Brown’s Rookies Report: From Staring at a Locker to Wearing a Helmet – Terry Pluto

Brown’s Rookies Report: From Staring at a Locker to Wearing a Helmet – Terry Pluto

BEREA, Ohio — The Browns made some of their rookies available to the media on Friday. It’s a fun day to talk to players just after they step into an NFL locker room for the first time.

Consider Martin Emerson, a third-round pick and the team’s top pick over the last month.

“When did it turn out you were in the NFL?” I asked.

“When I saw my locker,” the Mississippi state defense attorney said. “It was in there with all the other great players.”

Emerson had previously texted Denzel Ward, the Nordonia product-turned-Pro Bowl cornerback. Emerson played in the SEC, which is like a farm system for the NFL. During his three years in Starkville, Mississippi, he formed several All-League teams in that conference.

He knew he would be drafted. Still, for many of these young men, seeing your name and jersey in an NFL locker is a dream come true, a day most will never forget.

THESE ARE FOOTBALL HELMETS

Browns rookie Malik Smith hasn’t worn a football helmet since fifth grade.
Joshua Gunter, cleveland.com

HOW TO WEAR A HELMET?

The Browns brought in Malik Smith as a tryout for the weekend. He is the brother of Ohio State star defensive end Tyreke Smith, fifth-round pick by Seattle. Both went to Cleveland Heights.

Malik Smith was a basketball player who averaged 16.5 points and 9.3 rebounds in high school. He was recruited by UNC-Asheville, where he averaged just 1.9 points as a freshman. He later moved to Bryant and then to Fisk, where he earned his business degree. He only played basketball as a freshman.

What about soccer?

“Not since fifth grade,” Smith said. “I haven’t worn a helmet since then. They asked me what size I wanted for the shoulder pads and helmet – I don’t know.”

There’s a story where a basketball player turned NFL tight ends. That’s the road the 6-foot-4, 267-pound Smith wants to travel. He was spotted by the Browns at the Ohio State Pro Day. Tyreke nurtured his brother’s football dream and convinced the Buckeyes that Malik should be part of the group vetted by scouts.

The Browns like his raw athleticism. He looks in great shape.

“Everything is new to me,” Smith said. “They gave me the playbook and it looks like a bunch of squiggly lines. I did my business degree at Fisk. My brother thinks I can do it. I have to go through with it.”

HE IS AVAILABLE

Cleveland Browns RB Jerome Ford also has experience on special teams. Joshua Gunter, cleveland.com

I CAN BEAT YOU

Jerome Ford could become more than a return reserve. I realized that when I asked the Cincinnati product about playing special teams.

“I did it,” he said. “I like this.”

return kicks?

“I can do that,” he said. “But I’d rather go full throttle (on kick coverage) and slam into someone who’s standing still. You hit her.”

He laughed.

I remember Kent State product Joshua Cribbs coming into the NFL with the same attitude after he was an undrafted free agent. Ford began his career in Alabama.

“I walked into the running back room thinking I’d be the guy,” Ford said.

What happened?

“I looked around and realized I wouldn’t be that guy,” he said with another laugh.

Like Ohio State, Alabama is an NFL factory. In two years, Ford carried the ball 31 times for Alabama, averaging 4.9 yards and scoring three TDs. This small sample size showed talent. Ever since Nick Saban became coach, Alabama has typically been brimming with top-notch RB prospects.

Ford transferred to Cincinnati (which recruited him hard in high school) and became a star for the Bearcats. As a junior, he was on the coverage teams and showed up as a running back. In 2021, he rushed for 1,242 yards (6.2 yards average) and 19 TDs. He was selected by the Browns in the fifth round.

“I was getting a haircut (from a friend) at my house when I got the call that I was drafted,” Ford said. “I’ll do whatever they want. … I can catch the ball. I was a slot receiver in high school. Special teams… you name it.”

JOB NUMBER ONE

David Bell says a receiver’s primary job is to catch the ball and he did well at Purdue.
Joshua Gunter, cleveland.com

ANOTHER CATCH THE BALL RECEIVER?

