After missing a couple of games due to a bone bruise in his knee, A.J. Brown’s return has thrown gasoline on an already hot Titans offense. The second-year wide receiver out of Ole Miss hauled in two touchdown passes from Ryan Tannehill on Sunday, including the game-tying score with just four seconds remaining in regulation.
For his efforts, Brown was awarded the SNICKERS Chain for “Hungriest Player” in Week 6 and he talked to our own Justin Melo about what that honor means to him as well as his development as a wide receiver, the Titans COVID situation, and other topics.
JM: You’re the sixth player to be awarded the SNICKERS Chain this season, which is passed to the league’s ‘Hungriest Player’ each week. Previous winners this season include Nick Chubb, Josh Jacobs and Tyler Lockett. What does this award mean to you?
AJB: It means a lot to me to be honest. Those are some great players you mentioned right there. It’s a blessing to be in their company. Hopefully I can try to win it again sometime later this season (laughs).
JM: You’ve looked as dominant as ever since coming back from the injury. How did you stay sharp both mentally and physically while going through rehab? To add to that, you had to be away from the facility due to the COVID outbreak.
AJB: I just had to dial in on the mental aspect of the game. I couldn’t really get the physical reps while rehabbing the injury. I just had to dial in mentally. I was trying to consume as much knowledge as I could. I kept my head in the playbook. That’s the best thing you can do while going through an injury to be honest with you. I just tried to stay ready so I didn’t have to get ready.
JM: There’s an old saying that goes, “If you’re thinking, you’re not playing fast.” How much has your growth from Year 1 to 2 been aided by the fact that you’re playing in the same offense you did a year ago?
AJB: Its definitely allowed me to play fast. I understand things better now than I did a year ago, especially the coverages. I’m a lot better now at breaking down the concepts of a play. I’m a lot more comfortable this year. That’s for sure. I know a lot more now than I did a year ago.
JM: What would you say is the biggest difference in your game right now compared to a year ago?
AJB: I’m nowhere near where I want to be. That’s just the God honest truth. I’m just getting back into the swing of things. We played two games in less than a week. I’m still getting my legs back under me. Hopefully, I can stay on this streak that I’m on. I’m playing well right now. I’m just trying to get better and stay consistent.
JM: Not all receivers have a “my ball” mentality, but you clearly do. Have you always played the game that way?
AJB: Always. You gotta’ want the ball if you play receiver. If you don’t want the ball, I don’t think you should be playing the receiver position to be honest with you. Let the coaches find another position for you if that’s the case (laughs).
JM: Where did you get that alpha dog mentality? Have you always been that way or did someone show you the way?
AJB: That comes from my dad. I just love to go out there and compete. As a kid, we always used to play with our cousins down the road and I always wanted to compete against the older guys. That’s when I started to develop that attitude.
JM: Even though you’re still a sophomore, I think you’re already one of the better route runners in the league. Your aggression with your initial stem is special. You really sell the vertical on every play. Do you think that’s what helps separate a great receiver from a good one?
AJB: I most definitely feel like route running is the biggest factor that separates a great receiver from a good one. The NFL is littered with excellent cornerbacks and you really have to run good routes if you expect to get open. It’s not easy to get open in this league.
JM: You played the center field position when you played baseball. How does the skill set you learned there translate to the football field?
AJB: It definitely helped with my ability to track the ball. I’ve always said that if I could track and catch a little white ball then I can definitely track and catch a football down the field.
JM: Some players like to get into a player’s head by talking trash. Others prefer to keep quiet. Which one are you?
AJB: I’m more of a quiet type until guy’s start chirping at me. That’s when I wake up (laughs). I rather not talk to a guy throughout the game though. I definitely perk up a little when somebody starts running their mouth, though.
JM: What advice would you give Josh Norman as he tries to crawl back from that vicious Derrick Henry stiff arm?
AJB: I don’t even know (laughs). I don’t think it was a Josh Norman thing. That’s a Derrick Henry thing to be honest with you. He’s just such a big guy, such a big and strong running back. Unfortunately for them, Derrick is gonna’ embarrass a lot more people before his time is up (laughs).
JM: I’m curious to hear what the locker room’s reaction was to the COVID stuff? You had some analysts and rival team officials talk about how the Titans deserved to be heavily penalized and that’s not going to be the case. Did that help you guys form more of a us against the world mentality? Did that help stoke your competitive fire a little bit?
AJB: Its always been us against the world. That’s the honest truth. That’s how we’ve always felt. We just stayed together when that happened. We didn’t let the outside noise affect us at all. We knew what was important to us. We also knew that we just needed an opportunity to get back on the field. When all that was going on, we knew that we’d be back playing the game that we love soon enough. We just tried to go out there and get a win and that’s exactly what we did.
JM: You mentioned your father earlier and the impact he’s had on your life. I want to congratulate you on becoming a dad. You’ve always spoken about your father in such a positive light. How is fatherhood is treating you so far?
AJB: Its been great. It can definitely be challenging at times to be honest with you but it’s definitely a blessing at the end of the day. It’s the best. My father definitely taught me a lot about hard work. I have to thank him for showing me the right way.
JM: I love that. In closing, you once told me that Minkah Fitzpatrick was the best player you ever competed against in college. You told me that you wished you could play against him again someday because you felt like he got the better of you on that day. Fitzpatrick now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who of course you’re playing against this Sunday.
AJB: Yeah, but he plays safety now though (laughs). I know he’s in Pittsburgh but he’s playing safety now. He’ll be out there, though. I’ll see him at some point. He’s a really good player. I play receiver and he plays safety. He’ll be out there. He makes a lot of plays for them. He’s a great player. We’ll see what happens.
Fans can check out AJ’s social media to see the chain and follow #SNICKERSchain on social to see which player gets it each week throughout the season.