Returning To His Roots

Native Clevelander coming home as "the enemy", looking to beat the team he grew up rooting for...

Lee Evans grew up in Bedford and was All-Ohio in both football and track at Bedford High School.

Both are so close to Cleveland Browns Stadium – and the former Cleveland Stadium, which used to set there – that your car would barely get warmed up on the drive into town from the southeast suburbs.

So it's no surprise where Evans' NFL allegiance used to be – and where that of those who know him still is.

"I grew up a big Browns fan, and all my family and friends were Browns fans," the wide receiver, now in his sixth year with the Buffalo Bills and in the NFL, said on a conference call with the Cleveland media on Wednesday in preparation for Sunday's game against the Browns at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"I've converted a few over to Bills fans, but they're still mostly Browns fans."

With the inexperience the Browns now have at wide receiver after Wednesday's trade of Braylon Edwards to the New York Jets, and the fact they now lack a go-to target in the passing game, Evans would look mighty good in the uniform of the team he rooted for as a kid.

Evans went into this season with 296 career receptions for 4,744 yards (a 16 yards-per-catch average) and 32 touchdowns. Those numbers dwarf the combined stats of all the Browns wideouts left on the roster./p>

Last season, when Evans had 63 catches for 1,017 yards and three TDs, he would have led the Browns in receptions and yards, and would have tied for the lead in scores.

Just as impressive, he's proven to be a big-time deep threat. From 2004, when the Bills drafted him at No. 13 overall out of Wisconsin, through last season, his long gainers each year were, in order, 69 yards, 65, 83, 85 and 87 yards. And all but the 65-yarder went for touchdowns.

But that's not the case this year. Like the rest of the Bills receivers, his stats are suffering because of the struggles of the Buffalo offense overall, especially the last two weeks when the club has scored a combined 17 points. He has 10 receptions for 148 yards and one TD, with a long gainer of just 35 yards.

Indeed, it's taking the Bills a while to get a handle on the no-huddle offense they've installed this season.

"We like it because we're able to dictate the tempo of the game," Evans said. "We've had our ups and downs with it, but as the season progresses, we're getting better as we go."

The Bills have a long way to go, however, before their offense progresses to the level where they – and everybody else in the NFL, for that matter – thought it would be at this juncture of the season.

"We feel like we have a much better offense than we've shown the last couple of weeks," Evans said. "We've got to find a way to get on the same page and make the plays come to us."

He didn't say it, but it's obvious the Bills look at the Browns, who rank dead-last in the NFL in total yards allowed per game, and next-to-last in both rushing yards and points surrendered, and think this is the time to fix their problems.

And if that happened, then it would be a bittersweet feeling for a lot of his family members and friends back in Bedford.


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