ATLANTA – It was clear a year ago that offensive tackle Trent Brown did not have a future with the 49ers.
Brown appeared in 10 games in 2017 before opting for season-ending shoulder surgery. When he returned for the 49ers’ offseason program, he felt something was different in Santa Clara.
“I kind of knew something was up,” Brown told NBC Sports Bay Area. “When I went back and reported for OTAs, the vibe was off. It wasn’t the same. It could’ve been me. It could’ve been the facility. It just didn’t feel the same as before I got hurt.”
The 49ers selected offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey with the No. 9 overall draft pick. Hours later, Brown was on a plane to his new team, the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick acquired Brown, who was entering his contract year, and a fifth-round draft pick in a trade with the 49ers for a third-round selection. (The 49ers selected cornerback Tarvarius Moore with the pick acquired from the Patriots.)
Things could not have worked out much better for Brown, who has protected Tom Brady’s blind side for every game this season. Brown will be a key figure in Super Bowl 53. Then, he is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March and is likely to cash in with a big-money contract.
“I think we’re all pleased that he’s been as good as he has,” Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said of Brown. “The guy has a great skill set and I know he cares. He doesn’t like to mess up. We’re all pleased. He’s been our left tackle the whole season. We’ve needed him bad to come through, and he has come through. And we need him to come through one more game.”
Brown was a seventh-round selection of the 49ers in 2015. He started 16 games in his second season. Listed at 6-foot-8, 380 pounds, Brown is incredibly nimble and athletic for his size. But there were questions during his time with the 49ers about his commitment and work ethic.
Team sources say Brown did not watch film and regularly missed assignments due to his lack of preparation.
“That was the word of mouth or whatever," Brown said. "Even before I got drafted, people said I don’t work hard. I’m just a quiet guy. I’m not a rah-rah guy. I show up to work. I’m not here to make friends or anything like that. I’m doing the same thing here that I’ve been doing. I feel like if it’s good enough for this type of organization, it should be good enough anywhere.”
Brown admits that he does not spend a lot of time watching film, but he said he is more concerned about honing his craft and making the opposition adjust to him.
“I feel like I don’t need to watch film,” he said. “I play my game and use the techniques my coaches teach me and be able to work on daily. And people have to come play Trent Brown.”
Brown played for three different head coaches in his three seasons with the 49ers. Upon his arrival in New England, it was made clear he was joining an organization with a different standard.
“He had to understand the culture,” Scarnecchia said. “There were some tough times out there on the practice field.
“There are ways we want things done. We want guys to practice in a certain manner. We want guys to prepare in a certain manner, and that can’t be compromised. I think he ultimately got the message. And I think ultimately Trent wants to be a good player. So I think he understands if he does things the way we want them done, he has a chance to be a better player. That’s served him well so far.”
Brown said his final season was cut short with the 49ers after noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews advised him to undergo surgery with approximately a month left in the season so he could get a head start on his rehabilitation. Brown had labrum tears in the front and back of his right shoulder. He said the 49ers’ midseason acquisition of Jimmy Garoppolo made him want to concentrate on being ready to go for the 2018 season.
“We had a quarterback, so that was my whole point in not finishing last season. I needed surgery. That’s what Dr. Andrews said. I was risking my career if I’d kept going,” Brown said.
“I feel like I have no problem playing through injuries and pain. But the smart thing to do at that point, I felt like, was to get healthy for the next year, because at that point, we were only playing for pride. There was no way we were going to the playoffs.”
Brown said he derives no satisfaction from the 49ers’ struggle last season. He said he wishes he could be playing against his former team – not the Los Angeles Rams – in the Super Bowl.
Brown realizes he is fortunate to land in such a great situation after the 49ers traded him to clear the way for McGlinchey to start at right tackle as a rookie.
“I just feel like me coming here with all the bull crap that’s been said about me and my name has been slandered, me coming here and shattering all those bad things that have been said about me, I think that’s helped me out a lot,” he said.