ENGLEWOOD -- It wasn't supposed to happen this way. Early in June rookie camp, Baron Browning suffered a knee injury. It led to more time on the trainer's table than cleats on the grass.
With training camp a week deep, Browning has yet to practice, moving from stuck in his recovery to making progress. It is frustrating, but it does not diminish the former Ohio State star's potential.
While his impact might be delayed, Browning boasts unique skills. At 6-3, 240 pounds, he is built like Von Miller lite, but is capable of working inside with his 4.56 40-yard dash speed.
When the Broncos selected him in the third round, they envisioned potential cross-training, but also wondered if he could be the missing piece in coverage of tight ends and linebackers. That has yet to transpire. But he could still become a factor when his knee, which did not require surgery, is right.
"I describe my style of play as someone who is very selfless and who will do anything the team needs me to do," said Browning, whose Meet The Picks segment will be featured tonight at 6 p.m. "I will be a great teammate who is going to give his best at all times, give great effort and a guy who will go sideline to sideline and play inside and outside. Wherever the team needs me to play that’s what I am going to do. All I care about is contributing and helping the team win."
As a standout at Ohio State, Browning delivered big moments in college. He was caught in between at times, playing multiple positions. The athleticism is real. It showed up in college and at The Senior Bowl.
"We really liked him. He got markedly better over the season," said Jim Nagy, director of The Senior Bowl. "From the physical standpoint, the testing, it's high-end stuff. Now the game is starting to slow down for him. He can rush and play in space. His best football is ahead of him."
Browning finished his career with 65 tackles and seven sacks. He jumps out on film. And seeing him working alongside the trainers, he's impressive physically. It makes his absence sting. But Browning has traveled a bumpy road to this point. And is ready to answer the bell and embrace the challenge.
Brown knows about the spotlight. In high school, he was one of the top recruits in the country, making some recruiting visits with Broncos rookie Kary Vincent Jr. He pulled off a bold prank in choosing the Buckeyes.
"My decision came down to Alabama and Ohio State and I think I texted (coach) Urban (Meyer), thank you for everything you’ve done, but I am going to Roll with the Tide. And then probably a few minutes later I tweeted out that I was committed to Ohio State and he had no idea," Browning told Denver7. "I think he threw his phone against the wall and almost broke it, and my dad had called him and congratulated him and he didn’t even know. He saw it on Twitter. But he got me back good eventually. So it’s all good."
Meyer, now the coach of the Jaguars, wasn't about to let Browning win this game. He involved the Browning family to exact his revenge.
"Yeah, he got my mom in on it because she was the assistant principal of the high school I went to my senior year. I can’t remember exactly what she said. But Coach Meyer said go to your mom’s office in school. It’s important," Browning recalled.
"And he’s on speakerphone, and he tells me he’s taking the head coaching job with the Rams. I was like, 'What?' I was just speechless because it was just random. But it was very believable because I had seen he was a candidate. I forgot what he said next and then he and my mom started laughing. And I wasn’t feeling them at the moment. I had no words to say to either one of them because they both pranked me back."
Browning has an easy-going personality that turns into intensity on the field. His joy with his last college season was unmistakable. Ohio State thought its season was over, before given a reprieve. And it created an avenue for a rematch with Clemson.
"Probably just beating Clemson in the Sugar Bowl was the highlight of my career. Just getting that revenge after the things they said about us as a team leading into the game. Not even a play I made, just winning that game," Browning said. "To see where we came from as far as having a season, losing a season, then getting it brought back and not really having an opportunity to have a fall camp. So we were playing games and trying to put it together and work out the kinks. Then everybody had a lot to say about us as team. And we kept it together, put our heads down and kept grinding."
That is the same mindset that Browning continues to adopt. He will keep pushing to get healthy, to get his opportunity. He will be hard not to notice because of size and his name.
"I think it just came from my mom. My dad wanted to name me Barry. My dad’s name is Barry. My grandpa’s name is Barry. My oldest brother’s name is Barry. My mom was like, 'That’s enough Barrys, So here’s Baron,'" Browning said. "So, yeah, I go by Baron."