OK. He credits former Mississippi teammate and roommate Elijah Moore, a rookie wide receiver with the Jets this season, with helping him through his most difficult moments. He also reached out for professional help, which he’s still using.
The receiver currently leads the Titans with 41 catches for 567 yards and three touchdowns.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel said Monday he appreciates Brown's courage in speaking up about mental health. The coach focuses regularly on the mental health of the Titans and said he is glad they've been able to provide a safe space for people dealing with the strain that being in the NFL can put on professional athletes.
“Hopefully his message can help somebody else feel comfortable to seek help, get things off their chest, to be able to talk through things, and I think that is a great example,” Vrabel said.
Roethlisberger still on COVID list
Mason Rudolph is practicing as if he’s going to start Sunday night when the Steelers face the Chargers.
Of course, the longtime backup quarterback has no idea if all that preparation will lead to him being under center on the first play. That’s just the nature of things during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Rudolph ran with the starters, Ben Roethlisberger continued to participate virtually while the team held out hope their 39-year-old star will be removed from the COVID-19 list in time to head west.
Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID-19 last Saturday and went onto the COVID-19 list less than 24 hours before Pittsburgh’s game against Detroit. Rudolph started instead, playing unevenly during an ugly 16-16 tie against the winless Lions that halted the Steelers’ four-game winning streak.
Mayfield back at practice
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield returned to practice after missing one day to rest an assortment of injuries.
Mayfield is dealing with shoulder, foot and knee issues. However, he’s expected to play Sunday when the Browns host the Lions.
Mayfield was kept off the field Wednesday, when he seemed unsure of his status for this week’s game. The 25-year-old looked good during the portion of Thursday’s practice open to reporters, firing passes and moving well despite his knee and foot injuries.
He hurt his right knee in the third quarter of last week’s 45-7 loss to the Patriots. Backup Case Keenum, who started one game earlier this season when Mayfield couldn’t play because of a torn labrum and fracture in his left, non-throwing shoulder, finished up.
Mayfield has thrown just nine touchdown passes in nine games as the injuries have affected his performance.
Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett was back after missing one day because of a personal matter. Garrett leads the NFL with 13 sacks. Also, wide receiver Jarvis Landry (knee) and Malik Jackson (knee) returned as well.
The Browns are hoping running back Nick Chubb returns at some point this week after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.