RENTON, Wash. — Where Tre Brown fits in to the Seattle Seahawks’ left cornerback position is a question that remains unanswered.
“Those things, they kind of shake themselves out,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said. “That’ll take care of itself.”
For Brown, simply being part of the conversation is enough.
It was almost exactly a year ago — Nov. 21, 2021 — that Brown leapt to defend a Colt McCoy pass to A.J. Green in a game against Arizona and instead crumpled to the Lumen Field turf in pain.
As he rolled back and forth on the turf as the play ended, all he knew was that something was wrong with his left knee while hoping against hope it wasn’t bad.
“They asked me, ‘Do you want to get carted off?’” Brown said Tuesday. “I was like: ‘No, no, there is no way I’m getting carted off. I would rather just walk it off.’ Then we were talking about it back there because I knew that if I got carted off, then I knew it would have been bad. I wanted to see for my own if I could walk off, and I did.”
But that could do nothing to stave off the harsh reality that he had torn his patellar tendon.
“It was crazy,” Brown said. “When they gave me the answer, I sat on the X-ray bed and got the MRI. They were like, ‘Yeah, you tore it.’ Right after that, my knee just shut down, and I couldn’t move at all.”
He had surgery two days later, beginning an arduous rehab he said at times felt “kind of blurry. You’re not sure if you are gaining ground, and what is the progress looking like?”
But everything finally has come into focus the past month.
Brown was cleared to return to practice in late October and a week ago was promoted to Seattle’s active 53-man roster. On Tuesday, he took part in his first full practice since the injury.
“From this point forward, he’s physically adapted back in,” coach Pete Carroll said before practice.
What that specifically means is competing with Michael Jackson to regain the starting left cornerback job he had just won. He started the three games before he was injured, his play cited as a significant reason why the Seahawks defense had begun to take a big leap in improvement at the midway point in 2021.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Tre,” Hurtt said.
A 2021 fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma, Brown allowed a passer rating of just 63.3 in the five games he played, best of anyone on the team.
That includes the 31-yard completion on the play in which he was hurt. Take that out, and the number falls to 53.47.
Sure, five games and three starts is a small sample size. But it had begun to validate the excitement Brown had elicited in camp in 2021 before knee soreness landed him on injured reserve at the start of the season. Carroll said later the injury Brown suffered was part of a “long-term” knee issue that was capped by the injury suffered against Arizona.
The hope now is that all of that is in the past.
But the Seahawks didn’t want to take any chances. While Brown could possibly have returned earlier, Carroll said the team wanted to err on the side of caution.
Brown says now he’s glad the team waited: “We all played it safe, and I trust those guys. I feel 10 times better than when I did in September.”
But in the interim, Jackson took over what was a crowded left cornerback spot. Veteran Sidney Jones IV was the starter there heading into camp before suffering a concussion that opened the door for Jackson.
Jackson has started all 10 games and while he doesn’t have an interception, he has eight passes defended, just one fewer than rookie right cornerback Tariq Woolen, who is second in the NFL in interceptions with five.
The success of the Jackson-Woolen tandem led to obvious speculation if maybe Brown would be a candidate to play the nickel, where rookie Coby Bryant has taken over.
But Carroll said for now, the plan is to leave Brown on the left side, where Brown also played most of his snaps at Oklahoma.
“Just because that’s where he spent most of his time, yeah,” Carroll said. “I don’t want to do a lot of change-ups with him right now. I’d rather have him go where he is most comfortable. He’s fine about playing on the other side, he said. But right now, he’s going to play on the left side for a while. We’ll see how it goes.”
Carroll said there’s a chance Brown gets on the field Sunday against the Raiders.
Carroll has preferred to pick a starter at cornerback and let that player take all the snaps. But in recent years, the team has rotated at times, including earlier this year when Jones saw some snaps in place of Jackson. The Seahawks could go with a rotation on the left side with Brown back.
It was knowing Brown was on the mend that led to the waiving of Jones on Nov. 1. Intriguingly, Jones is now with the Raiders, the team Seattle plays Sunday.
A sudden in-season position competition might seem awkward from the outside. But Brown says it’s all simply part of life in the NFL
“You compete every day, so it’s nothing new,” he said. “We all have been doing this for our whole lives and whole careers, so we have just been out there competing against each other, but more importantly, trying to make each other better.”
Brown admits he’s eager to let the football world know he’s back.
“I showed that I belong in this league and that I can be one of the best corners in this league,” he said of his five-game stint last season. “Those plays that I made were a small, little sample of what I can do.”