BEREA—Justin Gilbert had another season that could be termed ‘wasted’.
He’s approaching the ‘bust’ category, but vowed on Monday as he was leaving Berea that he will rebound next season to the form that caused the Browns to draft him eighth overall last year.
When it was suggested that neither of the two first-round picks in 2014 or even 2015 didn’t have the impact expected to date, Gilbert offered his explanation on what held him back this season.
“They didn’t work out this season and one (Gilbert) was because of injuries,” he said. “I can tell you that, because when I was healthy, I was about to start or starting and that’s pretty much all I have to say about that.”
Gilbert played in just eight games with one start on defense. He had just four tackles. In his rookie season, Gilbert played in 14 games with two starts and had 29 tackles with one interception that he returned for a touchdown.
Gilbert was inactive for the first two games due to a hip flexor injury, missed two games due to being in the NFL’s concussion protocol and was inactive for three other games.
Gilbert quickly refuted a report that said he asked to not play in the game against the Steelers.
“That was false because I was in the game,” he said. “I was in on special teams and was just not on defense.
“That’s crazy because I was out there playing”
Gilbert played on eight special teams plays, but none on defense.
With Joe Haden on injured reserve and Tramon Williams and Charles Gaines inactive against the Steelers, safety Tashaun Gipson started a right cornerback and Pierre Desir at left cornerback against Pittsburgh.
Gilbert admitted that last year it didn’t bother him when people said talked about him as a wasted draft pick, but now he said it does.
“From time to time (it bothered me),” Gilbert said. “At first it didn’t, but now it does.
“I can pretty much guarantee that (the Browns) can get out of me as long as I continue to take care of my body the way I need to,” he said. “They’re going to get what they drafted me to be.”
Gilbert said he has learned in his first two seasons what to do and not to do and feels he now is ready to take his game to the next level in his third season. He said it’s pretty simple.
“Just really taking care of my body a little bit more, stretching more and focusing on the muscles I use every day and that’s about it,” he said. “Taking care of my body, eating well and sleeping well, really.’
Gilbert revealed that the reason he was in the ‘dog house’ as a rookie was for missing repeated meetings, mainly due to oversleeping.
“That’s based on last year,” Gilbert said. “That was on me when I was missing a whole lot of meetings last year.”
Gilbert offered the excuse that he was a “hard sleeper and was not used to waking up consistently that early.”
Gilbert said there was nothing more to it when the coaching staff alluded to personal issues that Gilbert needed to address. He feels that carried over to this season.
“That’s exactly what it was.”
Gilbert said he feels before he was injured in the preseason with a hip flexor that he was on tract to be a starter or one of the top three cornerbacks on the roster. He was asked what went wrong this season.
“Not 100 percent sure,” he said. “Other than the nagging injuries I’ve had. When I came back (from injury), guys were already in the spot and they were liking them where they were and so there weren’t any changes made.”
Gilbert said he still is worthy of being a top 10 draft pick.
“Definitely, (my talent) is not going away.”
With a new coaching staff coming in, Gilbert said he’s looking for a fresh start, but said he feels he will be the player he should be, regardless of the coaches.
“I don’t think that will really make any difference,” Gilbert said. “It’s really up to me to go out and play on the field and use my strong points in the game and really just use my strong points and not try to do too much with my technique, but just go out and play ball.”
Gilbert said he doesn’t want to repeat his rookie season.
“Most definitely and I know what it takes (to be successful),” he said. “I’ve been there and been down that road and I’m definitely not going back.”