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. Today, we talk with running back William Green, long snapper Ryan Pontbriand, wide receiver C.J. Jones, rookie defensive tackle J'vonne Parker and linebacker Justin Kurpeikis.
Q – How are you approaching Saturday night's exhibition game (against the New York Giants)?
A – I'm looking at it just like a regular-season game and everything's on the line. That'll be my focus and I'm going to go out there and give it all I've got.
Q – Given the changes on the offensive line, does it look different running behind that group?
A – Yeah. You always have to think it's a change for the better. I believe it'll be a change for the better, but we've got to play some real games and do some real hitting and make some tackles before we really know. But as of right now, everything looks pretty good up front.
Q – Was it a matter of following a traditional fullback like Terrelle Smith for a year and a half to figure that out and get used to that style of running?
A – I wouldn't say that. If anything, it probably made it a little easier because Terrelle is a good blocker and he's going to open up holes. If anything would have made it a little easier, I think it would have definitely worked. He's a good blocker.
Q – Even though Lee Suggs has been running with the first team, Romeo Crennel says the job is wide open.
A – It is what it is. Every job is wide open until it's filled. And that's how it's got to be. That's the type of coach he is. He says what it means. They'll have in there who they want to play. Like I said, the first game hasn't started yet and every job is wide open. I'm just going to keep working to get in where I fit in.
Q – L.J. Shelton is a big man. Is he big to the point where you notice?
A – They do look a bit bigger up front this year. They look good. They look good and work hard.
Q – Are you anxious to see what you guys have as an offense going against (the Giants)?
A – I'm definitely looking forward to it. I'm also anxious to see (how much) all the hard work we put into this offseason (will do). I think that'll make a difference, too. I'm looking forward to see how everything turns out.
Q – You missed the first couple of days of training camp with a sore back. How's the back now?
A – It's OK. But they're being careful about it. Because I'm bent over so much and it's highly intensive on my back with the snapping and everything, they just wanted to make sure it didn't get worse. That's the time to take care of it instead of waiting.
Q – And now, you're 100%?
A – I feel 100%.
Q – But does your back tell you it's 100%?
A – It does. Maybe not in the morning, but when I get to practice, it feels great.
Q – You are more of a niche player on this team, exclusively handling the snapping chores. Is all this getting easier for you?
A – The routine is getting easier. I feel more comfortable. But I still have the same work ethic. My room for error has decreased because I want to be better and better. I don't want to miss as much. I want my target zone to be smaller. I want to just get more and more accurate as I go on.
Q – Are you a perfectionist?
A – Yeah. My room won't let you know that. But out here I am. I want to be perfect. I get upset if I'm not perfect.
Q – What goes through your mind when you see other guys playing all the time, things you used to do in college, and all you do is snap the ball?
A – It's funny you asked that. When I first switched from being a center and a long snapper to just a long snapper, I was really upset. I was furious.
Q – Why?
A – At least on the college level and at least at my school (Rice), our kickers didn't have the same kind of work ethic I had. I really felt like I had been demoted and tossed aside. But I just took my same work ethic and put it toward snapping. But when I look at the linemen, I know what it's like to play the line. I miss it a little bit. It's a lot of fun to bang heads, but long snapping is what's got me as far as I've gone. Who's to say that I'd even play past college if I were still at center?
Q – What's the secret to long snapping?
A – Reps, refining your own skill because everybody I know snaps differently.
You take a look at the film. Everbody from Rob Davis in Green Bay to Mike Bartrum of the Eagles, everybody snaps different. They hold the ball different,
they line up different, their back is different, their whole motion is
different. It seems everyone is self taught. So it's just finding out what works
for you and refining it. Refining it and getting better and better.
Q – This is your third camp? The level of talent at your position keeps going up. What was your approach as you came in here?
