BEREA,Ohio--It's no secret that the Browns lost two Pro Bowl safeties this off-season, but the two young players in line to take their spots are relishing the opportunity. Ibraheim Campbell was a fourth-round draft pick last year and Jordan Poyer has been a key reserve and core special teams player for four years.
"This league is all about opportunities," Poyer said. "I was excited for the opportunity and look forward to be able to step up for this organization. I know guys around me are excited for the same opportunity."
Poyer (6-0, 191) is in his fourth season from Oregon State. Poyer joined the Browns in the middle of the 2013 season when Ray Horton was serving his first stint as defensive coordinator. Although Poyer has played in 42 NFL games, he has only started four, all last year with the Browns. He had his best season in the NFL with 37 tackles, two interceptions and one sack, while also recovering a fumble.
Campbell (5-11, 208) was the 115th overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Browns. He played in 15 games with one start against the Bengals. He finished with 10 tackles.
"When you come into this league, you're looking to compete every day," Campbell said. "It really didn't change my approach because i was looking to compete for a starting position, regardless of whether they were here or not It didn't change much, other than losing those leaders."
Last year's starters, Tashaun Gipson was lost in free agency to the Jaguars, while Donte Whitner was released early this year.
The Browns also signed Rahim Moore as an unrestricted free agent and drafted Derrick Kindred from Texas Christian in the fourth-round. Don Jones was with the team last season. Poyer and Campbell said they both welcome the competition.
“This league is always competition, every day from as soon as you wake up in the morning until you go to bed," Poyer said. "What you are doing on the field, off of the field, in the weight room, it’s always competition. The guys around us can play, and we believe that we can play, too. There’s always going to be competition and that is why you play the game. It is a fun getting to play and there is always competition on the field.”
“It is a great atmosphere, not only in the DB room but the entire team," he said. "That is something that Coach Jackson has stressed, just the importance of competing and making not only yourself better but also your teammates better every day, every opportunity you get to step on that field to improve yourself.”
Byner Back: Former Browns RB Earnest Byner was on the practice field working with the running backs. It is believed that Byner was asked to help out after visiting practice last week.
“He’s been great," Hue Jackson said. "Obviously, Ernest played here when things were really good, when the Browns were really special. Ernest has a very passionate place about the city, about the football team, about playing the position. I have known Ernest for a while. He is a tremendous coach when he has coached in this league. He knows how to communicate with young men, and they can see the picture that he is painting. He has been very good for me because he will see things sometimes that maybe I didn't see. It is not unlikely that I will be home and here comes three or four texts from Ernest about something, but he has been outstanding. The thing that I really respect from him is that he is really a true Cleveland Brown. He gets it. He knows exactly what we are trying to do and what we are trying to accomplish.
Jackson was asked if Byner might stay on longer as a coach.
“We will see," he said. "A lot of these things, you just kind of take them one day at a time. I really, truly have enjoyed having him around, but I think, as an organization, we will see what we can and can’t do. (Executive vice president of football operations) Sashi (Brown), (Chief Strategy Officer) Paul (DePodesta), Jimmy (Haslam) and the rest of the organization will, obviously, have a lot of input in that.”
Two More Signed: Browns have signed WR Ricardo Louis and TE Seth DeValve, both fourth-round selections. The team now has signed 10 of their 14 draft picks, including WR Corey Coleman (first round), LB Emmanuel Ogbah (second round), DB Derrick Kindred (fourth round), WR Jordan Payton (fifth round), OL Spencer Drango (fifth round), WR Rashard Higgins (fifth round), DB Trey Caldwell (fifth round) and LB Scooby Wright III (seventh round). The unsigned are QB Cody Kessler (3rd), DL Carl Nassib (3rd), OL Shon Coleman (3rd) and LB Joe Schobert (4th).
Barnidge Excused: TE Gary Barnidge was absent form practice, but Jackson said he was excused.
On the Side: The following players were on the side with trainers during practice: DB Joe Haden (ankle), OL Shon Coleman (knee), DL Carl Nassib (leg), DL Xavier Cooper, OL Dan France, DB Don Jones, WR Taylor Gabriel (foot) and TE Randall Telfer. OL Joe Thomas was given his normal day of rest. DL Danny Shelton took part in individual drills but sat out team drills. Jackson termed Shelton's injury a "tweak'.
Road Trip: Jackson confirmed that the Browns will practice two days with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prior to their preseason game on Fri. Aug. 26.
“It is a tremendous opportunity to practice against another organization," Jackson said. "We were going to play them in obviously in that third preseason game anyway, and I know (Buccaneers Head Coach) Dirk (Koetter). We decided to get together and practice for a couple of days. It is another opportunity to evaluate our team in a different setting away from here and teach our guys how to go on the road and prepare and focus but also understand that we are in evaluation mode as we start to put our team totally together. It is always great to compete against somebody else other than a guy that you compete against each and every day. It gives us an opportunity to see a different team, a different color jersey, a different defensive scheme, a different offensive scheme and to prepare and also teach these men to go on the road and focus to do what we need to do. We are going to be on the road early this season. I see it as another teaching moment for our football team.”
Next Up: Thursday was the last scheduled day of OTA's but Jackson decided to conclude them Wednesday and have the entire team participate in the Cleveland Browns Foundation charity golf outing on Thursday.
“They had an idea that we were going to go because I had to put them in polo shirts to go out as a team tomorrow," Jackson said. "They get it. They kind of had an idea that we were going to do this, but this is an organizational thing that I think is important to us. Trust me, if I didn’t think so then we wouldn’t do it. We could very easily be out there practicing, but to be able to give back to some young kids, see smiles on their faces and do something worthwhile within this community for the people that truly support us, I don’t think there is even a question in my mind not to do that.”
The final practices for the Browns before the break before training camp will be the mandatory veteran minicamp that will be next Tues. June 7 through Thurs. June 9.
For all your Browns news follow @FredGreetham on Twitternull