BEREA, Ohio--He's done it the hard way.
Isaiah Crowell is betting on himself.
The fourth-year running back came to the NFL as an undrafted free agent from Alabama State in 2014. He signed a one-year contract last month that will pay him $2.74 million in 2017. If the Browns are unable to sign him to a contract extension, he will become a free agent after this season.
Crowell, 24, made the team as a rookie after not being drafted and has shown glimpses of excellence in his first three seasons. Last year, was his best season as he rushed for 952 yards last season, including seven touchdowns. He caught 40 passes for 319 yards to give him a total of 1,271 multi-purpose yards.
As a rookie, Crowell rushed for 607 yards and had eight touchdowns. In 2015, he rushed for 706 yards with four touchdowns. His three-year career totals are 531 carries for 2,265 yards (4.3 avg.) and 19 touchdowns.
Hue Jackson intends to give the ball much more to Crowell in 2017, who averaged 4.8 yards a carry in 2016.
“Have got to run the ball more," Jackson said. "I will be the first to tell you that. I beat myself up about that. I am a coach that likes to run the ball. We all recognize where we were in games last year, and trying to play from behind is hard, and understanding what our team was last year, feeling that you had to get off to a fast start to get ahead of a team because you knew how some things would unfold.
"I think Crowell is poised for a big year. He deserves it. He worked extremely hard a year ago, him and Duke (Johnson) both. Our running game needs to come to the forefront.”
Jackson was asked what his message to Crowell was.
“Take it to another level," he said. "The guy had almost 1,000 yards a year ago when I did not hand him the ball. What can he do when I do hand him the ball? The greatest of all time, I am not saying that he is on our field, but I feel like we have some pretty good backs on our team. I just have to turn around and give it to them, and let them make it happen.”
Crowell likes what he hears from Jackson and is hoping to capitalize on the opportunity.
"I know the type of coordinator that Hue is," Crowell said. "He likes to run the ball. I feel like it is going to be a monster year, also."
Crowell (5-11, 225) hopes to cash in with a multi-year extension with the Browns or possibly hit the free agent market after next season.
Desmond's Back: DL Desmond Bryant, who missed all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle was practicing. Bryant was missing last week.
“Desmond is one of my favorites," Jackson said. "I had Desmond in Oakland. It was disappointing we did not have him this past year. I thought he was one of the missing links in our football team. He is a veteran player, knows how to play, extremely tough, extremely bright and loves football. Having him back has been good. When I look over there – we are going to ease him back into this because he has not been around us. He is back in the weight room, back on the practice field working in individual and doing some things and we will get him back to where he needs to be. When I think of him and the rest of our front seven and potentially what it could be, that is exciting. That is exciting because if he can go back and be the player that he was, it is going to give us a huge boost. We did not have him at all as I just mentioned a year ago so I think he is going to be a good player for us.”
Still Out: OL Joel Bitonio, OL Austin Reiter, OL John Greco, OL Matt McCants, TE J.P. Holtz, WR Kenny Britt, RB Duke Johnson, DL Myles Garrett and WR Corey Coleman were on the side with trainers.
Next Up: The Browns OTA's continue next week with the open day for media availability next Tuesday. Following next week, the Browns will conduct a mandatory veteran minicamp June 13-15 before breaking for the summer