Yesterday, the Browns named their six captains for the 2008 season as the offense, defense and special teams are represented by two players from each unit. Voted on by their teammates, Derek Anderson and Hank Fraley were named for the offense; Willie McGinest and Andra Davis for the defense; and Phil Dawson and Josh Cribbs for the special teams.
Reading over the list, something just didn't sit right with the names. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but then it hit me.
There's a fair-to-middling chance that four of the six captains will not be with the club past the 2008 season. Whether that's usual or unusual in the NFL, I don't know. But it would seem like it's not an every-year occurrence.
So, with that in mind, let's take a player-by-player thumbnail look at the chances of each being in Cleveland in 2009:
Anderson: Anytime a player has a three-year contract, and an $8 million roster bonus is included after the first season, there's every reason to question his long-term future with an organization.
Fraley: Some perceive the veteran as the weak link in an otherwise strong offensive line. His position could be subject to a free-agent upgrade in the off-season.
McGinest: Has already stated his intentions that this will be his final season in the NFL. Given his close relationship with head coach Romeo Crennel, though, he might be able to be talked into playing one more season.
Davis: He was asked to take, and accepted, both a pay cut AND a shortening of his deal this off-season. Short of that, he would've been a 2008 casualty. And, short of a near-spectacular '08 campaign, he could very well be on the unemployment line come March of next year.
Dawson: He's not going anywhere for at least a year or two.
Cribbs: Neither is he, but add a couple more years – at least – past Dawson.
And, yes, I can hear you now: "Can we at least play one (bad word) game before you (very bad word) start with this (two very bad words strung together)?"
My response? Get your own (very bad word) column, and write what you want to write about. Until then, shut the (you guessed it) up.
But, yeah, I can't wait for this season to start either…
A TINGE OF TRUTH
You just gotta love sportswriters.
Some are crafty wordsmiths, narrating every story as if the fate of the free world hinges on the placement of each and every word. Some are straight-to-the-point, "just the facts, ma'm" authors with little or no desire for personality. Others, such as myself, go for every dick joke and double entendre like it's the last drop of water on earth.
Then, there's Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch, the lil' pot-stirrer that he is.
In a piece penned for today's Dispatch, Arace butters-up Browns fans with praise that not even their own mother's would heap upon them...
The best fans in professional football are Cleveland Browns fans. This is not a news flash, but it bears repeating. These fans had Otto Graham and Marion Motley and Jim Brown and two losing seasons in 28 years. These fans had the Kardiac Kids, The Catch, Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble and the Art Modell, which rhymes with "burn in hell."
...and then reveals that his buttering utensil of choice was actually a steak knife and proceeds to eviscerate the hopes of the very fans which he just so lavishly praised. Arace very cogently lays out the reasons why the 2008 edition of the Cleveland Browns is overrated, making several solid points along the way, before finishing with the following:
"Not since 1999, when Cleveland got its team back, has a season been so anticipated by Browns fans. It so happens that their team is overrated, but the fans, the best in the league, know it. They have to know it. Don't they?"
Once you get past being pissed off – and I know most of you are at this point – you have to admit, there's at least a sliver of truth in what he pens. Perhaps even more than a sliver.
Perhaps even as big as a 2x4, which doesn't feel so good when slammed against the face of reality.
"I DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY WERE THINKING"
When James Lee was released by the Browns this past weekend, many a media member and Browns fan were surprised and perplexed. Not nearly as surprised, though, as Lee himself.
"To tell you the truth ... I don't know what they thought. I really don't know what they were thinking. They came to me and told me they were going to cut me, and they wanted me to be on the practice squad," Lee told the Times and Democrat earlier this week.
"I went out everyday and just gave it my all. Them cutting me was the biggest surprise for me and my agent. I had played ... every game. My first game against the Jets, I played 75 plays. It was still the first quarter when I got in. So, I don't know what they were thinking. I was hearing good things."
The Browns were attempting to sneak Lee through on waivers, and even had an agreement in place with Lee's agent that he would sign a practice squad contract with the club should he clear waivers. In the end, those plans went horribly awry from the Browns' perspective as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers put in a claim and were awarded the very promising offensive lineman.
INBRED SMACK TALK
From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
"No one is picking the Browns to go to the Super Bowl, and few are picking them to win the AFC North after a hallucinogenic springtime of look-out-for-the-Browns prognostication that wilted in the hot reality of, umm, reality."
