ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — John Brown said he was surprised when he got a call from the Bills just before Thanksgiving. But he was ready for it.
He was staying in shape and sent the team videos to prove it. After signing a contract with the Bills to join their practice squad, he said he appreciated all the hugs when he finally arrived in Orchard Park.
“When I got here, it felt like home,” said Brown. “When they picked me up from the airport, I thought I was going back to my house. So it was already home for me.”
“Guys that want another shot, they’re constantly working out,” said head coach Sean McDermott. “That was evident that he had been working on his game, working on his body and getting in shape and getting himself where he feels like he needed to be.”
Brown played with the Bills in 2019 and 2020 and was instrumental in the development of Josh Allen in his second and third seasons.
Brown had the best season of his career in 2019, catching 72 passes for 1,060 yards and six touchdowns. He also threw for a touchdown in the team’s playoff loss to the Texans. In 2020, he battled injuries and had 52 receptions for 458 yards and three touchdowns.
“Good to see Smoke back, good to have him back,” said Allen. “We love him in this locker room, we’ve missed him the last year.”
“What he did in the years he was here with Josh, it’s unbelievable,” said offensive guard Ryan Bates. “He’s a hell of a receiver and it’s awesome to have him back in the building.”
Brown spent time with the Raiders, Broncos, Jaguars, and Buccaneers during the 2021 season. He was active for two games each for the Broncos and Jaguars, but did not record a reception.
He attributes those struggles to his health but says that’s in the past.
“I’m to the point where I’m healthy now,” said Brown. “I dealt with a lot of injuries so I had a whole bunch of time to heal up to get my mind and my body right.”
Brown joins a receiver room that is very thin due to injury. There are only four wide receivers on the active roster. Jamison Crowder, Jake Kumerow, and Marquez Stevenson are all on injured reserve.
If there’s anyone who can come off the street and immediately contribute, it would be Brown.
“It’s a guy that I trust,” said Allen. I have a lot of familiarity with, a guy that I can rely on so it’s good to have him back.
“To be able to come back and to be part of it, it’s a great thing,” said Brown. “I watch every game since I left. I’ve been rooting the guys on. I still stayed in contact with a lot of people.”
Brown says it won’t take long for him to be ready to go.
“Even when I’m watching the game, I call certain plays out,” he said. “It’s definitely coming back to me.”