Courtney Brown at turning point Steve King The Chronicle-Telegram BEREA - Browns right defensive end Courtney Brown doesn't talk much to the media. And on those rare occasions when he does, he doesn't really say much. That's not good or bad. It's just the way "The Quiet Storm" is, and always has been. But none of that really matters anymore. Brown has reached the point of his career where, regardless of what he says or doesn't say, his play on the field has to start doing the talking. And it had better say volumes. "This is the year that Courtney has to produce," Browns left end Kenard Lang said Wednesday as training camp continued for rookies. "If you don't produce, your boss is going to get on your butt. "I mean, he was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft (in 2000). When you're the No. 1 overall pick, they expect you to start producing the next day. "But Courtney is not one of these guys who has blinders on and is oblivious to everything going on around him. He knows what people are saying. He knows the deal." The deal is this: Brown has done little in his first three NFL seasons - just 11 career sacks. Then there are the injuries. After going through Penn State and even high school with nothing more than a dislocated thumb, he has had all kinds of problems staying healthy in the pros. In the last two years, he's been plagued by ankle and knee problems and has missed half of the 32 regular-season games. Brown continues to face his most serious health issue as he tries to come back from microfracture left knee surgery near the end of last season. It's a serious procedure from which some players, such as former Browns left tackle Roman Oben and future Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith, recover, and others do not. The injury traces back to the New Orleans game Nov. 24, when Brown fell hard onto the Superdome artificial turf and suffered what was initially thought to be a bruised knee. He returned to play the next week against Carolina, but then he sat out the last four weeks and was eventually placed onto the injured reserve list. Brown had the surgery Dec. 19. "It was tough being hurt and sitting out," Brown said. "I've been playing football for a long time. I'm used to being out there. "When it first happened, I knew something was wrong but I didn't really know what it was until they did more tests. I didn't know how serious it was going to turn out to be. "Injuries are part of the game. Unfortunately, I've had a few injuries the last couple of years. You never expect them to happen, but they happen." Now it's year No. 4 of Brown's career, and the club is still waiting for him to start playing like the franchise defensive player he was labeled to be when the Browns chose him over his Penn State teammate, linebacker LaVar Arrington. But first Brown has to be able to return to the field. He is one of the veterans coming off injuries who is attending these first three days of camp with the rookies. He stands on the sidelines in full uniform, not doing much more than watching and waiting. The waiting could be over today. This will be a key moment in Brown's recovery as he will undergo his physical. That will determine what he can do when the veterans begin practicing Friday. "I feel pretty good," Brown said. "I'm ready for camp. "I'll be practicing by the end of this week. I'll be out there for everything. "I feel pretty quick, but that's in drills. When the full contact starts, we'll see how quick I am." The Browns hope Brown is totally healthy and, as he says, "ready to roll," ASAP. A defense that struggled last season, and has a ton of new faces on it, needs all the help it can get. "Without Courtney, our defense is like an 80 percent. With him, it's a 95," Lang said. "He's one of the guys who is a complete player. He's strong and fast. He can play the run, and he can rush the passer. "If he stays healthy, he's going to have a big year. I know he's tired of hearing that, but that's the way it is. "I have faith in Courtney that he's going to be able to do it. I'm going to go around with a Courtney Brown badge. I'm a groupie. "I played with Bruce Smith (in Washington), and there's no question in mind that Courtney, if he is able to stay healthy, can get to Bruce's level." The clock is ticking. "I have high expectations for myself, and I expect to hit those expectations this year," Brown said. And if he does, then he and the Browns will finally heave a sigh of relief and point to his play as the reason why they drafted him in the first place. But if he doesn't, then the Browns could be forced to turn the page on the Courtney Brown era. After all, coach Butch Davis and his crew weren't the ones who drafted Brown, so it's really no skin off their backs if they eventually have to pull the plug on him and cut the organization's losses.