Gene Collier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1283
ON THE INJURY FRONT
For those who missed it, or live in a holler in God's country and only get 'net access when you head to town for some feed, here's a rundown of how the injured Browns fared in practice yesterday:
Did Not Participate
Barring a setback, the seven players listed in the latter group will be a go for Sunday. The three in the former group, in all likelihood, will be out for the opener, although Griffin stands the best chance to see the field of the trio.
The middle grouping is the trickiest to dissect. Bell will not play, and it's very likely Tucker and Peek will join the rookie on the sidelines. Lewis and Jones (fingers crossed) should be a go.
That, of course, leaves Cribbs. Stay tuned for a premium article (hopefully) on Cribbs' status later on today...
RANDOM NOTES OF RANDOMNESS
Very, very interesting intimation from Jeff Schudel of the Lake County News-Herald, regarding the fact that Anderson and Edwards hadn't practiced together since Aug. 9: "...although there were clandestine practice sessions in the fieldhouse when prying eyes weren't watching." Had not heard that before today. Nice job, Mr. Schudel. ... Can the Browns' young starting corners stop the pass-catching machine known as Terrell Owens? Absolutely, and here's the one guaranteed way for them to do it: mount TV cameras and microphones on the helmets and shoulder pads of all Cleveland defensive linemen. TO would never make it past the line of scrimmage. … Did you know that, the last time he faced the Dallas Cowboys, tight end Kellen Winslow suffered a... nope, not gonna go there. ... During his time at scUM, Edwards was afforded the opportunity to swim with Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps and, apparently, one time was enough. ... After practice yesterday, Donte' Stallworth was seen wearing a t-shirt from Owens' clothing line. It's the first thing of note Stallworth has done with the Browns since signing with the club at the start of free agency in March. ... Well, that, and gashing the foot of arguably the best player on the roster. Besides those two things? Nothing. ... Given his extensive injury history, it's somewhat surprising that this is the first real hamstring issue Jamal Lewis has suffered in his playing career. ...
I'LL BET YOU DID NOT KNOW THAT…
...country music singer Brad Paisley's favorite NFL team is the Cleveland Browns. Plus, he married up after bagging Hollywood hottie Kimberly Williams. Two-for-two in the game of life, Mr. Paisley. Well played, sir. Well played indeed.
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
News and notes from the Browns' upcoming opponent:
-- Linebacker Kevin Burnett has a fairly insightful mini-breakdown of the Browns' offense and what the Dallas defense will need to do to counteract the explosive attack in a Dallas Morning News blog piece I assume he wrote himself.
-- Romeo Crennel thinks the Cowboys might not have to double-team Shaun Rogers. Additionally, the head coach told reporters that the tooth fairy might be fake, Tatum Bell might have an image problem right now, and he might like a doughnut or two on occasion.
-- "Cowboys Need Owens to Deliver". Really? Huh, whoda thunk it.
-- Tony Romo continues to walk in the shadows of Cowboy greats Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman and Babe Laufenberg.
AFC NORTH QUICK HITS
BREAKING NEWS: former Rats head coach Brian Billick is still a smug prick. ... Former Bengal offensive lineman Willie Anderson may sign with an AFC North rival. ... Did the person who coined the phrase "addition by subtraction" do so with a future Kyle Boller season-ending injury in mind? ... After losing Jeremi Johnson to a season-ending knee injury during practice Monday, the Bengals will have converted (football-wise, not religiously) tight end Daniel Coats in the starting lineup for the season opener. ... Free-agent acquisition Antwan Odom did not play a down in pre-season, but was not on the first injury report released by the Bengals. ... A serious injury to either Chad Johnson or T.J. Houshmagesundheit would have a devastating ripple-effect on Cincitucky. In other news, water is wet and I like beer. ... The headline in today's Baltimore Sun asks the question "Well, the QB situation could be worse — right?" The answer? Yes, it could be. If a decapitated, quadriplegic corpse were lining up under center for the season opener. ... Steelers starting linebacker James Harrison left practice early yesterday with a right shoulder/bicep injury.
STAT OF THE DAY
The Browns will have to travel 6,416 miles this season. While that might sound like a lot, it's actually the fewest amount of miles any of the 32 teams in the league will have to travel this year.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"No question. It was so close to my Achilles." -- Wide receiver Braylon Edwards, on how his "kids will be kids" post-practice race with Donte' Stallworth nearly short-circuited his season before it even started. And I think I just threw up a little in my mouth at that thought.
QUOTE OF THE DAY, THE SEQUEL:
"He's a talent that has really shown he can play in this league. He's explosive and makes plays. He's the go-to guy for their team. The sky's the limit for Braylon." -- Terrell Owens, on the Browns' top receiving threat.