The 2020 season was Duane Brown's 13th in the NFL, and at 35 he was at an age when it was reasonable for people to at least wonder how much longer the Pro-Bowl left tackle would keep playing.
But throughout last season, Brown erased any doubt about whether or not he still had a lot of good football left in him, starting every game while playing at a very high level—he was the fifth best tackle in the league according to Pro Football Focus—which meant that despite what some on the outside might think, Brown was thinking more this offseason about his long-term future as a player than he was pondering his retirement.
"I think some people thought I might hang 'em up; the people who watched my film thought otherwise," Brown said Wednesday. "… My film didn't show that I was just holding on. I don't think I was out there just trying to hold on from week to week; I felt like I was dominant, and I think a lot of people felt that way. A lot of my peers felt that way, I felt that way. So obviously I didn't want to walk away from this game then, I don't want to walk away from it after this year. I feel better this year than I did last year."
And while having a healthy and dominant left tackle is a very good thing for any NFL team, it did lead to a situation where Brown, who is heading into the final year of the contract extension he signed in 2018, reported to camp looking for a new contract that extended beyond the 2021 season. That led to Brown sitting out practice throughout camp, though he did take part in team meetings and walkthroughs. With the two sides agreeing to a re-worked deal for this season, Brown returned to practice this week and is looking forward to kicking off his 14th season.
Brown didn't get the long-term deal he wanted but did get some changes made to this year's contract, and he characterized the deal that got done as a compromise, saying, "I had my expectations for what I wanted, and they had in their minds what they thought they could get done. What we came to wasn't exactly what I wanted, but it's OK, it's a business. We came to a compromise. I'm happy about it, they're happy about it, now I'm ready to get to work."
And Brown, who has throughout his tenure in Seattle said nothing but positive things about his experiences with the Seahawks, made it clear that whatever things took place from a business standpoint changed nothing about how he feels about the organization.
"There's never been any bad blood on my end, I just want to make that known," Brown said. "I love and respect everybody in this organization, and the feeling's mutual. There's always been mutual respect throughout this whole process… It's all love. We got something done, and I'm grateful and I'm ready to go."
Brown also had no intentions of missing games regardless of how things played out in any contract negotiations.
"I work too hard to not perform," he said. "And I love my teammates, I love the game, I love Sundays. When you get to be this age and play this long, the Monday through Saturday, it's not quite the fun part. It's necessary, and you enjoy it, but Sunday is when it all comes together. So for me to do everything but that would kill me inside. And I want to be out there with my guys, so my whole thought throughout this time was to be available this week."
Despite Brown missing as much on-field time as he did, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll didn't hesitate saying on Monday that Brown is "ready to go" for this weekend's game in Indianapolis. Brown regularly was given days off last year throughout the season to rest his legs and was still able thrive on game days, and similarly the Seahawks are expecting him to be his usual dominant self even if he didn't have a full camp under his belt.
"We're pleased to have him," Carroll said. "All in all in the camp that he was able to put forth, he did all the learning and he's really, really healthy right now, and I'm really thrilled for him."
And Brown, who said he's "feeling great" physically heading into this season, is caught up on Seattle's new offense having been around throughout camp and taken part in walkthroughs, and said he'll "absolutely" be ready to go Sunday, but he did add that getting some full-speed practice under his belt this week is important.
"This is my 14th year in this game, and there's not much I haven't seen from an offensive standpoint, not much I haven't seen from a defensive standpoint," he said. "The speed of it, practicing this week has been crucial, Monday was crucial, today will be crucial just getting the speed of it back, but from a technique standpoint, the mental standpoint, I'm good."
As for what the future brings—the lack of extension means Brown is currently set to become a free agent after the season—Brown isn't looking that far ahead.
"I'm not worried about after the season right now," he said. "Now that the ink's dry, I'm all about this week and this year, just being the best I can be for this team… Once we decide what we were going to do and we signed, my thoughts about after this year are gone. I'm just focused on this year. I've been working my tail off, and I'm ready to go."
First meeting in 1977, the Seahawks and the Colts have faced one another 12 times in the regular season over the years. They will face off this Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 1 of the 2021 season.