Throughout the Browns' training camp in Berea, Bernie's Insiders will focus on players' thoughts as they get ready for the 2005 National Football League season.
We will bring you periodic bytes as the players conclude practice and meet with the media. These will include the words of veterans and rookies alike as coach Romeo Crennel and his staff puts together the best 53-man roster.
Q – The coaches praised your work and talked you up in the offseason. Now you're showing them what you can do. What are your thoughts after a couple of days?
A – I'm trying to get accustomed to the heat and putting the pads on. In minicamp, we were just in shorts and shirts. That's pretty easy to run around. You don't get as fatigued. There's a lot of hitting involved now. I had a good offseason, but all that's behind me right now. I've got to prove myself now with the pads on in camp.
Q – With lack of quality depth along the defensive line, this seems like a pretty good opportunity for you.
A – I've been working hard. And the second-team guys get as many reps as the first-team guys do. Been working with Amon Gordon on one end and Corey Jackson on the other and it's all about forming that chemistry. The coaches know they can trust us when we're in the game as well.
Q – What are the coaches telling you right now?
A – There isn't much input. They know everybody's sluggish the first couple of days. As long as you continue to get better with every practice, I think that's what they want.
Q – What do you need to work on the most?
A – Anything, everything I need to work on. Technique, keeping my pad level low.
Q – Any preference whether you play inside or outside?
A – I did run some defensive end at minicamps. I'm starting to study the end
position in case I have to move outside. Plus to help my stock as well to make
the 53-man roster meaning I can play nose and defensive end.
Q – It isn't every day that the punter is the star of practice (with his booming punts). You got a lot of fan reaction.
A – It's just one those things that can be a noticeably a positive play I guess. The ball can go up high and it can be a crowd pleaser.
Q – Most of your punts were turning over. Some of the other guys were having trouble getting the ball to turn over. Was the wind a factor?
A – I'm working on that. I'm looking to be more of a driving-placement punter. I think that comes with trying to flatten the ball out a little bit more, but I want to stay within my certain hang time to give our guys enough time to cover. I'm trying more to spiral the ball. That's exactly the kind of impression I'm trying to leave, that I'm turning that ball over.
Q – Would you consider yourself more of a positional punter?
A – I think my forte is a possession type of punter. In other words, I'm going to help our offense get out of a hole and I'm going to help our defense get the long field and back them up. That's the kind of game I can help bring to the field. It's a winning type of game. It helps our defense, it forces their offense into a long field and it helps our deffense when we can pin them down and then we get a short field going downhill for our offense. That's the kind of punter I am.
Q – You're on the other side of the coin here. First Baltimore, now Cleveland. I think you know how Baltimore is regarded here. How does it feel from a player's standpoint?
A – It's interesting. Obviously, there's much-more built-in tradition here. Even though they've won a Super Bowl over there, they're still a relatively young organization. They have their own identity. But this identity is one of the best in the league and it's an honor for me to be part of that.
Q – Will it be special to play against (the Ravens) twice?
A – It will be. It will be. I'm looking forward to that definitely.
A – I got some Tucker in that earlier camp, man. That's a great player. Strong, big guy, I mean athletic. Haven't gone against Shelton all, but the opportunity finally going to present itself and we're going to go to work. Both are great offensive linemen.
Q – How does it change the way you look at the game when all of a sudden, you're against a guy who's been in the NFL 7-8 years and he's as big as Tucker?
A – It doesn't change anything. It just gives me more respect for this game. That's all it has done. Going out here against these guys, working with them in the offseason when I got here, just seeing how much they're dedicated to this, it just gave me more respect for the NFL as a whole. Everybody works hard from top to bottom. That's why teams are successful. And then once you get a staff in there that knows how to work like that, they're going to be great. And we're going to be great.
Q – What do you need to work on the most?
A – Just continue to work hard. Continue to get more adapted to the speed of the game. It's a lot faster. I played in the SEC (at Kentucky), which I think is probably the fastest conference out there. It's still not as fast as this. You've got 320-pounders like Tucker coming at you like a bullet. The speed of the game is totally different. My biggest step is getting my mind ready to move as fast and that comes with the studying and understanding of what I need to do in this defense.
Q – Quickness a part of your game?
A – It's a big part of my game. But that's what I've got to calm down. In this defense, it's not about quickness. It's about maintaining and being patient and being strong up front and letting the linebackers be the quick people to get to the ball.
Q – Are you getting individual criticism for your work?
A – Definitely. You always get that. We're professionals, man, and we're men also. It's not disrespectful criticism, it's not cussing-you-out criticism. It's "Ellery, you know what you need to do, but this is what you messed up on." And then it's "Ellery, great job." I don't need to hear the "great job" because I'm a man and I should know when I'm making a mistake and when I'm doing well. I appreciate the positive criticism, but as a man, I'd rather you tell me "Ellery, you messed up on this; Ellery, you messed up on that" because that's what I want to get better at.
Q – How is the weight loss (to play linebacker) translating now that you've put on the pads and are seeing some contact?
A – It's coming along a lot better. Before, I was just going through the motions (in minicamp), not really making much contact. Now, we're hitting and it feels good. I love the game of football. Whatever I have to do to get on the field to play and win I'll do.
Q – At what point do you think the switch will become natural, instinctive? Or is that something that will come later?
A – Being around the game for a while, you pick up certain instincts. The years of experience has carried over as far as dropping back and covering. So it's coming along pretty well.
Q – In what ways are you seeing the offense any differently as a linebacker?
A – I can see the formations when I'm standing up and easily in my head, I can cut down two or three of their favorite plays by looking at their formation. That simplifies it for me. As a defensive end, my hand was down, I couldn't see the formation. By me standing up, I get my mind-set and see it before it happens.
Q – It's more of a thinking man's position?
A – I guess if you're a smart player.
Q – And you are, of course.
A – Yeah, I'm a Miami man (laughs). It all starts with film study. You know what formations they run and what plays they run and that simplifies everything.
Q – And you're feeling comfortable.
A – Of course. I'm loving it, I'm loving it. I was skeptical at first, how they were going to utilize me, but they utilize me well and we both like what we're doing. I'm cool.
Q – Early thoughts on how training camp has gone for you.
A – Trying to get everything down, all the little things. There's so much stuff going on with the defense. You have to be on top of everything. You can't be behind when it comes to a call. You have to know everything. I've been making mistakes. And that's my biggest thing. When I make mistakes, I have to let it go, learn from it and recover the next day.
Q – Is there a difference from being book smart (which he is) and instinctive smart?
A – Book smart, you can study, study, study and be ready for a test. Instinctively, it's almost repetition. You have to practice and practice and practice. Then eventually, you have it and you don't have to think about it. Whereas book smart, I can study for a test the night before and get an A on the test the next day, Out here, you're using your body. Your mind controls your body and that's the hardest thing.
Q – You're a crammer?
A – Yeah, I'm a crammer (laughs). I admit it.
Q – You can't cram here.
A – No, you can't. You have to be on top. At the end of the week, you can't just study what you put in the whole week. You have to do it every night.
Q – Have the coaches been encouraging?
A – They say to just keep working. That's all you can do. Everyone makes mistakes out here. It's so difficult in the beginning stages because you put something in in the morning and then you go out on the field and do it. They say to just keep working. And that's what I have to keep doing.