Bigger Workload In The Offing For Harrison?

Steve King was at Browns camp this morning, and writes about the new regime taking a long look at "lost" back -- including as a punt returner?

Could the job of punt returner, or kick returner, be added to the workload of Cleveland Browns running back Jerome Harrison?

It's possible.

The most interesting thing during an otherwise mundane start to Friday morning's full-squad minicamp practice was watching Harrison alternate with Josh Cribbs, Mike Furrey and Syndric Steptoe catching punts from Dave Zastudil during a drill.

Obviously, in a perfect world, the No. 1 punt and kickoff returner is Cribbs, who may be – if he isn't already – the best the Browns have ever had at those two spots. He is, by far, the most explosive scoring threat on the team.

But if the Browns choose to lessen Cribbs' workload and divide up his responsibilities for an expected tryout in the defensive backfield this year, or if he should get hurt, then the Browns could be looking at Harrison as the replacement.

Whereas the previous coaching regime of Romeo Crennel never seemed willing to give Harrison much of a chance, even when he appeared to be fully into the flow of games, new head coach Eric Mangini and his assistants look to be eager to maximize Harrison's potential. Mangini has been plentiful with his praise of Harrison, on Thursday comparing the 5-foot-9, 205-pounder to a smallish but extremely productive back/returner he had while head coach of the New York Jets, Leon Washington. He said if Harrison continues to improve and take advantage of his opportunities, he could follow in Washington's footsteps.

Harrison was a do-everything, workhorse back at Washington State, being almost as effective catching passes as he was at running the ball. In three years with the Browns, the 2006 fifth-round draft choice has rushed just 77 times and caught but 23 passes. In 22 games, including 16 starts, with the Cougars, he had 482 carries for 25 touchdowns and caught 34 passes for 275 yards and a score.

So there may be a lot more there for the Browns to get from Harrison.

He has extremely quick feet, but he's also proven on many occasions that he has speed as well. He can make people miss or run past them.

As Jamal Lewis has been rehabilitating after offseason arthroscopic surgery on his ankle, Harrison has taken over as the No. 1 back in these spring practices and been impressive. He seems to be gaining more confidence each day.

Now the Browns may be toying with the idea of giving him even more to do. We'll see how it plays out in training camp.

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