A year ago, rookie receiver John Brown became a sensation at the Cardinals' offseason workouts, blowing past defensive backs, running refined routes and catching nearly everything thrown his way.

We learned later that he preferred to be called by his nickname, "Smokey," and was supremely confident despite a college career that included stops at Mars Hill (N.C.) University, Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College and finally, Pittsburg (Kan.) State.

A third-round pick, Brown was productive as a rookie, with 48 receptions for 696 yards and five touchdowns. But flaws were evident.

He dropped too many passes. He didn't have enough strength to consistently beat press coverage. And he didn't know the attention and care his body needed to last through an NFL season.

"He hit the wall around Dec. 1," coach Bruce Arians said this week, "like most rookies do."

Brown didn't score in the final seven games and caught just nine passes for 127 yards in the last four.

Vowing not to let that happen again, Brown changed his lifestyle this offseason. He's no longer a foreigner to massages or the team's athletic training facility. And if a fast-food franchise or two around the team's Tempe complex close down soon, it might be because Brown is no longer stopping three times a day.

"It was hard to give up because I used to eat it every day," said Brown.

Today, he feels stronger and faster. The heartburn that often bothered Brown in practices is gone, too.

"Once I went to practice without fast food (in my stomach), I felt so much better," Brown said. "I don't even look at restaurants any more. I've put on a lot of muscle, and I'm feeling stronger and better."

Teammates, including receiver Larry Fitzgerald, encouraged Brown to take better care of himself. Brown needed to improve his diet and take better care of his legs, his money makers.

Brown added 10 pounds of muscle, mostly to his upper body, Arians said, but it's hard to see when Brown is in street clothes or a practice jersey. And he's listed as the same size as last year: 5 feet 11 and 179 pounds.

"He's still little," Arians said.

Coaches have noticed that Brown isn't getting knocked around like last year, but the real test will come when contact begins in training camp in late July.

If the added strength "helps me with press coverage and things like that, I'll give a lot of people trouble in this league," Brown said.

One item that remains unchanged, Brown said, is the size of the chip on his shoulder. Brown's always been told that he was too small to play football, something that will forever motivate him.

"Even if I get 1,200 yards this year, they'll be like, 'Oh, it's luck,'" he said. "The next year I'll have to prove them wrong again. There are always going to be doubters."