As the Dallas Cowboys prepare to open training camp on Saturday in Oxnard, California, two of their most important voices will belong to head athletic trainer Jim Maurer and associate athletic trainer Britt Brown.
Brown also carries the title of director of rehabilitation. He oversees the work put in by all of the team's injured players. When you see Dez Bryant working the bands in resistance training, Brown is on the other end, pushing and pulling, trying to make sure Bryant’s recovery from January foot surgery is complete.
With Bryant, Sean Lee (knee), Orlando Scandrick (knee), Gavin Escobar (Achilles tendon), Maliek Collins (foot) and Lance Dunbar (knee) coming back from surgeries major and minor, Brown’s recommendations are taken strongly.
The Cowboys will have to look at the injured players through different lenses. Some, like Dunbar, might open camp on the physically unable to perform list (as a potential cover in case he is not ready for the season opener). Some might open listed as PUP just to buy themselves an extra few days. Others might be ready for full drills from the first day.
But patience and a long-term view win out, especially with players who have sat out for an extended period of time.
“It’s complete trust,” Bryant said of Brown. “We all know that Britt has our best interest. Britt, he’s always honest. He’s extremely honest with us. He pushes us to the max.”
While some might be hesitant to confront players, Brown isn’t. Head coach Jason Garrett was a Cowboys player before he became a coach here in 2007. Brown has been with the Cowboys since 1996. Maurer has been with the team since 1990. They have the backing of Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones and Dallas' coaches.
Rookies learn quickly that Brown is not to be messed with, but sometimes, they have to learn. In 2014, Ahmad Dixon was late to his rehab session while sitting in the locker room. When Brown came to get him, the rookie smiled, but Brown quickly told him he was not joking.
“His personality has not changed,” Garrett said of Brown. “He has been that way since minute one. You’ve heard me talk a lot about players who have a little edge to them, have a little chip on their shoulder. He’s got a mountain. He brings it every day, and that’s a really good thing for our football team.”
Bryant spent more time with Brown last year than he had his entire career after breaking his foot in the season opener. As he worked his way back from surgery, which included a screw insert and bone graft, Brown was there to push him when needed, as well as to pull back. Bryant was cleared to go after missing just five games.
In January, Bryant had a second bone graft surgery on his foot. He was held out of team drills as a precaution. Bryant kept talking about remaining patient, even if it was a difficult task.
Brown’s goal was to have Bryant ready for the season, not a spring practice.
“Man, I love Britt,” Bryant said. “I just love the way he goes about his business. He’s extremely aggressive. Honest. He cares a lot about us. And he just wants us to do good. When you’re around somebody like that, you have to go that extra mile for him.”