IRVING, Texas — Josh Brent is playing football again for one reason: Jerry Brown.
"Honestly, to make sure that Jerry's name doesn't die in vain," Brent said Wednesday when asked why he decided to resume his career.
Brent gave his first interview since his January conviction of intoxication manslaughter. The Cowboys defensive tackle was the driver in the 2012 crash that killed Brown, his friend and a Dallas practice squad player.
It was a short session, lasting less than 3 minutes before a Cowboys spokesman cut it off and shielded Brent while he remained in the locker room for a few more minutes.
"Jerry was a great person, a great player and had a bright future," Brent said. "And, once again, a mistake that I made took that away from him, took that away from his daughter, took that away from his mother."
The 26-year-old Brent retired just before the 2013 season as he awaited trail. According to police accounts and blood tests taken later, Brent's blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit for drivers in Texas when he was speeding in his Mercedes sedan and struck a curb in the Dallas suburb of Irving. Brown was in the passenger's seat.
Brent avoided prison, getting an automatic 180-day jail sentence when a 10-year prison term was suspended. He was also ordered to attend alcohol rehabilitation sessions, some of which happened after he was released to a halfway house.
The NFL reinstated Brent in September and suspended him for the first 10 games. The Cowboys activated him Tuesday, a day after he was eligible to return.
He can play Nov. 23 at the New York Giants, following this week's bye. Coach Jason Garrett has said Brent was overweight and hasn't indicated whether he will be ready to play against the Giants. Brent didn't have an answer for that question either.
"I just do what the coaches ask of me, and just try to be the best teammate I can," said Brent, who last played on Dec. 2, 2012, six days before the fatal crash.
Brent and Brown were teammates at Illinois, where they also spent time around Brown's mom, Stacey Jackson. She has said that she would like Brent to resume his career.
"I miss Jerry," said Brent, dressed in a white Cowboys workout shirt with the team's blue star logo on it and surrounded by cameras in a corner near his locker. "That was my best friend. To know that he's not here because of a mistake that I made that could have been prevented, it hurts me every day."
Brent, who recently signed a one-year contract extension with no guaranteed money, has been practicing for two weeks. The NFL eased restrictions that were put in place when he was reinstated, and he was allowed to make the trip to London last week so he could keep practicing.
At the time of the crash, Brent was a backup filling in for injured starter Jay Ratliff. The Cowboys have since changed defensive schemes, and Brent would be part of a rotation that includes several players who weren't on the team two years ago.
Because of where he's been, Brent hasn't concerned himself much with how he fits on the field.
"It's been tough, but it's something I take one day at a time," said Brent, who had 31 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in three seasons before the crash. "I don't get ahead of myself. I don't look forward to the future. I just try to handle what's on my plate at the moment."
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