Jackson extension symbolizes appreciation for a solid guy

Posted by Vic Carucci on February 27, 2012 – 9:15 pm

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

The reality had finally sunk in.

All of the pain, all of the doubt, all of the anxiety were gone. Now, there was a chance for D’Qwell Jackson to do a little celebrating, to truly enjoy the fruits of his labor.

And as he sat before the media on Monday to talk about the multiyear contract extension he had just signed with the Cleveland Browns, the veteran middle linebacker got caught up in the moment. He became overwhelmed by the thought that, after registering a career-best season in 2011 following two seasons lost to injuries, he was being rewarded for making the Browns’ patience pay off.

“I can’t thank this man enough,” Jackson said, pointing to team president Mike Holmgren, who sat off to the side. Jackson become too choked up to continue, and the news conference ended.

Strategically, the contract extension was a home run because it allowed the Browns to avoid using a franchise tag on Jackson that only would have served as a one-year solution to keeping him on the team. By tying him up with a long-term deal, the Browns can focus their attention on other players due to enter free agency and have the luxury of applying the franchise tag to one of them, if they see fit.

The deal symbolized not only the team’s commitment to one of its better players, but also its appreciation for one of the most solid individuals in the locker room.

Jackson is a quiet, steady leader. He is someone who believes in working hard and encouraging those around him, especially the younger players, to do the same. As Holmgren pointed out, that is particularly important with a young team such as a Browns.

“There’s not a finer guy on our team as a person,” Holmgren said. “And you (in the media) all know what a great player he is.”

The move makes a statement that the Browns are determined to keep the key pieces they already have in place. And there isn’t a more important one on their defense, which established itself as one of the better units in the NFL last season and has a chance to become one of the stronger ones in the league for years to come.

Additionally, the signing is proof to other players on the Browns that the team will stick with a player who is battling his way through the adversity that Jackson faced while consistently proving that, once healthy, he is extremely valuable on and off the field.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci


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This Day in Browns History: Feb. 27

Posted by Matt Florjancic on February 27, 2012 – 9:14 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Jim Ray Smith, born Feb. 27, 1932 in West Columbia, Texas, was a sixth-round draft pick of the Browns in 1954 from Baylor and played as a left guard with them for seven seasons (1956-62).

Blocking for Hall of Fame running backs Jim Brown and Bobby Mitchell, he made the Pro Bowl in each of his last five years and was also selected All-NFL in each of his final four seasons.

Smith played nine years overall in the NFL, spending 1963 and ’64 with his hometown Dallas Cowboys before retiring.

Three other former Browns – linebackers Van Waiters and David Grayson and defensive end Jerry Wilkinson — were also born on Feb. 27.

Waiters, who was born in 1965 in Coral Gables, Fla., was a third-round draft choice of the Browns in 1988 out of Indiana. He played with them for four seasons, sharing the right linebacker spot – with Grayson – in 1989 and ’90, and the left linebacker job with David Brandon in 1991. He finished his career in 1992 with the Minnesota Vikings.

Waiters’ biggest moment with the Browns turned out to also be a big one for the club on its drive to the 1989 AFC Central championship.

Mired in a three-game losing streak and, at 7-6-1, being unable to suffer another defeat and remain in the playoff hunt, the Browns were tied, 17-17, in overtime with the Minnesota Vikings. It was a bitterly cold day – the temperature was two degrees, with a wind-chill factor of minus-15 – making it hard to kick, especially with field goals of any distance.

Matt Bahr set up for the 31-yard game-winner at the Dawg Pound end of Cleveland Stadium, where the winds were particularly tricky. However, the Browns opted for a fake, with holder/backup quarterback Mike Pagel standing up to lob a 14-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Waiters, who was eligible after lining up as one of the end men.

The 23-17 win helped propel the Browns to a final 9-6-1 mark and their fourth division crown in five years.

Born in 1964 in San Diego as the son of former Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Dave Grayson, Grayson was a seventh-round draft choice of the San Francisco 49ers in 1987 but never played with them.

