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 – You've practiced in heat before. How would you compare it to this (92-degree) heat?
A – This is right up there. It's hot, man. It's tough. You've got to tighten
up your shoelaces and go. This is my 12th camp and they don't get any easier.
Q – And you're not getting any younger.
A – (Laughs) What you have to do is set an example. It's hard. There's no other way than to do it. But you've got 31 other teams doing the same thing.
Q – How do you push yourself?
A – You try to let the young guys see you work through it because they don't know how to work yet. These young guys don't understand. The game's going to go on. If it's 100 degrees or 20 below, the game's going to be played. You've got to work through it.
Q – You can play anywhere along the offensive line except center. Have the coaches locked you into a particular position?
A – Right now, I'm just trying to get all my timing down, which is cool for me. I'm a natural tackle, but I've played it all.
Q – Right side, left side, make any difference?
A – I like left. I've been a left tackle my whole career. But wherever . . . I'm just trying to make a roster spot on this team and win. I'll be 34 years old. I need a Super Bowl ring before I get out of here. At this point in time, it's like "are you playing for the money or are you playing for the ring?" I want to win a championship. Great players come through this league and never win a championship. I just want to win one.
Q – Is there a comfort level you'd like to reach and if so, have you reached it?
A – No. There is no comfort level. Not when you're trying to fight and win a job. You just have to continue to compete and I won't be comfortable until training camp is over and they say "you've made it" or "you didn't make it." You can't be comfortable because as soon as you do that, that's when somebody else slides up in front of you. I'm fighting as hard as I can. I've got a family and I like some type of stability, so I'm going to give it my best effort in this training camp.
Q – Is this is a situation where you might put too much pressure on yourself or not enough pressure on yourself?
A – That's the other thing you can't do. You have to find the happy medium. You can't put too much pressure on yourself because then you can't play. You have to put some pressure on yourself. But you don't have to put any more pressure than the actual situation is going to put on you. Otherwise, you'd be stressed out.
Q – How would you assess your performance here so far?
A – I'm doing all right. I've got to get better. That's the best assessment I can give you. Until I'm perfect or flawless and don't make any mistakes, I always have to get better.
Q – What do you need to work on?
A – Just a little bit of everything. Recognition, making the transition from seeing what you see and then reacting to it. The quicker you can see things, the quicker you can react to them.
Q – Is the comfort level getting better with each practice?
A – It's getting better. You see things, you start to recognize things, things you've seen before.
Q – You had a strong finish to last season. Is that something you build on coming into this camp?
A – Definitely. I had an opportunity to play last year toward the end and that was a great experience for me. I felt like I played to a fairly high level and I definitely want to build and get better from that experience.
Q – To that end, what are you trying to do show the coaches?
A – That I'm a hard worker. That I'm a team player. I'll do whatever it takes for the team to win and that you can count on me.
Q – Knowing you've got a guy like Jeff Faine in front of you, do you push yourself that much harder?
A – Definitely. Jeff is a great player. There's great competition between him and me.
Q – Do you encourage each other? What kind of a relationship do you have in that regard?
A – We have a great relationship. Just now, we were on the field helping each other out with our snaps and sets. Whenever he makes a good play, I say "good job." Whenever I make a good play, he'll say "good job."
Q – Any feedback from the coaches?
A – No, not really. We just started. Coach (Romeo Crennel) said everyone's got to prove themselves and that's what we're doing.
Q – You've played guard before and you seem to much more comfortable at center. Is this a situation where you like to anchor yourself at that position?
A – My mind-set is that any position I could help the team win I'm willing to play. If it's guard, if it's center, so be it. That's what I'll play. I feel a little bit more comfortable (at center) because I had more reps. But I'm always willing to keep my options open.
Q – What went through your mind when New Orleans didn't invite you back?
A – The biggest thing for me was sitting around at home and hoping I would get a phone call. Luckily, it happened for me and Cleveland just happened to be the one that called.
Q – When did you get the call?
A – The Monday before training camp started. It was a quick turnaround. My agent called me and told me to be ready to go work out.
Q – Was the fact it was Cleveland a surprise?
A – It kind of was, but to be honest with you, I wasn't choosy. I wanted a phone call. I knew I was still capable of playing at this level and it was just a matter of someone believing in me and giving me the opportunity to do so. I'm definitely grateful to the team for doing that.
Q – Ever played the 3-4 defense before?
A – Never. But it has a lot of similarities to a 4-3 give or take a few areas. But for the most part, it's just a matter of getting comfortable with the calls, making the proper checks and then once you line up, football is football.
Q – The coaches have you calling the defensive signals. For someone who's been here for just a few days, that's a compliment.
A – As a veteran, you're expected to learn on the go. This is year seven for me. I don't expect anyone to baby me. I've got to pull my own weight. These guys have been here working hard all through the offseason. If I expect to be a part of their team, it's up to me to pull my own weight.
Q – Is this a situation that perhaps might lead to you starting?
A – I just want to contribute any way I can. My mind-set obviously is to prepare to be the best I possibly can. Wherever the coaches decide to play me is where I play. I just want to contribute to this team.
Q – You seem to be getting more comfortable every day.
A – Every time you get more experience and more reps, you're going to be more comfortable. But I did make a couple of throws today. That one to Frisman (a touchdown pass to Frisman Jackson) in that last team period. That's always good to end it like that.
Q – To what do you attribute the comfort level you're feeling?
A – It's a lot of hard work in the summer. I could have been doing a lot of other things than studying my playbook this summer. But I dedicated myself to putting in the time to try and understand what's going on on the field.
Q – Are you seeing things differently now on a day-by-day basis?
A – You're just trying to relate what you get on paper and applying it to what you see on the field. Once you can do that, you're going to be well ahead of the game.
Q – Are the defensive coaches trying to trick you a little bit, trying to disguise stuff?
A – Oh year. I think that's one of the best things about the 3-4 defense, being able to disguise the blitzes and coverages. It's a lot more difficult going against a 3-4 than a 4-3.
Q – It's almost like a learning experience on the job.
A – In college, not many teams run a 3-4 defense. This is a great defense. It puts the pressure on us every day in practice.
Q – And you're having fun doing it.
A – Best job in the world right here.