Thursday, July 30, 2009

Let the battle begin

By Jeff Schudel
Now that Brian Robiskie has agreed to a four-year contract the Browns can get down to the business of finding a running mate for Braylon Edwards. Had Robiskie held out he would have had a difficult time overtaking fellow second-round pick Mohamed Massaquoi. Massaquoi could win the job anyway, but now it won't be because Robiskie couldn't practice.

A key to getting all eight rookies signed was making them report a full week before the veterans, who are due to report Friday, one day before training camp starts. The three sixth-round picks signed contracts weeks ago, but the top five did not start falling into place until the rookies had to report.

The battle to be the No. 2 receiver should carry over into the third preseason game. Both rookies looked sharp in minicamp, but that was in shorts and a T-shirt. If I had to say one player is ahead heading into camp it would be Robiskie. He displayed good hands and his route-running looked crisp in the June minicamp.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Browns won't be facing Favre

By Jeff Schudel
It doesn't look like the Browns will be facing Brett Favre in their season opener against the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 13, but with Favre, you never know. Just because he says he is retired doesn't mean he is. He is already dropping hints he might get the itch to keep playing. He told Peter King of "Sports Illustrated: "I really believe this is it. I truly, truly believe it's over. But if someone calls Nov. 1, who knows?"

Favre was one of the best interviews I've had in my career covering the NFL. He is/was one of the most exciting players ever to play. He has all the records a quarterback can own, but enough already. He should have stayed retired when he finished playing for the Packers in 2007.

Browns coach Eric Mangini can say all he wants about his good relationship with Favre. The fact is Mangini was fired from the Jets because Favre was a broken down hasbeen at the end of 2008. And now the Vikings need a quarterback. Derek Anderson, perhaps?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lineman might retire

Ryan Tucker, a part of the Browns' offensive line since 2002, is contemplating retirement rather than put his body through another training camp, according to a rumor making the rounds.

A Browns spokesman said he was unaware Tucker might walk away from football before the first practice of training camp on Saturday. Repeated calls Monday to Tucker's agent, Joe Colleta, were not returned.

As recently as minicamp last month, Tucker said he wants to play two more seasons, so it would be no surprise to see him stretching along with 79 teammates at 8:45 a.m. Saturday on the practice fields in Berea, but the rumor is out there nonetheless.

Tucker is 34, but he has been through a lot physically over the last four years. He has not played 16 games in a season since 2005, which is one reason the Browns slashed his salary from a scheduled $3.5 million to $845,000 for 2009.

Last year, he played in only one game. He missed the first four recovering from hip surgery and the last 11 with a knee injury.

It is also why the Browns signed Floyd Womack in free agency. Womack and Tucker will battle to be the starting right guard, assuming Tucker decides to endure an August fraught with two-a-days and expected hard hitting.

Normally, a veteran of Tucker's experience is rested on one practice in at least some of the two-a-days, but Tucker is a proud man. He is not the type to stand on the sideline, resting his knees, while Womack wins the starting job.

Meanwhile, the Browns have contractual concerns. Rookie second-round picks Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi remained unsigned Monday night. Both or at least one of the receivers could sign before the first practice Saturday, but they have already missed three days of rookie training camp.

Then there is the ticklish matter of special teams star Josh Cribbs.

Cribbs is signed through 2012, but he has been seeking a new contract for more than a year. After boycotting the first voluntary minicamp in May he attended the next minicamp, the OTAs and the mandatory minicamp in June. He has said publicly he will be in Berea for the start of training camp, but he has not said he will play without a new deal. He could walk out of camp before the first preseason game or before the start of the regular season.

Cribbs could demand a trade, but of course the Browns do not have to give in. If Cribbs really gets stubborn and sits out all of 2009, he would still owe the Browns four seasons.

The dilemma for the Browns is this isn't as simple as boosting the income of an underpaid player, who in 2007 signed a six-year deal worth $6.7 million.

The problem for the Browns is kicker Phil Dawson and linebacker D'Qwell Jackson want new contracts, too, and if they take care of Cribbs, then Dawson and Jackson will be saying, "What about me?"

Dawson is signed through 2010.

Arguably, there is more urgency on the Browns' part to extend Jackson's contract because he can become a free agent next winter. When he was hired, Coach Eric Mangini singled out Jackson as one of the best players on the roster. Jackson, who led the NFL in tackles last season (191), is making $640,000 this season.