Healthy again after a season-ending ankle injury, Equanimeous St. Brown works to regain form
GREEN BAY – At first, when Equanimeous St. Brown heard the term “high-ankle sprain,” the Green Bay Packers receiver thought he might still have a chance.
It’s a common football injury, usually more nuisance than major problem. You can miss a few weeks, even several weeks, with a high-ankle sprain. You rarely miss an entire season.
“At first,” St. Brown said, “we didn’t know exactly how bad it was.”
Then he learned his ankle needed surgery. That’s when St. Brown realized he wouldn’t have a chance to build on his promising rookie season of 2018.
His second season with the Packers was finished midway through preseason, over before it really began.
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“I thought for a minute I was able to go halfway through the season,” St. Brown said. “Once I found out I needed surgery, they put me on IR for the year.”
It was tough news to digest, St. Brown said. One moment, he was catching a pass across the middle against the Oakland Raiders, another forgettable preseason rep. Then safety Erik Harris unleashed a nasty hit, receiving an unnecessary-roughness penalty. St. Brown spun to the ground, his hip and bottom landing on his ankle, twisting it awkwardly.
A couple of months passed while St. Brown allowed his ankle to heal. Finally, sometime around late October or early November, St. Brown had a “tightrope” surgery.
“It’s been my first serious injury since I’ve been playing football my whole life,” St. Brown said, “and first major surgery. So it’s been the first time I’ve went the whole season without playing football. Mentally, at first it was kind of tough, but as I got on throughout the season, I got used to it.”
St. Brown said his ankle didn’t feel 100% recovered until midway through the offseason. He lived with his brother, Osiris, near the campus of Stanford University. Osiris would have been a senior at Stanford this fall, but the Pac-12 canceled its football season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
As St. Brown trained, he had another familiar companion. Or, more specifically, a familiar spiral. DeShone Kizer, the former Packers quarterback and St. Brown’s teammate at Notre Dame, threw passes to him.
“It was really good at first,” St. Brown said, “and then the lockdown first happened, and it was hard to find places to throw and catch. We had a grass field where we were staying at. He needed to get work in, me and my brother needed to get work in. So it was good to have a quarterback to throw to me and my brother.”
He’s got another quarterback throwing him passes now. St. Brown occasionally gets a target from Aaron Rodgers in Packers camp, though he also gets targets from backups Tim Boyle and Jordan Love.
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Now healthy, he hopes to pick up where he left off.
First, St. Brown has a bit of rust to knock off after missing a full season.
“EQ is extremely intelligent,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “Unfortunately, missing a whole season practically, you don’t get those reps. So it’s just more or less getting him out there, getting him comfortable with not only the play calls but the routes, just working him back into it. But I have a lot of confidence in not only his ability, but his mind.”
That football acumen – mixed with his 6-5 frame and 4.48 40 – might make St. Brown a factor in the Packers’ offense this season.
A former sixth-round pick, he had a promising rookie season in 2018, catching 21 passes for 328 yards. He had a clutch, 19-yard catch on third-and-2 with less than 20 seconds left against the San Francisco 49ers, setting up a game-winning field goal. Later in the season, St. Brown caught all five of his targets for 94 yards at the New York Jets.
St. Brown didn’t get a chance to build off that solid foundation. He hopes he can now.
“I was very disappointed,” he said. “I was looking forward to my second year coming off my rookie year. But now, yeah, I just want to make sure I’m still moving forward, not taking any steps backward.”