In 2016, the Browns had one such media event for their rookies. I spent time with Rashard Higgins. He was a pick in the fifth round. He was him fourth Receiver designed by the team this year.

“What kind of recipient are you?” I asked Higgins.

“I’m a catch-the-ball receiver,” he said.

At his best, Higgins has good hands. The Browns hope third-round player David Bell has the same qualities — even if he doesn’t have ideal NFL pace.

“For me, catching the ball is our main job,” said Bell, who was Purdue’s Big Ten Receiver of the Year.

Bell’s stats in 2021 are mind-blowing. He caught 93 passes, averaging 13.8 yards. He’s had big games against good teams: Ohio State (11 catches, 102 yards), Michigan State (11 catches, 217 yards), and Iowa (11 catches, 240 yards).

With those numbers, one would expect him to be drafted higher.

“I don’t see it that way,” Bell said. “God put me in the perfect situation. The Browns have a great running game, great passing game.”

With Amari Cooper the only established receiver in the roster, it’s a great opportunity for the 6ft 2 receiver to start playing big straight away.

HE IS THE MAN

Rookie Cade York said he’s already made a trip to FirstEnergy Stadium to practice his lakeside kicking.

Joshua Gunter, cleveland.com

YES, HE CALLED PHIL DAWSON

That was new. I’ve never seen a kicker surrounded by a crowd of reporters on the first day the media was allowed to see rookie camp. But that was the case with Cade York, who drafted the LSU kicker in the fourth round.

He has already taken a trip to FirstEnergy Stadium to practice kickball on the shores of Lake Erie.

“It was great,” York said. “Really, there was more wind than I usually kicked LSU.”

York knows bad weather is coming. He had a 40-minute phone call with Phil Dawson, the Browns’ last big kicker. The weather and the wind were part of the discussion. Dawson told York about a flag he observed over the stadium to gauge wind currents.

Since the Browns decided not to ditch Dawson after the 2012 season, they’ve cycled through nine kickers in nine years — including Cody Parkey twice (2016, 2020).

Dawson competed from the team’s return in 1999 to 2012. Some fans want the Browns to hire Dawson as a kicking coach. He already has a job – head soccer coach at Hyde Park High School in Austin, Texas.

York quickly learns that foosball is a big deal in Cleveland. Dawson is worshiped. The Browns’ training complex is located on Lou Groza Blvd., named for the Browns’ first big kicker.

FEEL STRONG

Cleveland Brown’s WR Michael Woods Il bows as he leaves the field after Cleveland Brown’s rookie minicamp. Joshua Gunter, cleveland.com

YOU CAN DO IT TOO

“Donovan Peoples-Jones,” said Michael Woods II. The sixth-round draft pick spoke of another sixth-round pick, a receiver like himself. Peoples-Jones (DPJ) was incorporated in 2020. In his final season in Michigan, DPJ caught 34 passes for an average of 12.9 yards.

Woods caught 35 passes for an average of 11.4 yards.

Receiver coach Chad O’Shea told Woods how DPJ “played 40 percent of the snaps as a rookie.” In fact, it was 34 percent. But the point being a sixth-round pick doesn’t stop a rookie from being on the field.

“I’m tall,” said the 6-foot-1 Woods. “I am a 3 level receiver. I can make it short. I can do it medium. I can do it for a long time. … I can block.”

All the rookies were excited. They’ve stumbled across fans at the airport and hotel, exuding love for their men in the orange helmets. Everyone is excited in Berea at the moment.

“Everyone tells me Dawg Pound is pretty crazy,” Woods said. “We’re going to give them a reason to be crazy.”

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Presence of legal guardians? The Lindor deal? – Hey Terry

A Baker Mayfield free zone: What the Browns need to do

What I Heard About the Browns Draft – Terry’s Talkin’ Browns

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How a decision made by 12-year-old Dru Joyce III changed the lives of so many.

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