A – My mind-set now is the same it has been. Just come out every day and try to be consistent, catch all the balls and catch on to the offense as fast as I can. Just try to make plays when they're presentable. They drafted the No. 1 guy, a receiver, (Braylon Edwards) and he's a good player. They've got some good rookies. So every day, I've got to come out and play hard and show the coaches I'm supposed to be here.
Q – What is different about this offense from your previous two years here?
A – This offense is more simple than last year. Last year, it was a little complex. I picked up on this offense kind of fast.
Q – In what way is it simpler?
A – Well maybe not simpler. It's taught differently. Different coaching staff, but we have our old receivers coach (Terry Robiskie) back. He knows how to teach us the plays and he has different concepts on how to teach.
Q – What is he telling you to keep you going because he knows how stiff the competition is?
A – I just come out every day and show the coaches. When the game time comes, we've got to show them.
Q – What one thing separates you from the others in a way that will enable you to impress the coaches and make this team?
A – I have to show them I can play special teams. Special teams is going to set me apart from everybody else.
Q – And that's where you think your greatest opportunity to make this team is?
A – That's probably going to be my only opportunity. So I've got to show them I can do it.
Q – You played at a school (Rutgers) not known for its football. The difference between there and here . . . huge difference and in what way is it?
A – Of course there's going to be a big difference. This is the NFL. There's a very big difference technique-wise, the speed of the game, the aggressiveness. Every day is like coming out to an all-star game.
Q – Are you finding it difficult?
A – No. I'm just trying to work hard, man, just trying to get my technique right. Physically, I believe I can play out here with the best of them.
Q – You seem to be getting a lot of reps. The coaches must like you.
A – Hey, somebody up there likes me, let's hope.
Q – That's got to be beneficial to you.
A – Definitely. The more reps, the better you're going to get at the techniques, the more you're going to learn the plays and then everything is going to be right for you.
Q – Where do you believe your best position is along the defensive line?
A – They have me at the nose position. I feel I can make a difference at that position because I played it at Howard University (where he went for two years before transferring to Rutgers). So I'm no stranger to the 3-4 (defense).
Q – When you think nose tackle, you don't think someone as tall as you (he's listed at 6-4, but seems more like 6-6). Is that a positive or a negative?
A – It can be a positive. People might not expect as much seeing a tall guy. Because I am tall, I have to work hard to stay low so I won't wind up in the end zone with the DB's. It's definitely hard work.
Q – Have you ever played the 3-4 before?
A – That's all I've ever played in the pros. At Pittsburgh and New England.
Q – You played at Penn State. Linebacker University.
A – Although I was a defensive end (there). I came into Penn State as a middle linebacker which I thought I'd play at Linebacker U., of course. My quickest way on the field was to be a defensive end and then I just ended up staying there because I did well at it.
Q – Did you play linebacker at Pittsburgh and New England.
A – Yep.
Q – This is very familiar to you then.
A – I played for coach Crennel last year and most of the terminology and things are very similar, so it has helped.
Q – Did he come after you to play here?
A – He didn't necessarily come after me, but he's the reason I'm here.
Q – There's that much respect for the man?
A – No question.
Q – How much different is Crennel here as opposed to New England?
A – His role has changed. He has to adapt to that. The core of coach Crennel was the type of man he is and that hasn't changed. I don't believe that will ever change.
Q – Crennel and Bill Belichick are known to take guys like yourself who played defensive end and make them to linebackers. You kind of fit that mold.
A – Most 3-4 schemes around the league, especially in New England and Pittsburgh, a lot of guys playing the outside spot were college defensive ends. It happens a lot. A lot of guys who were converted were considered tweeners or smallish defensive ends in college. I would go as far as to say that a majority of guys playing outside linebacker were college defensive ends.
Q – What attributes do you bring to the position that you believe could help the club?
A – What coach Crennel wants out of his outside linebackers in the 3-4 is to be physical and to set the edge, contain the running game and rush the passer. On top of that, you have to do the pass coverage. But that's the main thing.