Cardinals WR John Brown returning to form three weeks after sickle-cell trait diagnosis

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It has taken Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown about three weeks, but he’s finally showing signs of returning to “Smoke,” the fast-playing receiver he has become known as during his three seasons in the NFL, after being diagnosed as a carrier of the sickle-cell trait on Oct. 20.

“The last two days, he looked like John Brown and was smiling, laughing, running fast -- doing all the things that John Brown [does],” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “It was really refreshing to see it on the field.

“And, knock on wood, there’s no relapse. But it looks like he’s got everything under control physically, which has allowed him mentally to come back and be himself.”

Figuring out what the cause of his pain was and learning how to treat it has been a relief for Brown.

“It was tough,” Brown said. “Just not able to help the team how I wanted to. Looking at myself on film, I wasn’t the same. I wasn’t playing fast and stuff like that.

“It’s out of my head now and I feel good.”

Brown felt pain in his legs before the Cardinals’ Monday Night Football matchup against the New York Jets on Oct. 17 and the pain had spread by time the game ended. He was initially diagnosed with sore hamstrings but an MRI later that week revealed that nothing was wrong with his hamstrings, which led to a blood test that revealed the trait. The Cardinals’ trainers have worked with doctors to determine a course of action to keep the symptoms related to sickle-cell from continually affecting Brown’s health. The team has to closely monitor Brown’s oxygen and hydration levels after games.

Their treatment and care worked.

Brown, who had a season-high 144 receiving yards against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4, missed the Seattle game the week after being diagnosed. He returned in Week 8 against Carolina with 49 yards on four catches.

He could feel he wasn’t the receiver who would take the top off defenses and create mismatches in the secondary. Now that he knows how to treat his recently identified condition, Brown is back to practicing fast. He’s back to himself.

“I wasn’t myself and I was kind of frustrated with the situation,” he said. “But I’m ready to go now.”