TEMPE, Ariz. -- John Brown's production drop-off last season was due to more than just the symptoms related to carrying the Sickle Cell trait.
Brown said Tuesday that a cyst found on his spine during an X-ray was drained after the season, relieving pain while re-energizing the 27-year-old after a difficult season both on and off the field. Within 24 hours of the procedure, Brown said he began feeling "normal" again. After a few weeks, he was back doing things he struggled with, like playing with his daughter or walking for long periods of time.
"I'm feeling like myself," Brown said after the first day of the Arizona Cardinals' OTAs. "I'm feeling good. I'm ready to help the team again."
Brown's struggles on the field were noticeable.
The third-year player had a career low 39 catches, 517 yards and two touchdowns, with 24 catches and 301 yards coming in the first six weeks -- before he was diagnosed as a carrier of the Sickle Cell trait. The leg pain and fatigue he experienced leading up to the Sickle Cell trait diagnosis could've been a result of the cyst, Brown said Tuesday.
Brown said he also couldn't eat or lift weights.
Brown was "real surprised" to learn he had a cyst but also said it was "real aggravating" that it took a while to be discovered.
"It was painful," Brown said. "Not only I couldn't help the team, I wasn't the person that my family knew I can be."
Brown said he couldn't do a lot of things while suffering from the pain and fatigue resulting from the cyst. He struggled to pick up his daughter. He couldn't play with her for long without needing to sleep. But that's all changed. He takes her for walks in the park. But it was a trip to Walt Disney World that showed Brown he was healthy. Brown walked for four hours without complaining. That was the sign he needed.
Back on the field as the Cardinals begin preparing for the 2017 season, Brown is out to prove he's the same receiver who had 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015. It hasn't taken long to convince coach Bruce Arians, who said Brown was running routes Tuesday that he never ran last year because of his health issues.
"He doesn't look like he looked last year," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "He just has a different energy about him. He's heavier. He's stronger. He looks more explosive than he did last year, I think, with all the health issues he had last year.
"He's got that smile to him. He's having fun. He's enjoying it. It's not a grind just getting through routes on air. I'm looking forward to having him back healthy and the way he is right now because he's a special player for us. Dealing with all the things he did last year was tough emotionally, obviously physically, but he just seems emotionally just in a better place."
While Brown is playing, smiling and laughing like the player his teammates have known since 2014, he understands there's a chance the cyst could come back. But this time, he said, doctors know what has to be done.
"I can only control," Brown said, "what I can control right now."