Vickers maturity impressive

Lawrence Vickers was one of five RFAs who signed the one-year tender offers by the Browns on Monday afternoon. The way he handled his unhappiness with his contract has shown how much he has matured, says OBR Reporter Steve King.

Browns fullback Lawrence Vickers, who had boycotted the OTA practices, spoke to the media for the second time as mini-camp opened late last week.

It came as the team's mandatory three-day full-squad minicamp began.

Vickers was one of five restricted free agents on the Browns who are unhappy with their contract situation, and was one of two who had decided to work out in Berea anyway.

These money squabbles have happened since time began in the NFL and throughout pro sports, and will continue happening. It's just the way it is.

As such, this is not dramatic news. It is, in fact, just another of these situations that fans are getting tired of hearing about.

The contract issues involving Vickers and the other RFAs – running back Jerome Harrison, safety Abram Elam and linebackers Matt Roth and D'Qwell Jackson – were eventually resolved, for now, at least, as the players signed their tenders.

But that's not the focus here, nor should it be. In the big picture, what needs to be brought out is how much Vickers has matured.

This will be the fifth season for the Colorado product, who was the first of the Browns' two third-round picks in the 2006 NFL Draft. As a rookie, he sometimes spoke before he thought, causing embarrassment for both him and the team. It wasn't anything big, but enough to get noticed.

Also, his approach to the game wasn't consistent, nor was his performance. He looked like a world-beater on some days, and beaten on others.

But don't – don't – pile on Vickers, for most rookies go through that. They're very young men, and they learn the pro game on and off the field. And they learn about themselves. They grow up.

It all just takes time.

And Vickers has never been a bad guy, someone who went out of his way to do questionable things. He's always been courteous and polite, and willing to do interviews.

But the Lawrence Vickers who stood in front of the media last Thursday in the hot mid-day sun, with sweat running down his brow, was in stark contrast to the one back in those first two seasons of 2006 and '07. Here was a young man who had matured.

He said all the right things about his contract situation, explaining his side but at the same time understanding the club's point of view. All this despite the fact the media baited him all the way, trying to get him to cut loose and say something juicy or inflammatory.

"I'm very confident that everything will work itself out," he said. "I'm an outspoken guy. I don't hide my emotions. So the fact that I'm here today at practice should tell you I'm fine with things.

"You always try to do what's best for the team, and you have to be aware that the guys upstairs (team management) want to get something back for what they pay for. They don't want to put out all this money and get nothing in return. You also have to be aware that as a player, you've got to prove yourself every year.

"But at the same time, this is a business so you have to do what's right for you, personally. You have to take care of yourself."

Vickers admitted that the RFAs have talked among themselves this offseason, but denied there was an agreement to stay away en masse when the OTAs started.

"I know it may have looked like that, but it wasn't the case," he said. "We never got into each other's situations. We just wanted to make sure that everybody was working out real hard and staying in shape."

And that that was it. He walked away moments later, having said much, but really not said anything, allowing both himself and the Browns to come away looking good.

That's what pros do.

Vickers played extremely well last season as a lead blocker for the running game. He should have gone to the Pro Bowl, but when your team starts 1-11 and the offense is on track at that point to set franchise and NFL records for ineptitude, it's next-to-impossible to get voted in unless your name is Joe Thomas and you were selected the two previous years.

Vickers vows to use the snub as an incentive this year.

It sounds like he's also vowed to be a team leader on and off the field, and for him and the Browns, that's the best thing of all.

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