Football always came easy for Jammal Brown. An All-State defensive tackle in Lawton, Ok., Brown won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top offensive lineman as a senior at Oklahoma.
Chosen 13th overall by New Orleans in the 2005 NFL draft, Brown was an immediate starter at left tackle and held Carolina standout pass rusher Julius Peppers sackless on opening day. By his second season, Brown was in the Pro Bowl, an honor he repeated two years later.
However, Brown injured his left hip so seriously in the summer of 2009 that he was placed on season-ending injured reserve. New Orleans won the Super Bowl with Jermon Bushrod filling in for Brown, who was traded to Washington two years ago tomorrow.
Although Brown has started 26 of 32 games at right tackle the past two seasons for the Redskins while missing five contests with injuries, he has never felt right despite many hours of work on the hip. And having turned 30 last year, he knew he had only so many football seasons left in his 6-foot-6, 313-pound body.
So Brown turned to non-traditional methods in hopes of recapturing his former glory. He became a yoga devotee thanks to a local man who had known former Redskins quarterback Colt Brennan, a veteran of surgeries on each hip.
“The guy said he went to a lady who got a bunch of that scar tissue out and helped him out a lot,” said Brown, who had also had yoga recommended to him by Tampa Bay guard Davin Joseph. “(Yoga) definitely felt funny (at first). It doesn’t look hard, but when you’re in (the studio) and it’s 105 degrees and you try to hold a pose, try to hold your thumbs and palms together, it’s tough. On top of that, I had to come (to Redskins Park) and do a workout (afterwards) so it got real tough for a while.”
Not that anyone questioned Brown’s toughness the past two seasons, but the Redskins believe that his new conditioning regimen should provide a return to form.
“He’s a newfound man,” said offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. “He’s flexible. He can open up his hips more and that gives him a much better chance on (the) edge. He’s always trying to show us how he can touch his toes.”
Coach Mike Shanahan agreed that the yoga has made a difference for Brown, who hasn’t come close to touching his Pro Bowl form since coming to Washington, a time in which the Redskins have been an unsightly 11-21.
“I think that yoga has helped him,” Shanahan said. “He’s a lot more fluid. Hopefully he can play accordingly.”
Brown believes that will definitely be the case.
“Last year, my hip was a little sore and I pulled my groin (which) I think was from (the) hip,” Brown explained. “When I pulled my groin, there was times it was real, real sore, but this is football and if you can play, you play. I couldn’t (play with) as much power as I wanted or move exactly the way I wanted. I feel like I’m moving better and I can play with a stronger base. The most important things for an offensive lineman (are) being able to stay low and have a wide base. I know what I can do. I just want to get healthy so I can show it.”
Left tackle Trent Williams is motivated to make up for being suspended for the final four games of 2011 because of positive drug tests. Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger is near full recovery from the right ACL he tore in Week 6. So if Brown is able to truly show what he can do, the Shanahans won’t have to resort to musical chairs on the offensive line that has been charged with protecting prized rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and with that responsibility, the future of the franchise.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since last March. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin