The Owl Likes Mustard

History shows Browns playing in NFL Europe are good fodder for training camp, and that is about it. <br><br> History might be about to change.

One of the best success stories from the Europe league, as far as the Browns are concerned, was tight end Chad Mustard from the Rhein Fire. Mustard caught 10 passes this past spring for 167 yards and one touchdown. He helped his team get to the World Bowl, where they lost to the Frankfurt Galaxy, 35-16.

Excluding the Alps, Mustard was about the biggest thing in Europe. At 6-6, 288 pounds, he is by far the biggest tight end on the Browns roster.

Mustard showed he could catch the ball. He has to prove early in training camp he can block as well. His size alone is intriguing. It was not that long ago he would have been considered big for an offensive tackle.

Unfortunately, for Mustard, though, playing well might not be good enough. He is at a position that, although it boasts no stars for the Browns, is one the coaches seem somewhat set on.

There is no doubt Darnell Sanders, the rookie from Ohio State, will be a huge contributor. Sanders had the misfortune of attending a school where seniors do not graduate until mid-June. Even though Sanders left a year early in 2002, he was still not permitted to participate in quarterback school or the June minicamp last year. That put him hopelessly behind and he never really caught up.

Sanders was with the team for the entire 2002 offseason. To no one's surprise, he showed what a benefit the offseason program is. In fact, Coach Butch Davis said Sanders was one of the most improved players on the roster.

The Browns thought enough of Steve Heiden to swap San Diego a seventh round draft choice for him. The trade became necessary after Rod Monroe, another tight end who should not be forgotten, had his 2002 season ended when a Buffalo player leg-whipped him in the scrimmage against the Bills last year in Rochester, N.Y.

Heiden joined the team late, but he is a smart young man and adapted easily. The Browns rewarded him with a two-year contract.

Also in the mix, of course, is hard-nosed Aaron Shea. Shea has had bad luck the last couple of years. A shoulder injury ended his 2001 season and a sprained ankle ended 2002 prematurely. Is Shea injury prone? Not really. If he were, the Browns would not have given him a new three-year contract.

Clearly, Davis likes the way Shea and Heiden play, and he is optimistic for Sanders. The Browns use an offense that benefits from a sure-handed tight end. Fortunately, they are so deep at wide receiver that they can move the chains without focusing on the tight end.

Again, it comes down to Mustard's size. From this perch on a top branch of this old oak tree, The Owl would smile to see Qasim Mitchell, Ryan Tucker and Mustard stacked on the right side in short yardage and goal line. Give Lee Suggs the ball and let the 'irresistible force' we learned about in Physics 10 years ago in college do the rest.

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