A.J. Brown played all the 2020 NFL season in physical pain.
That was only half of his battle.
Friday, the Tennessee Titans wide receiver posted a brief video message on his Instagram account and revealed that he deals with depression. Things got so bad that last November that, he says, he contemplated suicide.
“I’m kind of nervous even saying this, but a year ago from today, I thought about taking my own life,” Brown said. “I had no more hope of better days, and everything was just going wrong for me.”
A year ago, Brown was in the midst of a Pro Bowl season. After having missed two games early because of injuries, he led the Titans or tied for the team lead in receptions nine times in the final 13 games. He finished the year with 70 receptions for 1,075 yards and 11 touchdowns, which made him the 11th NFL player ever to start his career with two 1,000-yard seasons and ninth since 1970 with at least 2,000 receiving yards and 19 receiving touchdowns in their first two seasons combined.
He did so despite a litany of physical ailments for which he appeared on the injury report ahead of all 16 games. After the season, he underwent surgery on both knees, an incident that produced a much more lighthearted Instagram post.
The on-field performance of the 2019 second-round draft pick and the weekly rundown of his injury issues played out in the public eye.
His battle with depression did not. In the caption that he included with his latest post, Brown said that someone helped him get through his suicidal thoughts and that “God told him all the right things to say to me that night.”
This season, Brown leads the Titans (7-2) with 40 receptions, 551 receiving yards and three touchdown catches as they prepare to face the New Orleans Saints (5-3) on Sunday. That despite a new round of injury issues as well as a recent bout with food poisoning.
He also is encouraging others to face depression head on.
“The reason why I’m sharing this message today to you is I’m still here,’ Brown continued in his video. “I’m still going. I’m still smiling. I’ve got a lot of things to be grateful for. I just want to encourage everyone to protect your mental [health]. Talk to someone. Get things off your chest, you know. Do things that make you happy.
“It’s so important. I didn’t think depression was real until it happened to me. But now I know it’s really real.”