Trent Brown is intent on making the most of his second time around with the New England Patriots.
The only thing standing in his way could be his health.
During the Patriots’ 2018 Super Bowl championship season, Brown manned the left tackle position, more than adequately protecting the blind side of quarterback Tom Brady. He started all 16 games for the Pats, anchoring the ideal offensive line to facilitate their power-running offense. After a brief, less-than-stellar stay with the Las Vegas Raiders, New England sent a fifth-round draft choice in 2022 to the ‘silver and black’ in exchange for Brown and a 2022 seventh-round selection.
On Tuesday, the Patriots placed Brown (along with linebacker Kyle Van Noy) on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Specific details on Brown’s injury were not initially provided.
While being placed on PUP often signifies ‘much ado about nothing,’ Brown’s health issues throughout his career may prompt one to pause for concern.
Despite starting 16 games twice in his six seasons in the NFL, Brown has been hampered by injury more often than not. He started 10 games at right tackle in 2017 for the San Francisco 49ers before being placed on injured reserve in December with a shoulder injury.
In 2019, his first season with the Raiders, Brown allowed one sack in 326 snaps, en route to being named to the Pro Bowl. Still, the 6-foot-8, 380-pound lineman missed two games because of a pectoral injury, after sitting out one game earlier in the season with an ankle injury.
In 2020, Brown had perhaps his most trying season, playing in just five games. He dealt with both ankle and calf injuries. In late October, he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Just before the Raiders’ Week Eight game. Just one week later (when attempting to return to the lineup) Brown was hospitalized after an errant pre-game intravenous caused air to enter his bloodstream. Brown would miss the game, and was placed back on the COVID-19 list on November 5.
It should be noted that one of the seasons in which Brown played 16 games was his 2018 campaign in New England. By his own admission, Brown loved his time with the Patriots. He was engaged, productive and best of all, healthy. The thought of being back in New England seems to have rejuvenated the talented lineman. Having had a year’s experience in the system, Brown should have a better understanding of the plays and schemes. Not only will that experience make Brown a better lineman, but it will also allow him to make his teammates along the line better, as well.
Despite his undeniable prowess when providing protection on the left, all signs seem to be pointing to Brown anchoring the right side in 2021. The Patriots are expected to boast one of the deepest and most productive offensive lines in the NFL this season. Though Brown is excited to be a part of it, he must stay healthy.
For Patriots fans, there is adequate cause for optimism. Brown is back in a comfortable environment, which allows him to play to his strengths and optimize his conditioning. He praised the Patriots conditioning staff for helping him maintain good health in his previous stint with the team. In fact, he looks to be following that same blueprint in 2021. “Last time, I was here for a short time, had a lot of success. I’m following the same process as before ...I’m staying here (Foxboro, Massachusetts) and going along with the day-to-day program,” Brown said to reporters at the conclusion of minicamp in June.
It is very possible that Brown’s stay on the PUP list will be both brief and benign. However, his health history does provide some reasonable doubt. That doubt ultimately led to the end of his tenure in Las Vegas. Shortly after the conclusion of the 2020 season, Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said of Brown, "When he's healthy, he's dominant. And you've got to juxtapose that with his inability to play, week to week, over a two-year period. We think he's the best right tackle in the league when healthy."
The Patriots hope that the latter of Mayock’s sentiments are indicative of a successful second tour of duty in New England for Trent Brown. Perhaps New England has once again secured the services of the “best right tackle in the league?” Brown’s return to the field is the only way they will know for sure.