ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — While the Bills were dominating teams and capping off their first division title in 25 years, John Brown was on the sidelines.
“It was real stressful,” Brown said of his season. “After healing up from one injury then coming back to another.”
Brown played in just nine games this season. He suffered an ankle injury in Week 10 against the Cardinals and didn’t see the field until last week in the team’s finale against the Dolphins.
Prior to his ankle injury, he suffered foot, calf, and knee injuries that forced him to miss two games. He also appeared limited in three others, catching a combined one pass against the Rams, Chiefs, and Patriots.
While Brown was healing up from his ankle injury, it allowed him time to get the rest of his body ready for the postseason.
“I’m feeling pretty good, said Brown. “Definitely glad to be back on the field with my brothers.”
“It was definitely great to get back right for playoff time. Just to give my body time to heal and not rush things back,” he adds.
Brown would have been able to come back earlier if not for two situations beyond his control.
Brown has Sickle Cell Trait which forced him to miss the team’s Week 15 game against the Broncos. The higher altitude of Denver can cause problems for people with Sickle Cell Trait.
“I’m not allowed to play in Denver because of my condition so that gave me a little more time to heal up,” said Brown.
Then in Week 16, he was deemed a close contact to running back T.J. Yeldon who tested positive with COVID-19. That pushed his return to Week 17.
Brown played in the first half against the Dolphins and caught four passes for 72 yards and a touchdown. He said that getting thirty minutes of action was good enough for him to get back in the flow of the offense.
“That was something I needed to be able to test the water. To get a good feeling and get my confidence back up,” said Brown. “It’s just something hard to deal with just to watch the offense and the whole team play outstanding ball and have to sit back and watch. I have to get on beat with them. They already have a rhythm going so I have to join.”
Despite all of the challenges he’s faced this season, that was the toughest part for Brown this season— seeing his teammates put up tons of points and not being out there with them.
“Watching the guys have fun. That was the most stressful thing, but in a way, I was relieved,” said Brown. “We had guys making plays left and right so I can rest up and come back fully healthy how I want to instead of things going bad and then I’m rushing myself to get back out there.”
With his injuries behind him, Brown is ready to join the Bills as they look for their first playoff win since 1995.
“It’s a whole different thing. It’s going to be a whole different football game,” said Brown. “I just feel like there’s pressure on both teams and you just have to battle it out and play.”
His quarterback, Josh Allen, has spoken repeatedly about how tough he’s been on himself after his inconsistent and erratic performance against the Texans last season.
“That situation is definitely hurtful for him. Getting into the playoffs, playing outstanding in the first half and then things go downhill,” said Brown. “That’s something that you don’t want to feel again so we know what we have to do. We have to go out and execute and play great ball.”
“That’s just the type of person Josh is. He’s big on criticizing himself,” adds Brown. “When he makes a bad play, it sticks with him until you get back on the field. That’s just the mindset that he has as a quarterback.”
Despite his injuries in the season, Brown is now one of the healthiest members of the wide receiver room.
Cole Beasley missed Week 17 with a knee injury and is “week-to-week”. He did not participate in the team’s walk-through on Tuesday. Stefon Diggs (oblique) and Isaiah McKenzie (ankle) were also limited.
On Monday, the Bills signed wide receiver Kenny Stills to the team’s practice squad. Stills can play on the outside and in the slot and is good insurance for the team on their playoff run. They also signed receiver Tanner Gentry to the practice squad, who played with Josh Allen at Wyoming.
Expectations are high for the Bills for the playoffs, no longer the plucky underdogs they’ve been in the past. Other than the Chiefs, they’ve got the best odds in the AFC to make it to the Super Bowl.
If that happens, all of the stress of Brown’s season will be worth it in the end.