BEREA, Ohio--Was it a coincidence that Gary Barnidge had his breakout season in 2015 with Josh McCown at quarterback?
In the first year as a starter in his nine-year career, Barnidge had a Pro Bowl season with 79 receptions for 1,043 receiving yards, including nine touchdowns. Barnidge tied former Browns Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome for the most touchdown receptions by a Browns tight end in a season. Barnidge also was tied for second in the NFL last year among tight ends in third down receptions with 24. Barnidge was rewarded with a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract extension from the Browns.
Barnidge thinks he will be able to continue to produce as he did last season.
“I would like to think so," Barnidge said. "Last year was my first opportunity, and I took full advantage of it and just took what the team wanted to help our team get wins because that is what it is all about. I would trade all my stats for wins because that is all that matters.”
However, last week, Barnidge started the season slow with two dropped passes early from Robert Griffin III and did not catch a pass, nor was targeted again.
“I think it happens," Hue Jackson said. "Did I say something to him? Yeah, because I know that is not who he is. He is big-play Gary Barnidge, and obviously, he did not make those plays. I think he was more distraught by it than I was. I know every now and then those things happen. We don’t want them to happen to players, but he is human. He is no different than anybody else. Sometimes it just does not go your way.
"He has to pick himself up, which he has, and go back out and practice your tail off and get yourself ready for the next one," he said. "That is again part of that turning the page. We turned that page. It is time for him to go be Gary Barnidge that we all know, love and respect. I think he will do that this weekend.”
Getting shut out in a game did not happen in 2015 for Barnidge. In fact, the only game Barnidge caught just one pass was in Week 2, when he caught one pass for 17 yards. Ironically, McCown sat out that game with a concussion. His second-least productive game was when McCown missed the first Bengals game with a shoulder and rib injury. Barnidge caught just two passes for 35 yards.
McCown and Barnidge combined for eight catches for 139 yards (17.4 avg.) and a touchdown in the Browns 33-30 overtime win over the Ravens on Oct. 11, 2015. Barnidge's touchdown catch was acrobatic as he caught the ball between his legs as he fell into the end zone.
McCown said he expects Barnidge to be back as a big part of the offense.
“(Last week's game) is a one time thing for Gary," McCown said. "We expect Gary to be back playing at a high level. Regardless, we knew Gary was going to bounce back. I am looking forward to getting back out there with him and us executing our offense at a high level. We were able to establish a rhythm last year. Our mindset is just to draw on that and to utilize that to help this offense play at a high level.”
Barnidge had many big games when McCown returned after missing Week 2. He had six receptions for 105 yards, including a touchdown against Oakland and six for 75 yards and a touchdown against San Diego in the next two weeks.
Barnidge had six receptions for 101 yards against the Rams and then had seven catches for 53 yards and a touchdown against Arizona a week later.
In the second Ravens game, Barnidge had seven receptions for 91 yards with McCown at the helm before he was injured. Overall, of the eight games that McCown was quarterback, Barnidge had no less than six receptions in a game in six of the eight games.
Barnidge downplayed how important he is to the offense.
“I think we are going to rely on everybody," Barnidge said. "I don’t think there is any one position that they are going to rely mostly on. I think everybody is going to get equal opportunity because as we have shown, it is going to be spread around. That is what is tough on defenses because they have to worry about everybody.”
Jim Brown Statue, Legends this Sunday: The Browns will celebrate some of the team's greats this weekend, including the induction of LB Dick Ambrose and DB Thom Darden into the Browns Legends program on Saturday. They will also be honored in a halftime ceremony during the home opener against the Ravens.
Ambrose played for the Browns from 1975-84 and is now a judge in Cleveland, while Darden played for the Browns from 1972-74, 1976-81.
Before the game, the Browns will also unveil a statue in Pro Football Hall of Fame RB Jim Brown's honor, commissioned by Jimmy and Dee Haslam.
The Browns will induct Ambrose and Darden into the Cleveland Browns Legends program during a dinner ceremony in FirstEnergy Stadium’s BMW City Club on Saturday (6-8:30 p.m.), alongside a strong contingent of former Browns coaches, players and staff, prior to the on-field tribute with the Dawg Pound on Sunday
Here's to Good Health: For the second-straight day, the Browns had their full 53 players on the field for practice. On Wednesday, only DB Marcus Burley (groin) and DB Derrick Kindred (ankle) were listed as limited. OL John Greco (back) and WR Terrelle Pryor (shoulder) were on the injury report, but had full practices. OL Joe Thomas (rest) returned to practice.