Heading into his 13th season, Duane Brown isn't thinking about his long-term future, even if his age—he'll be 35 when the 2020 season starts—makes such speculation inevitable.
Instead of focusing on anything beyond this year, the Seahawks left tackle is thinking only about how to be as productive and healthy as he can be this season, while also helping lead what will be a very different offensive line.
"I don't think about it too much," Brown said on a video press conference when asked about his long-term future. "I tell myself I don't want to put a number on when I want to walk away. I'm enjoying it. This year my goal is to stay a healthy as possible, be out there every Sunday. That's all I'm really concerned with."
Brown is coming off of a 2019 season that challenged him from a physical standpoint, with a biceps injury causing him to miss two games early in the season, then a knee injury causing him to miss two regular season games and Seattle's Wild Card win in Philadelphia. Brown was able to return for the Divisional Round game at Green Bay less than three weeks removed from arthroscopic surgery.
Brown reported that further surgery was not needed for either injury, and said he is working out this offseason without restriction. But while injuries aren't affecting how Brown can work out this offseason, he has changed things up a bit to focus on staying healthy as his body ages. Instead of focusing only on strength and speed, flexibility is also a big focus this offseason, with yoga and extra stretching joining weight-lifting and running as part of his routine.
"Now I've been hitting more smaller muscles, just working my flexibility throughout my workouts," he said. "Instead of just going out and doing bench press, squats, power cleans, I'm working in smaller muscle groups and working in flexibility between my lifts to stretch my muscles out.
"One thing I've worked on this offseason is mobility, just being more flexible. For a lot of my career, I've just focused on speed, strength, quickness, things like that. I've really been big on mobility this year, just being more flexible. Working on my hips more, more body maintenance, being more proactive about my body than in years past. I work very hard, I work out five days a week, so in doing that, the older you get, you have to match it with the same level of physical therapy work, body maintenance, so your muscles aren't getting too tight or things like that. So that's been a big point of emphasis for me."
And while having a healthy four-time Pro-Bowler at left tackle would be a big deal for any team, having Brown this year could be particularly significant for the Seahawks as they head into the season with a significantly remade offensive line. Right tackle Germain Ifedi and swing tackle George Fant both moved on in free agency, while starting center Justin Britt and right guard D.J. Fluker were both released in salary-cap related moves. That means at least three-new starters on the line—left guard Mike Iupati did re-sign, but general manager John Schneider mentioned in a radio interview that he's expecting to see competition there—heading into a year featuring a significantly altered offseason due to the COVID-19 crisis.
"Good offensive line play, a major factor is chemistry and continuity," Brown said. "We lost a big chunk of our starting pieces this offseason. We've got some new faces, we've got some guys who have been in the system, we've got some guys who haven't been here, so just getting to learn each other, learning the terminology, communication, just learning how we do stuff here, all of that stuff is important. I'm doing what I can now, virtually, over texts, phone calls, just to try to build as much chemistry as possible until we're able to meet and physically go on the field and do stuff. Once that happens, we'll have a small window to try to build each other up as much as possible until the season starts… I'm going to do what I can to try to fill them in as much as possible on what to expect when it's time to go."
While players like Brown, Iupati and even returning linemen who didn't start last year will have the advantage of playing and practicing together in the past, rookies like third-round pick Damien Lewis and free-agent additions are starting fresh, which again, puts an extra burden on a veteran leader like Brown to step up and lead his position group.
"For the young guys who haven't been a part of this team, I'm doing my best just to try to talk to them to tell them what to expect," he said. "We're going over our playbooks, any questions that anyone has, I'm answering for them. Whenever we're up and going, we just have to try to shorten the learning curve as much as possible to get that continuity. Again, we have a lot of guys that were in the system last year, so it probably won't be as drastic as it seems. But it still takes a little bit of time just to get that going, and OTAs and minicamp and things like that are essential. We'll make it happen."