When the players strike came after two weeks in the 1987 season and the owners decided to continue the schedule with replacement players, Grayson was one of those signed by the Browns. The strike ended after three games, and Grayson, with his strong performance, was one of a precious few replacement players around the league to remain with their teams once the regulars returned.

Grayson played four seasons, through 1990, with the Browns, and is best remembered as being maybe the biggest defensive star in the 51-0 win at Pittsburgh in the 1989 season opener as the club handed the Steelers their worst home loss in history. He scored two touchdowns, on a 28-yard fumble return in the first quarter and a 14-yard interception return in the third quarter.

The Fresno State product played briefly with the San Diego Chargers in 1991 to end his career.

Wilkinson, born in 1956 in San Francisco, is among the tallest players in Browns history at 6-foot-9. He was a fourth-round draft choice of the Los Angeles Rams in 1979 out of Oregon State and remained with them that year as they made it to their first Super Bowl.

He split his time between the Browns and 49ers in 1980 in his final season in the NFL, being part of Cleveland’s Kardiac Kids team that won the AFC Central.

Cleveland Clinic presents This Day in Browns History. If you call 1.800.274.2009, Cleveland Clinic will schedule an appointment for either the same day or the next day, including Saturdays. Call to learn more.


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This Day in Browns History: Feb. 26

Posted by Matt Florjancic on February 26, 2012 – 6:17 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

The first player ever taken by the Browns in the NFL Draft?

It was Ken Carpenter, a running back from Oregon State who was selected in the first round in 1950, the year the Browns entered the NFL from the All-America Football Conference.

Born Feb. 26, 1926 in Seaside, Ore., Carpenter played four years (1950-53) in Cleveland, sharing the starting job in all but the 1952 season.

He rushed for 1,186 yards with the Browns, averaging five yards per carry and scoring 11 touchdowns. He also caught 42 passes for five scores.

His best season was 1952 when, in just eight games, he rushed for 408 yards and three touchdowns and had 16 receptions for a touchdown.

After he left the Browns, Carpenter did not play again until 1960, when he spent his final season with the Denver Broncos in the inaugural year of the AFL.

Also born on this date, Feb. 26, in 1971 in Monroe, La., was Rick Lyle. He is one of a small group of men who have played for, and then served as a coach with, the Browns.

Entering his fourth season as the assistant strength and conditioning coach, he also spent two seasons (1994-95) as a defensive lineman for coach Bill Belichick.

Unlike Carpenter, Lyle wasn’t drafted, coming to the Browns as a rookie free agent from Missouri. He beat the odds that first year and made the roster of a strong team, one that would go on to finish 11-5 and make the AFC playoffs as a wild card.

He ended up playing 10 years overall in the NFL, spending 1996 in Baltimore with the transplanted Cleveland franchise, 1997-2001 with the New York Jets and 2002-03 with the New England Patriots. The Pats won the Super Bowl in his second season with them.

Cleveland Clinic presents This Day in Browns History. If you call 1.800.274.2009, Cleveland Clinic will schedule an appointment for either the same day or the next day, including Saturdays. Call to learn more.


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Quarterbacks create big Combine buzz

Posted by Matt Florjancic on February 24, 2012 – 11:31 pm

INDIANAPOLIS — Here are some thoughts from the Combine:

>>There was a noticeable buzz here as the quarterbacks made their way into the media center. Reporters began running to the respective podiums where they would meet with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, whom most national draft analysts project to be selected at (or at least very near) the top of the draft. Luck and Griffin received rave reviews for the way they answered questions from reporters. Each sounded bright and demonstrated an excellent sense of humor.

>>I’m not sure that anyone should automatically project a franchise quarterback based on impressive showings in front of the media. Their on-field performance will make the loudest statement about the types of NFL players they have a chance of becoming. However, the way the players handle themselves in an ultra-public setting such as that does provide a glimpse into how they might function in the high-profile environment that goes with being an NFL quarterback.

