Roberts has learned he has innate susceptibility to vestibular concussion, and not because he's soft on the head or in it. He has always had problems with carsickness, and recent research shows a link between that trait and a high prevalence of the injury. (Attention deficit disorder and migraine-headache problems are two other such traits.)
He has also learned that, unlike, say, a torn ligament or an ankle sprain, concussions are so complex it's impossible to predict the healing period.
But some conditions prolong recovery, and Roberts isn't shy on those. They're what make him who he is.
For several days after he was injured in Boston, he stayed with the Orioles, but the act of sitting in the dugout and trying to follow the ball made him ill. Collins told him to get away, so he left the team. He didn't see friends like Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Jeremy Guthrie for months.
Roberts lives in Canton, not far from Brewer's Hill, and he and Diana enjoy walking the streets, attending church nearby and chatting with fans. When they kept asking how he was doing, Collins advised him to leave Baltimore. He and Diana flew to Sarasota and didn't return until last month.
The research, Collins says, is clear: The less strain on a concussion victim, the better.
"There are two things you don't want to do [as a patient]. Number one, don't get hit again. Number two, don't increase the demand for energy. You can cause a lot of problems by overtaxing the brain."
That includes watching the O's on TV — which Roberts did every day for six weeks, until he says it became too emotionally painful. It includes explaining his condition on the phone — which he did regularly until it triggered such headaches he had to delegate Diana as his liaison. It includes taking batting practice and ground balls — which he started doing, gingerly at first, in June and continued to do, off and on and with increasing intensity, through July and August, when it didn't cause too much pain.
Quite possibly to his own detriment, Roberts never gave up on the idea of playing in 2011. One day, a light workout would leave him feeling fine. The next it would leave his head screaming. If he felt fine the next morning, Collins gave him the OK to try again.
The goal was to bank more good days than bad, something he and Collins were starting to achieve by mid-September. But by that point it was clear Roberts wouldn't pass the necessary health tests before the baseball season ended. So doctors shut him down.
Sometimes, when everything you know and count on is taken away, it's interesting to see what's left.
When Roberts was able to practice last summer, he did so at the team's training complex in Twin Lakes, Fla., alongside the young minor leaguers of the Gulf Coast Orioles. They asked what seemed like a million questions, the way he once did of B.J. Surhoff, Mike Bordick and Cal Ripken.
"They were so young – so naive, in a way," he says. "It reminds you of how you got here in the first place."
In other ways, it was less pleasant — and anxiety, Collins says, eats more energy than any mental function.
It hasn't shocked Roberts to learn secondhand that some fans question his desire to play. It's the nature of sports, he says, that to fans, you're only as good as your last game, and even he knew nothing about concussions before he got one.
But last August, when he realized it would harm his health to appear at Brian's Baseball Bash, the annual event for the University of Maryland Children's Hospital that has raised nearly $1 million since 2006, he canceled the event, writing a check instead to cover the amount.
Word reached him and Diana that some called the cancellation "selfish."
"Does it affect you in some way, shape or form? Of course it does," says Roberts, adding that his and his wife's Christian faith helped them keep such concerns in perspective.
But he fretted over his responsibilities to Angelos — and to his teammates.
"You don't know what the heck they think," he says. "They're having a tough year. You don't have a cast on or a torn ligament in your elbow. You didn't have surgery. Do they think you're losing your mind? Do they think you don't want to play?"
He'd be lying, he says, if he claimed never to have had such thoughts about a teammate. "Never again," he insists.
Roberts has met Collins' goal for him — becoming symptom-free in time to resume normal off-season workouts. By spring training, the doctor says, he'll have achieved recovery from both concussions — which according to the latest research means the player will be at no greater risk of concussion than he was before he ever had one.
"You may see me slide headfirst less often, but I won't alter my approach," Roberts says.
That should come as good news to O's skipper Buck Showalter, who remains convinced the team is much stronger with No. 1 in the lineup.
And Showalter isn't one with deeper doubts.
"This is a guy who played 140, 150 games a year for [seven straight] years," the manager says. "Think you can do that? Anyone who thinks Brian doesn't want to play has no idea what he's talking about."