Months ago -- even when training camp started in July -- it felt impossible.
The NFL watched as the coronavirus pandemic flipped its offseason upside down. The NFL Draft and offseason programs had to be conducted virtually. As training camps commenced, essentially every team lost players to COVID-19 opt outs, players tested positive for the deadly virus and preseason games were scrapped. Even more concerning, the league saw Major League Baseball struggle to get its season into full swing.
Nonetheless, the regular season is here. The Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans kicked off the season Thursday night – and Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown, for one, could not wait to watch.
“I still need to see it on TV,” Brown said on Thursday. “We’re actually about to play football. I will kind of relax a little bit and see other teams playing. Glad to see football is back.”
The Titans will have to wait a few more days to kick off their season. But when they do, it will be on Monday Night Football against the Denver Broncos in the Mile High City, and Brown will look to build off what was a record-setting rookie season.
The 2019 second-round pick out of Ole Miss led the Titans in every major receiving category with 52 catches for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns. Among rookies in Oilers/Titans franchise history, he ranks third in receiving yards, fifth in receptions and tied for the third-highest receiving touchdown total. He is the only rookie wide receiver in the Titans era (1999-present) to have five 100-yard games.
That was not all.
Among all rookie wide receivers last season, the 23-year-old Brown finished first in receiving yards, fifth in receptions, tied for first in touchdowns and first in 100-yard performances. League-wide, he was second to Mike Willimas of the Los Angeles Chargers in receiving average (20.2) and second to Chris Godwin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in yards after contact with 248.
Earlier this offseason, six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Johnson predicted that Brown will be a 1,500-yard receiver this season. More recently, Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin said he expects Brown to “explode” in 2020.
Brown, however, will leave the predictions to everyone else.
“I am my biggest critic,” he said. “Just being the best version of me and everything will take care of itself. I try not to get into all of that. It’s week in and week out.
“You gotta show up every week. That’s what it comes down to. You’re playing against somebody new every week. It’s a new challenge every week. I try not to get into that.”