Steve King's This 'N That

Two Browns players few fans know about - WR Mike Furrey and OL Adam Hoppel - share a common background, but little else. Plus, more observations from camp...

They were both born and raised in Ohio, and they tend to be on the shy side when asked to talk about themselves.

But other than that, and the fact they're with the Browns, wide receiver Mike Furrey and defensive lineman Adam Hoppel have virtually nothing in common.

Furrey, born in Galion and a product of Hilliard High School in suburban Columbus, is a seventh-year pro who has already done some big things in the NFL. The 32-year-old signed with the Browns as a free agent on May 5 after being waived by the Detroit Lions three months previously.

Hoppel, from tiny Lisbon in the middle of Columbiana County, prepped at Beaver Local High School and is a rookie free agent from the University of Cincinnati.

And while Furrey could fill a valuable role for the Browns, the 24-year-old Hoppel, like any rookie free agent, is facing tough odds just to earn a roster spot, let alone make any contributions.

Furrey likely will be the team's slot receiver. At a smallish 6-foot and 195 pounds, he seems perfect for the job. Quick though not overly fast, he can find the open areas, catch the ball and then lunge forward for a few extra yards. That's exactly what you need on third down to keep the chains moving.

He showed all those abilities in last week's full-squad minicamp and throughout the spring practices. He has excellent hands as well, which makes him a quarterback‘s best friend. If he dropped any balls since he‘s been here, no one remembers them.

"I'm picking things up pretty well," he said after one practice. "I'm just trying to get open and fill whatever need they have in mind for me."

Furrey has an interesting resume. He started his college career at Ohio State as a walk-on freshman and then transferred to Northern Iowa, where he really found his niche, setting the school and Gateway Conference records for career receptions with 242 for 27 touchdowns. When he got out of college, he played in the XFL for one season and then the Arena Football League for two before signing with the St. Louis Rams in 2003.

His 2005 and '06 seasons were bizarre, and complete opposites of one another. In 2005, he was switched from wide receivers to safety and led the Rams with four interceptions.

Furrey signed with the Lions in 2006 and went back to receiver, finishing second in the NFL with a staggering 98 receptions, the fifth-highest total in club history. He also had 1,066 receiving yards and six TD catches.

He followed that up in 2007 with 61 grabs for 664 yards and a score.

He played in just nine games last season, being placed onto the Injured Reserve List on Dec. 1, and had only 18 catches, bringing his career total to 198.

Considering that wide receiver Braylon Edwards led the Browns last year with 55 receptions for 873 yards and three TDs, it's easy to see why the Browns were so interested in acquiring Furrey.

"Guys can get a tag in this league and it sticks," he said. "I'm labeled as an inside guy, and while I've played there a lot, I can also go outside if need be. I just want to do what they want me to do."

Just catch balls, especially on third down, to help jump-start an offense that did score a TD in the final six games last year.

Hoppel is just the second player from Beaver Local to make it to the NFL, but it was wrestling where he made the biggest name for himself there, winning one state championship and finishing second twice. Hoppel, who comes from a wrestling family -- his father, Carl was a three-time state high school champion, an uncle wrestled at Bowling Green and a cousin was as Division III national champion at Muskingum -- got plenty of scholarship offers for wrestling but decided to accept a football scholarship to Cincinnati. As a senior last year, he helped the Bearcats finish 11-2, win their first Big East title and get to the Orange Bowl. For his career, he had 7.5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss.

"I haven't been home much lately, but my parents tell me they get people coming up to them all the time asking about me," said Hoppel, who has a squatty 6-1, 307-pound build. "That's kind of cool. You feel as if you're representing all the people back home.

"It's also cool to be here playing with the Browns. I watched a lot of their games while growing up."

Maybe he was watching in 2003 when Furrey came to Cleveland as a member of the Rams for a Monday Night Football game, or in any of the last three preseasons when Furrey, as a Lion, played against the Browns.

And to think, now they're teammates. But considering the fact they're both so quiet, they probably haven't spoken to one another yet.  

SHUFFLING OUT OF TOWN: The fact the Browns released rookie free agent defensive back Bryan Williams from the University of Akron on Monday is really not a surprise at all. Williams, who played at Akron Buchtel High School, was ordered to run a lap around the practice field for a mistake he made in last week's minicamp. Now, to be fair, the vast majority of players who ran laps during the three-day event didn't exactly set any land speed records. Calling their pace a gentle jog would be kind to them. But Williams took it to whole other level. He was barely moving, literally shuffling along at a pace much slower than a walk. If he had crawled, then he would have been moving faster. Several media members watching practice expressed amazement that Williams was being so brazen in making a mockery of head coach Eric Mangini's idea of punishment. They said that could end up costing Williams his place on the team, and maybe it did. Make no mistake about it, Mangini is in complete charge of this team, and those who try to test him will be dealt with severely.

ALSO PART OF THE EQUATION: Much was made of Mangini's decision to keep practicing outdoors last week even though it was raining one day. The coach said he wanted the players to learn to function in less-than-perfect conditions since they'll run into that kind of weather during the season. That makes perfect sense. But what no one mentioned, and might well have been a consideration for Mangini, too, is the space limitations the team faces by going indoors. The Browns have just one field there, and it's only 70 yards long. Plus there's basically no room to work on the side. Outside, there are four 100-yard fields and plenty of space on the side to do other work. The Browns' roster numbers about 90. Trying to move those players inside and get anything done in such a small space would be virtually impossible. It would be like human pinball.


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