>>The biggest “news” of the day was Griffin measuring 6-foot-2-plus. That should help put to rest concerns that he might be too short to succeed in the NFL. Is it a guarantee that he will be successful? Of course not. But if he had measured an inch shorter, it’s likely would have generated more conversation about whether he is tall enough to cut it in the NFL. Now, it seemingly helps to solidify his status as a legitimate high-end pick.

>>That said, Griffin still needs to show what he can do while throwing the football. There obviously is plenty of videotape that shows him making superb throws for Baylor, but he now must do the same in pre-draft workouts, one of which will not take place here. Luck won’t be throwing, either. It is hardly a surprise they have chosen to save their pre-draft throwing for their respective on-campus workouts. Players always prefer the comfort of a familiar environment and throwing to familiar receivers, with whom they have established chemistry.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci


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This Day in Browns History: Feb. 24

Posted by Matt Florjancic on February 24, 2012 – 3:05 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

The Browns’ memorable Kardiac Kids season of 1980 had ended more than a month and a half earlier, but the two people most responsible for it continued to receive awards.

Brian Sipe, who had earlier won the NFL Most Valuable Player award (making him the first Brown to do so since 1965) was recognized as the Quarterback of the Year at the Golden Helmet Award Banquet on Feb. 24, 1981 in Seattle.

He set club records by throwing for 4,132 yards and 30 touchdowns as the Browns finished 11-5 and captured their first AFC Central title in nine years.

At that same event, third-year coach Sam Rutigliano was feted as the Coach of the Year.

Also on this date, Feb. 24, Hal Herring was born in 1924 in Lanett, Alabama.

A product of Auburn, the linebacker was taken in the ninth round of the 1949 NFL Draft by the Chicago Cardinals, but opted instead to play that season with the Buffalo Bills of the All-America Football Conference. The Bills opened the year by playing the Browns to a 28-28 tie, ending Cleveland’s 18-game winning streak dating back to 1947. Late in that season, the Bills tied the Browns again, 7-7.

Then in the first round of league playoffs, Cleveland finally defeated Buffalo, 31-21, on its way to a fourth straight AAFC championship.

When both the Bills and AAFC were dissolved after that season, Herring joined the Browns, one of three AAFC teams that were absorbed into the NFL.

He started at right linebacker for three seasons (1950-52) before retiring. The Browns made it to the NFL title game each year, winning in 1950.

Herring was part of a defense that gave up just 144 points in 1950, the second-fewest in the league, then led the NFL the following year by allowing 152 points.

Cleveland Clinic presents This Day in Browns History. If you call 1.800.274.2009, Cleveland Clinic will schedule an appointment for either the same day or the next day, including Saturdays. Call to learn more.


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Combine more media circus than critical evaluative tool

Posted by Matt Florjancic on February 24, 2012 – 1:13 am

By: Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

INDIANAPOLIS — Here are some thoughts from the Combine:

>>The Combine has become a huge media-circus event. It is covered as thoroughly as any championship game by hundreds of reporters from around the country. All of the national football media are here, and they treat every aspect of this event as if it is crucially important. The fact is, it isn’t. The information gathered by teams about draft prospects is useful, but it is hardly the be-all, end-all portion of the evaluation process. All 32 NFL teams already have done the bulk of their scouting work by now, and they use the medical checks, player interviews, and workouts as additional support for what they already know. They usually don’t come away with dramatically new information.

>>Former NFL executive Bill Polian, who joined me Thursday on “Cleveland Browns, Driven by Liberty Ford,” said poor Combine workout performances by players are mostly irrelevant. And this is coming from one of the greatest talent evaluators the game has ever seen. “If they said tomorrow, you can no longer have workouts but have the height, weight, medical information, everybody in the National Football League would say fine,” Polian said. “The most important thing we do is get the medical information.”

>>For the record, Polian said he does not see former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III falling to the fourth pick of the draft, saying “there are too many people that will covet him” and one would likely trade to move within the first three picks to land him.

>>Polian, the former president and vice chairman of the Colts, drew one of the largest crowds of reporters, most of whom wanted his thoughts about the future of his former quarterback, Peyton Manning, who is recovering from multiple neck surgeries. “I believe, if Peyton Manning can (physically) play, he will,” Polian said. “What the resolution of his situation with the Colts will be, I haven’t the vaguest idea.”

