Jammal Brown’s feet are crooked when he walks. Turned outward, to be specific. Slew-footed, he calls it. It’s a wonder he can walk straight at all.
Brown can get from point A to point B all right, but the misalignment strains his hips. It’s part of why he had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip in 2009, and part of the reason his hip now threatens his job security.
Coach Mike Shanahan told Brown at the end of a rocky 2011 season that his hip had to get healthy -or else. So Brown has strived this offseason to finally overcome the problem and try to save his job as the Washington Redskins’ starting right tackle.
“Hell yeah, I took it as an open challenge,” Brown said after practice Thursday afternoon. “Anytime the boss man wants to come and talk to you, if he sees something that he wants you to work at, you take that full force.”
So Brown committed to training at team headquarters this offseason and showing Shanahan he is serious about regaining the form that made him a two-time Pro Bowler with the New Orleans Saints.
He spent parts of three mornings each week from January to mid-April performing Bikram ch yoga, holding poses in 105-degree heat. He also has been learning how to stride with his toes pointing straight ahead.
“It feels real awkward,” Brown said. “I just catch myself during the day at the house. Any time I try to walk, I try to line my toes up.”
It can’t be particularly reassuring for a coach to hear his starting right tackle is learning how to walk with proper form, but that’s where the Redskins are eight weeks before training camp.
They’re relying on Brown to be a blocking force in the running game and to help protect their new franchise quarterback. He has not consistently done that in his first two seasons with the Redskins.
“You could tell he was stiff,” Shanahan said. “He wasn’t moving like he did the previous years [in New Orleans], and his hip never recovered. I think by going to yoga, by really working on his flexibility, that has helped him get in the stances or be in position that he hasn’t been before.”
Brown, 31, first heard about the benefits of yoga last year from his friend Davin Joseph, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard with whom he was college teammates at Oklahoma.
Brown didn’t pay much attention, though, until his hip continued to be problematic last season.
Then Brown heard again about its value from a mutual acquaintance of former Redskins quarterback Colt Brennan, who had surgeries to repair torn labrums in both of his hips. Brown decided to give yoga a try.
And after Shanahan spoke to him following last season, he arranged for classes in Sterling so he could stay close to team headquarters.
“It definitely felt real funny,” Brown said. “It doesn’t look hard, but when you’re in there and it’s 105 degrees and you’re trying to hold a pose and hold your thumbs and palms together, stuff gets tough.”
Brown quickly noticed improvement. He started performing better on impact tests, which measure flexibility and are performed by team trainers.
“I feel like I can bend better,” he said. “I can play with a stronger base, and those are the most important thing for an offensive line - stay low and having a wide base.”
Brown stopped the yoga classes after the Redskins began their offseason conditioning program last month because the yoga was too taxing physically when combined with the Redskins’ regimen. He plans to resume them after the offseason program concludes in mid-June.
In the meantime, he’ll continue trying to point his toes toward his desired destination - the Redskins’ starting lineup.
“I know what I can do,” he said. “I just want to get healthy so I can show it.”