Browns center Jeff Faine says he weighs 290 pounds, but he looks more like a linebacker, and not just because 50 is his jersey number.
Coaches last year complained that Faine dwindled to 278 pounds because he was on a tofu diet and consequently got pushed around. He finished each of his first two seasons on injured reserve with ankle injuries. His detractors will say it was because he was shoved backward into opponents or teammates. Faine says it was because another player rolled up the back of his leg inadvertently each time.
"I was never that light," Faine said, a little disgusted his weight would be questioned. "The lightest I was ever at was 285. I want to play between 285 and 295. I'm about 290 right now. I'm very comfortable at this weight."
Faine went one-on-one against offensive lineman Clint Stickhorn in a simple blocking drill during the Browns' recent minicamp. Stickhorn is listed as 6-feet-5, 307 pounds. Faine is listed as 6-3. Watching the two go against each other leaves the observer with the conclusion there is no way Faine is only 17 pounds lighter. But he disagrees.
"I don't want to put down a guy, but it's been documented that muscle is smaller than fat," Faine said. "If you're a 290 lean, you're going to look a lot lighter than a 290 fat."
Faine is a fanatic about his diet. His refrigerator is stocked with lean ground beef, steak, chicken, fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk and low-fat cheese. He says the rumors of him living on tofu and yogurt are exaggerated, but he does admit taking non-steroid protein supplements.
Larry Zierlein, the offensive line coach from 2001-2004, said backup center Melvin Fowler is better than Faine. Zierlein wanted to draft Iowa guard Eric Steinbach, not Faine in 2003, but Butch Davis selected Faine in the first round. Steinbach was taken by the Bengals in the second round.
"I took that as (Zierlein's) personal opinion," Faine said. "It ticked me off at first, but I got over it. That opinion isn't shared by the coaches here now so I'm not worried about it at all."
Faine's weight was a big issue to Zierlein, who was not retained after Romeo Crennel was hired as head coach. Crennel doesn't care what the scale says. He just wants to see Faine move the pile.
"Jeff is what he is," Crennel said. "We're not going to request he get larger. We're going to ask him to do a great job and do what we want him to do. If he can do it at the weight he's at and do it efficiently, I'm all for that.
"I've had guys that have been underweight and got the job done. I've had guys that have been a little overweight and got the job done. We're going to put him on the field and see if he can get it done."