>>For the record, the Browns have the sixth row in the prime seating for the 40-yard dash in Lucas Oil Stadium. They drew that positioning from a hat, the system Combine organizers have long used to determine where representatives of the NFL’s 32 teams sit. For the record, the sixth row is a good spot – not to close, but not, as Browns senior national scout Pat Roberts pointed out, “in the nose bleed” section.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci


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This Day in Browns History: Feb. 23

Posted by Matt Florjancic on February 24, 2012 – 1:05 am

By Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Located about 40 minutes southeast of Cleveland, Hudson, Ohio is famous for the clock tower that has long stood as a beacon in the center of town.

Hudson is also famous for having produced a Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver in Dante Lavelli, whose career with the Browns has long stood as a beacon to every young person growing up in that community who wants to reach for the stars.

Lavelli, who was born Feb. 23, 1923 in Hudson, played all of his football in Ohio, first at Hudson High School, from which he graduated in 1941, then at Ohio State, where he was a member of that school’s first national championship team, and finally with the Browns.

He played on the Browns’ first 11 teams from 1946-56, and made it to the league championship game in the first 10 seasons, winning seven times. Four of those titles came in the All-America Football Conference from 1946-49, and then there were three crowns in the NFL in 1950, ’54 and ’55.

Lavelli was a major part of that success, teaming with Hall-of-Fame quarterback Otto Graham and wide receiver Mac Speedie, a Cleveland Browns Legend, to dazzle foes with the most sophisticated passing attack the game had ever seen. It was, in fact, the forerunner of today’s West Coast and spread offenses.

The fact Lavelli played with the Browns until just a year after Graham retired was no coincidence. The two were indelibly linked.

Lavelli had 386 receptions overall, including 244 in seven NFL seasons, for a total of 6,488 yards and 62 touchdowns.

The Browns’ official career statistics include only those seasons played in the NFL, but if his overall numbers were recognized, then Lavelli would be second in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches.

And he did all that in the NFL in 12-game seasons.

Lavelli’s nickname was “Glue Fingers,” and with good reason, for he caught nearly everything he got his hands on.

Also on this date, Feb. 23, in Browns history:

*In 1983, Howard Mudd was hired by coach Sam Rutigliano to be the team’s offensive line coach. A former NFL offensive lineman himself for seven seasons, mostly with the San Francisco 49ers, he did a great job over the six seasons he was with the Browns, leading the rebuilding of the line after the Kardiac Kids years into the Bernie Kosar era.

*In 1958, Paul McDonald was born in Montebello, Calif. The quarterback was taken in the fourth round of the 1980 NFL Draft out of USC and came on down the stretch in 1982 to help rescue a struggling Browns team and get it into the AFC playoffs. He was the full-time starter in 1984 and then served as a backup the following season before going to the Dallas Cowboys in 1986 to end his seven-year career.

*In 1932, Gern Nagler was born in Yuba City, Calif. A product of Santa Clara, the wide receiver broke into the NFL in 1953 and played his first five seasons with the Chicago Cardinals before going to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1959. He then completed his career by spending the next two seasons with the Browns, finishing second on the team in 1960 with 36 receptions.

He had 196 career receptions for 28 TDs, including 55 catches for four scores with Cleveland.

*In 1933, Bob Smith was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa. A 15th-round draft choice of the Browns in 1955 out of Nebraska, the running back saw limited action in 1955 and the start of ’56 before going to the Philadelphia Eagles to finish that season, and his brief career. His highlight was being part of the 1955 club that won the Browns’ second straight NFL championship.

Cleveland Clinic presents This Day in Browns History. If you call 1.800.274.2009, Cleveland Clinic will schedule an appointment for either the same day or the next day, including Saturdays. Call to learn more.


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This Day in Browns History: Feb. 22

Posted by Matt Florjancic on February 24, 2012 – 1:03 am

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Billy Pritchett was a big man from a small school, and he made an even bigger jump to the NFL when the Browns made in a sixth-round draft pick from West Texas State in 1974.

