The text messages arrived in droves, well before C.J. Brown could even check his cellphone after Maryland’s game at Florida State on Oct. 5. Many expressed sympathy for the Terrapins quarterback, who took a vicious helmet-to-chest hit that ultimately left him with bruised ribs, a bloodied lip and a concussion, Brown’s first since high school. Others decried the blow itself, which drew no yellow flags from the referees despite Coach Randy Edsall’s pleas for a late-hit penalty.
One friend decided to send video, so Brown was able to see himself step forward, launch a pass then get driven backwards into the grass, his head bouncing off the ground.
“Pretty gruesome hit,” Brown said Tuesday.
That night, as the Terrapins boarded their plane and stewed over their 63-0 loss, Brown nursed his sore ribs, even though X-rays came back negative. But Brown’s head felt fine. It wasn’t until he returned to his off-campus apartment around 8 p.m. did the headaches begin. He avoided bright lights and glowing screens, but still felt foggy.
“I was real anxious,” Brown said. “I’ve had injuries before. You never want to mess with the brain. It’s very important. I wanted to make sure I was fully clear.”
Brown spent Saturday’s 27-26 home victory over Virginia signaling in plays from the sideline while wearing black warmups and a headset. He watched as backup quarterback Caleb Rowe threw for 332 yards and engineered Maryland’s game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. But after being cleared by team doctors this week, he will be back for Saturday’s game at Wake Forest, where Maryland (5-1) can attain bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010.
Brown progressed through the training staff’s battery of concussion tests, failing them in the two days that immediately followed the Florida State game before making sufficient progress on that Tuesday. He spent the week lifting weights and running and warmed up in uniform before Saturday’s game against Virginia, a contest in which he wanted to play.
“You could tell it was eating him up,” center Sal Conaboy said. “As a player you never want to be out in any game. You could tell it was eating at him all week. It’s good to have him back.”
Compared with the months Brown needed to bounce back from the torn ACL he suffered in the 2012 preseason, he said his recovery from the concussion “flew by.” He never practiced during the week leading up to the Virginia game but spent Thursday’s practice signaling plays for Rowe and serving as a messenger of sorts between the quarterbacks and coaches, just as he did while sitting out last season.
During the game, when Rowe became just the second Maryland quarterback under Edsall to top 330 passing yards, Brown hopped on the headset and helped Rowe make adjustments to Virginia’s defense. When offensive coordinator Mike Locksley needed to attend to other matters, Brown took over as Rowe’s coach on the sideline.
This week, normalcy returned. On Tuesday, Brown sported a freshly trimmed beard and a cleared mind. He began practicing again on Sunday and can help Maryland move to 6-1, matching the combined win total from Edsall’s first two seasons in College Park. He hasn’t watched video of the hit since, but why would he? Besides, Brown said, it looked worse than it felt.