The last month has been a difficult one for Jatavis Brown.
After bursting onto the scene in impressive fashion, including a standout performance in primetime two weeks prior in which he earned Pepsi Rookie of the Week Honors, the inside linebacker suffered a knee injury late in Week 8's loss to the Denver Broncos. Brown has been sidelined ever since, relegated to spectator status for the Bolts' next four games.
Finally, 38 days later, the rookie returned as a limited participant at practice. While it's too early to tell whether or not he'll suit up Sunday in Carolina, Brown was encouraged by how he felt after being back on the field.
"I felt great being back out there with my teammates and just having fun," he said. "It was hard not playing. Not practicing with my teammates. But the guys kept my head up and told me to be patient and that the time will come to be back."
That was easier said than done for Brown, who feels most comfortable on the field. A football junkie, he remained engaged as much as possible while sidelined.
"It was frustrating. Things happen, and it's all part of God's plan, so I tried to think positive about the whole thing. I stayed around the guys. I went to all the meetings and asked questions like I would if I was playing on Sunday. I'm always doing that, so in that (respect) it was like I never left."
Brown has appeared in eight games with five starts this season, and despite missing the past month, ranks second on the team in tackles for loss (seven), passes defensed (seven) and forced fumbles (two), and is third in total tackles (52) and sacks (three).
The 5-11, 211-pound fifth-round pick out of Akron's top game came in Week 6's win over the Broncos on Thursday Night Football. Not only did he lead the Bolts with 12 tackles, but came through in the clutch with back to back plays later in the first quarter. First, he sacked Trevor Siemian for a 10-yard loss, then hit Demaryius Thomas hard to force a fumble that Craig Mager returned.
Suffering the injury right when he was hitting his stride was particularly difficult for the rookie. However, he explained it was just another obstacle he's had to overcome in what has become many over his football career.
"There is always room for improvement. I play with a chip on my shoulder, and that comes with playing at a small school, not getting as many opportunities and being doubted my whole life."
As far as what he hopes to accomplish over the final quarter of the season, Brown put it as bluntly as he could.
"I just want to go out there and do what it takes to help the team win. Our defense is a great defense, and I'm just happy to be a part of it. We're young, and it's about building chemistry and having fun out there."