The Browns were optimistic that the 6-foot-3, 230-pound fullback would play right away because they were looking for help in the backfield.

But Pritchett, born Feb. 22, 1951 in Mart, Texas, had his career derailed before it ever really got started, missing all of what would have been his true rookie season of 1974 because of a calcium deposit on his thigh dating back to his college days.

He returned in 1975 and ended up playing just that one season with the Browns, rushing 75 times for 199 yards.

Pritchett spent the next two years with the Atlanta Falcons, having a combined 17 rushing attempts, before retiring.

Cleveland Clinic presents This Day in Browns History. If you call 1.800.274.2009, Cleveland Clinic will schedule an appointment for either the same day or the next day, including Saturdays. Call to learn more.


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Browns thoughts while packing for Indianapolis

Posted by Matt Florjancic on February 22, 2012 – 10:42 pm

By: Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

Here are some Browns thoughts as we pack up “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” and move it to Indianapolis for the Combine, from where we will broadcast on Thursday and Friday:

>>The door has not been closed on Colt McCoy to continue to be the Browns’ starting quarterback. Pat Shurmur made that clear Wednesday during an informal session with reporters and during an appearance on “Cleveland Browns Daily.” Shurmur said he thinks McCoy can be “very good” if he works at areas he needs to improve, such as footwork, having a better feel for progressions of receivers’ routes, and for the targets to whom he is throwing. “If he plays at a high level like I think he can, when he makes these improvements, that means he can helps us win football games,” Shurmur said.

>>That doesn’t rule out the Browns selecting a quarterback with the fourth overall pick of the draft or the 22nd overall pick, or anywhere else in the draft or in free agency. Shurmur and the rest of the Browns’ coaches are joining the player evaluation process in earnest by traveling to Indianapolis today with the team’s player-personnel staff and scouts. “We start adding our piece and our likes and dislikes about players to the already immense amount of information that our scouts have,” Shurmur said. “I’m looking forward to getting down there and meeting the players. The interviews are very important, watching them compete is very important … we’ll get all the information we can so that we can make educated decisions in the draft.”

>>The door hasn’t been closed on the Browns re-signing running back Peyton Hillis, who is due to become a free agent. Although Shurmur made no firm commitment along those lines, he did say, “I really liked what I saw when he was in there playing healthy.”

>>Shurmur and new offensive coordinator Brad Childress are comfortable with the arrangement of Shurmur continuing to call plays from the sidelines while Childress works from the coaches’ box. “I would just say that it really is all collaborative,” Childress said. “It’s not like somebody’s going to pull something out from 1965 and everybody goes, ‘What the hell is that?’ It’s all about the game-planning … everybody has a hand in it … and I’m good with it.”

>>We’re excited about our Combine shows. Shurmur will make a return visit on Friday. Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar will join us on Thursday and Friday. We’ll also have interviews with national draft analysts.

>>One of the best parts about the Combine experience is getting a chance to talk with many of the draft prospects. You’ll be hearing those interviews on the radio show the days and weeks leading up to the draft in April.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci


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This Day in Browns History: Feb. 21

Posted by Matt Florjancic on February 21, 2012 – 4:38 pm

By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

The Browns have drafted one player from Winston Salem State in their history.

And he was born Feb. 21, 1965 in Raleigh, N.C.

Cornerback Anthony Blaylock was taken in the fourth round of the 1988 NFL Draft  and played with the Browns for three complete seasons (1988-90) and part of a fourth before going to San Diego. He was with the Chargers for one-and-a-half seasons before finishing his career in 1993 with the Chicago Bears.

Blaylock played as a reserve on the 1988 and ’89 Cleveland teams that went to the AFC playoffs, having four sacks in the latter year.

He intercepted two passes in 1990 when he shared the left cornerback job with Frank Minnifield.

Cleveland Clinic presents This Day in Browns History. If you call 1.800.274.2009, Cleveland Clinic will schedule an appointment for either the same day or the next day, including Saturdays. Call to learn more.


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