Gary Baxter has a message for coach Romeo Crennel if the Browns come up short on safeties in 2006: Get another safety.
Baxter was signed in free agency in 2005 to play cornerback after four seasons with the Ravens, and that is the position he plans to play. There has been talk about possibly moving Baxter to safety, a position he played with the Ravens in 2002. He is not open to making the switch.
"That's not an option," Baxter said. "I did that in Baltimore. I laughed when I saw that. That's not what I'm what I'm doing right now. It's cornerback."
But what if Crennel tells Baxter to play safety?
"It's not an option," Baxter repeated. "That vehicle doesn't come with an option package. Go sign a safety. To me, it's not worth talking about. Brian Russell is doing a great job back there. We have two talented safeties with Brodney Pool and Sean Jones. It doesn't make sense."
The only reason the subject was brought up is that the Browns traded starting strong safety Chris Crocker to the Falcons last month for a fourth-round draft choice. Russell was the starting free safety. Russell, Pool and Jones will battle for two starting jobs in 2006.
Baxter is a viable candidate if Pool and Jones falter, but he says he is more valuable as a cornerback. He signed a six-year, $30 million contract in 2005. He suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the fifth game and sat out the rest of the season. He had 20 tackles and two interceptions, broke up three passes and forced a fumble in the brief time he played.
"Any time you have depth at cornerback, that's good," Baxter said. "You look at teams with three or four wide receivers and now you can match up across the board. Just look at my injury. Freak things happen.
"If a cornerback goes down, you don't want to have a player who is good on one side and another who comes in and is not good on the other. Now you have a weak spot. The more good cornerbacks we have, the better the defense and secondary will be."
Baxter was the starting right cornerback before his injury. Leigh Bodden and
Daylon McCutcheon will contend for the starting job at left corner. The loser in
that battle will be the nickel back. The Browns are hopeful second-year
defensive back Antonio Perkins will emerge as the fourth cornerback.
- Browns owner Randy Lerner had the team's uniforms altered to make them
identical to when the Browns were NFL powers in the 1950s. The facemasks
will be gray, the brown jerseys will be a darker shade of brown and the
original striping will be on the jersey sleeves.
- Six former Browns defensive linemen now play for the Broncos. This
off-season, Kenard Lang and Amon Gordon joined Gerard Warren, Courtney Brown, Ebenezer Ekuban and Michael Myers. Warren, Ekuban and Myers were
traded to the Broncos in March of 2005 and Brown signed with Denver as a
free agent. The Browns play the Broncos in a home game Oct. 22.
- The Browns have opened the season at home every year since returning to the NFL in 1999. It is happening again in 2006 with a Sept. 10 game against the Saints. The Browns will be tested down the stretch if they are in the playoff hunt. Three of their final four games are on the road -- at Pittsburgh on Dec. 7, at Baltimore on Dec. 17 and at Houston on Dec. 31. They host Tampa Bay on Dec. 24.