Cardinals wide receiver Jaron Brown (13) should be ready to go when the team begins on-field work this offseason.
For a brief time, there was fear Jaron Brown hurt himself bad enough that coach Bruce Arians was worried the wide receiver could be out up to six months.
Brown hurt his shoulder early in the Cardinals' Wild Card playoff game in Carolina, although quickly he, Arians and the team realized he wouldn't need surgery and his rehab timeline got drastically shortened.
"I hope to be full speed (for OTAs)," Brown said after a recent rehab session.
The voluntary strength and conditioning program for the Cards begins Monday, and many of the players are expected to return for daily work. The on-field, Phase II portion of the offseason is still a few weeks away. Quarterback Carson Palmer, coming off a torn ACL, has made great progress and the idea of him getting in some offseason work has been floated. But the main goal is to make sure Palmer is ready at the outset of training camp in late July, and the Cards won't take any risks in his comeback. The rehab for new linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and his torn Achilles also will be something to consider when the Cards get back on the field.
Otherwise, the Cards should have tight end Troy Niklas back after his broken ankle and running back Andre Ellington is doing well after the foot and core injuries that derailed his season. Defensive end Calais Campbell is optimistic after hernia surgery. Guard Jonathan Cooper is healthy, as is safety Tyrann Mathieu. Quarterback Drew Stanton's rehabbed knee may limit his work, but he should be able to do some things.
Then there is Brown, who said the hairline fracture of his scapula should be put in the past very soon. The Cardinals' offseason in terms of wide receiver was dominated by Larry Fitzgerald's re-done contract. There is the speculation about whether the team will pick up the fifth-year option of former No. 1 draft pick Michael Floyd. Coach Bruce Arians has said his other wide receiver, John Brown, has to be able to get more physical off the line of scrimmage.
But Arians was effusive in his praise of Jaron Brown, who in his second year played well on special teams and had 22 catches for 229 yards as the fourth receiver. Brown did have a key drop of a touchdown catch in Seattle, Arians acknowledged, but that shouldn't color what he did in 2014.
"Everybody remembers one play," Arians said. "He dropped a ball in the end zone. But he was our most productive player in the red zone last year. He would have really been had he caught that one. He won the Kansas City game with an unbelievable catch in the seam. Dynamic special teams player. He to me could start any ballgame. I wouldn't worry about him."
As the Cardinals head into the draft, picking a wide receiver wouldn't be a shock, not with a need for a return man and not with Fitzgerald on the far side of 30. But Brown will be in the mix, with his confidence great now, a long way from where he stood in 2013 as an undrafted rookie. He's never been a self-promoter, preferring instead to keep his comments short and letting everything play out.
"I'm just here trying to get on the field and have fun, to be honest," Brown said. "Hopefully whatever comes, through hard work, it'll come."
Images of every time the Cardinals crossed the goal-line during the season