It was early in the 2005 season when Gerard Warren described Courtney Brown perfectly.
“I call him ‘The Quiet Storm,’” Warren said. “When he’s on the field, he’s causing havoc and making things happen without speaking a word.”
This was after Brown’s Broncos debut, when he sacked Drew Brees and recovered a fumble in helping the Broncos turn a 14-3 halftime deficit to the San Diego Chargers into a 20-17 win that jolted their season to alive and started a run of 14 wins in 16 games.
Brown helped make that win happen in his return from a dislocated elbow — which, in itself, meant the game encapsulated his career. He was capable of the spectacular, but always existed under injury’s shadow — which finally caught up to him last year when a training-camp knee injury torpedoed his season before it began.
Back in September 2005, though, Brown had just played like the No. 1 overall pick he was in 2000. Yet he remained characteristically reticent about his accomplishments in that game, which was his first in nearly a full year.
“I was glad I had the opportunity to contribute,” he said at the time.
Brown seemed all the more placid compared with the majority of his fellow ex-Browns, who are loquacious — but in different ways.
Gerard Warren is blunt, as unvarnished as a tree in the north Florida woods he knows so well. Kenard Lang is boisterous, but his often-outrageous statements are varnished with a layer of common sense. Ebenezer Ekuban, meanwhile, is the tactician of the group; his offerings are more analytical, but unfailingly honest all the same.
Michael Myers rounded out the group, but he wasn’t a former first-round pick like Ekuban, Warren, Lang and Brown. Each had a redwood of expectations dropped upon them upon entering the NFL. Each carved out his own niche.
But just as Brown was the quiet one of the group, he was also the one most ignored by good fortune, evidenced by the fact that he missed more games than he actually played between 2001 and 2006. Just when it seemed as if the litany of injuries would stop, something arose anew — a left knee injury last summer that was ultimately the death knell on his Denver career.
Brown gave the Broncos all he had, doing so quietly and efficiently. Yet as he proved in helping the Broncos notch the No. 2 run defense in 2005, he also did it effectively — when he was on the field. The spirit was willing. The effort was strong. But the body betrayed him.