BEREA - A broken ankle and a high-ankle sprain may have robbed Michael Jameson of some of the blazing speed that helped pave his way to the NFL, but the Cleveland Browns safety thinks he is finally ready to challenge for a starting job in his fourth pro season.
"I haven't run a 40-yard dash in a while, but I know I'm not a 4.4 anymore," Jameson said. "I probably run it in the high 4.5's now. I may not be as fast as I used to be, but now that I've been in the league for a while I'm able to put myself in better position to make plays. That's what happens when you get older. You aren't as fast, but you know the game better and you can anticipate to get in better position."
Jameson was in position to make several eye-opening plays during the second quarter of the Browns preseason win over the Detroit Lions Saturday afternoon. He hopes he did enough with the opportunity to force the Browns coaching staff to consider him a challenger to Robert Griffith's job at strong safety.
"This is the first year where I've thought I was actually competing," Jameson said. "Being a rookie coming in as a sixth-round pick (in 2001), I felt I was expendable. When I broke my ankle during the preseason, I thought maybe my chances of playing at this level were over."
Jameson's draft status had already been damaged by a high-ankle sprain that haunted his entire senior season at Texas A&M. Just as his old speed was starting to return, Jameson broke the ankle during a preseason game in Washington.
"It was a tough road back," he said. "I went through a lot of adverse times, but I feel like I've showed good character in coming back to perform at a good level."
Part of that good character has been making football a 24-hour job.
"I really pay attention in meetings so that I understand all the calls and all the checks, all the formations and all the ways teams can affect you," Jameson said. "I know I can't take too much time off when I get home. I have to stay in tune with the game. I know that you have to work out, eat right, train, and that will give you a fair shot to compete. I may not be as fast as I was, but the game has really slowed down for me."
The Browns drafted former University of Georgia safety Sean Jones in the second round as the heir apparent to Griffith at strong safety. A torn ligament in his left knee kept Jones from challenging for Griffith's job as a rookie. That injury may have created an opportunity for Jameson.
"My first thought coming into this year was that I wanted to make sure I made the team," Jameson said. "But I didn't expect Shaun would get hurt. I didn't know how everything was going to shake out ... I'm still not thinking about winning a job. I just want to go out, play well and leave all that up to the people who have to make those decisions."
Jameson took a bad angle and whiffed on a tackle of Lions rookie running back Kevin Jones on his first play Saturday. He recovered a few plays later, batting down a Joey Harrington pass on a blitz from the right corner in the first of several highlights that turned the heads of the Browns decision makers.
"Michael unfortunately missed his entire rookie season with the fractured ankle, and we had a lot of high expectations for him," said Browns coach Butch Davis. "His entire rookie season was a waste. He got no opportunities to improve, but he came back and over the last couple years he's gotten better ... He and (second-year safety) Chris Crocker have quietly had very good camps."
Crocker, who is listed No. 2 on the depth chart at free safety, suffered a concussion against the Lions and did not practice Monday.