After struggling for so long just to stay in the NFL, Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Tony Brown isn’t about to let a little thing like job security change his approach.
Brown’s story is familiar to most people who follow the Titans. He was the defensive lineman Tennessee added to its roster in October 2006 out of desperation as much as anything after Albert Haynesworth received a five-game suspension for the much-publicized stomping incident.
But a funny thing happened with Brown on his way back from oblivion to the NFL. The Titans discovered they had more than just a temporary fill-in for Haynesworth on the roster, and Brown remained on the team for the rest of 2006.
Then last season, Brown supplanted Randy Starks in the starting lineup, and the former discard of the Carolina Panthers (twice), Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers suddenly found himself playing regularly for the first time in his career. He earned himself a contract extension in the process.
How has all that changed Brown? Other than providing some financial security and a few less miles on the road, not much. He won’t change the blue-collar approach that finally landed him a measure of success in Tennessee in the first place.
“It feels good, but at the same time, I knew [at one time] I was the guy trying to get a job, too. So I practice every day like I still don’t know. And that’s the way I’m going to continue,” Brown said.
Brown really didn’t know how long he would be a Titan, even after his first season with the club. For offseason workouts that year, he got up early and drove back and forth from his home in his native Chattanooga to make it to OTAs.
Then, when training camp and the season began, Brown was renting a place in Nashville, rather than move his family an hour-and-a-half northwest from Chattanooga. It wasn’t until he earned a contract extension that Brown felt safe enough to finally buy a house in Middle Tennessee and move his family here.
Now, Brown has a new role added to his plate — leader. With Haynesworth out of off-season work because of the franchise tag and Starks departed for Miami via free agency, Brown is the only defensive tackle in offseason work with any measurable game experience. The coaching staff is counting on him to show the younger players the Titans way of doing things.
“Losing the three guys we lost last year, I think it’s helped him because he’s now one of the guys that’s been in there, and he started 17 games last year,” defensive line coach Jim Washburn said. “He’d been system to system, and now Tony is a leader and the young guys really like him. It’s a little bit different than the role he had last year, just being one of the guys. He’s a very charismatic guy, and he’s a really good football player.”
Brown doesn’t mind at all showing youngsters like Jason Jones, Antonio Johnson or Barry Booker the proper technique when called upon. He said he wants to show the proper example, even if earlier in his career other veterans didn’t always go out of their way to help him.
“I do [enjoy leading], because there’s a few places I’ve been and I looked up to some guys, and they didn’t even help me. I don’t want to be that guy,” Brown said. “I don’t want anybody to fail. I want our entire team to be good. So I don’t see why I should hold information back from them.”
Now that he’s a first-teamer, he doesn’t have to take as many practice reps as he did when he was just trying to hang on. But Brown still doesn’t back down.
Coach Jeff Fisher even remarked in the May OTAs that the team has to keep a check on Brown’s positive attitude.
“We have to be careful with Tony because he likes to take every snap, and he doesn’t need to do that now,” Fisher said.
But that part of Brown’s approach isn’t likely to change anytime soon.