After eight seasons as one of the best placekickers in the NFL, Josh Brown found himself on the scrap heap in 2012, struggling to find a job after being released by the St. Louis Rams following the 2011 season.
Brown lost a training camp competition with Nick Folk for the New York Jets placekicking job and kicked in only four games in 2012, making 11-of-12 field goals for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Brown called losing his job with the Rams, where he had become the highest-paid placekicker in the league when he signed a five-year, $14.2-million free-agent contract in 2008, "very humbling" and "very timely."
"Whenever I lost the job with the Rams it was probably the biggest blessing I could have ever had," Brown told me during an interview at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. "I needed to re-structure how I did life in general, and how I approached my kicking, how I approached the craft. I always worked hard, but I’m learning that I wasn’t working hard enough. Now that I look at where I’m at and what I’m doing here my body and my potential is capable of so much more.
"Sometimes you have to go backwards to go forward."
Brown was released by the Rams after an inconsistent 2011 season during which he made only 21-of-28 field-goal attempts, and failed to make a kick from beyond 50 yards for the first time in his career.
Brown said he was "not in a good place" at the time the Rams let him go and admitted he had only himself to blame.
"As a man I was completely responsible for the things that were happening to me. It [the release] could not have come at a better time, and ultimately has made me that much better now," Brown said.
The 34-year-old was candid in discussing those "things that were happening to me."
"Extra-curricular activities, drinking too much, thinking that life is always going to be this way. I think sometimes you can get into this league and take it for granted," Brown said.
"It took losing my job and even my wife helping me see that, too. She’s probably the biggest proponent of straightening me out."
Brown and his wife, Molly, have been married for five years and have three children.
"She’s seen me at my highest point, she’s seen me at my lowest point. She’s experienced all that there is that this league can offer," Brown said. "She’s been the solid rock for sure for me."
Brown said he has learned "to be humbled and to recognize it as a humbling experience and not to take it as ‘the man did me wrong.’ "
Brown signed with the Giants in March after the Bengals chose not to re-sign him. He replaces Lawrence Tynes, who had been with the Giants since 2007. Brown has yet to miss a field goal during training camp practices. During his career he has made 231-of-284 field-goal attempts (81.3 percent) with a long field goal of 58 yards.
"I’m in the best shape I’ve been in in my life. My priorities are in line and I’m better for everybody around me. Ultimately it’s just been a great ride," Brown said. "I’m kicking the ball better now than I ever have in my life. I feel like I have more of a clear mind on what I’m doing, better control of what I’m doing, what I’m looking for each day and what I’m trying to get out of each day. Every day is a day to get better, and there has to be a goal and a purpose."
Brown's acclimation to the Giants has been eased by the fact that he and punter Steve Weatherford, who is also the Giants' holder, have known each other for about 10 years and have worked out together in the offseason. He also credits special teams coordinator Tom Quinn.
"I have great communication with my coach here, which is great when you can talk to someone freely and talk to a coach freely without them feeling like you’re coaching them," Brown said. "It’s a great working environment. He does a great job of putting people in positions to make plays. If they don’t make plays that’s a player’s job. Coaches can only devise schemes to put players in positions."
Brown, now on his fifth NFL team, called the Giants a "classy organization" and said his transition has not been difficult.
"I know that they want a steady, mature older kicker and I want to be that guy," Brown said.