Gardner Gears Up
It wasn't as if there was a 'Help Wanted' sign hanging around the collective necks of the Browns organization, but that surely hasn't deterred linebacker Barry Gardner's ambition and excitement about joining the team this past week.
The four-year veteran from Northwestern signed a two-year contract with the Browns, a deal which is voidable after the first season. After losing the entire starting linebacker corps from the 2003 season, the Browns have been seeking depth and protection within the bounds of the team's tight salary cap.
Thus the entrance of Gardner.
An outstanding special teams player with aspirations of starting at linebacker, Gardner did not waste any time in signing a deal with the Browns following a lengthy visit with the club. His ability in special teams was a major factor in the Gardner signing, according to a source within the Browns organization.
"Gardner is a player that we believe can immediately come in and help this team," the source said. "He is a leader and very good on special teams, plus he is a good fit in our defensive scheme. He will have the opportunity to compete for a starting linebacking spot, and definitely provides us with youthful experience and intensity on the field that we were lacking at times last season."
As a reserve linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles, Gardner gained the reputation as being too slow to defend in coverage from the middle linebacker position. This reputed liability has not diminished his ambition to play pro football.
"I love playing the game and I feel that my best football is ahead of me," Gardner said. "When I came to visit with the Browns, they were extremely aware of my abilities and what they were looking for. They told me that I was a good fit for the defensive scheme the team will play this season and that my contributions on special teams are a necessity they were looking for."
"Nobody made me any promises. I am coming in to help this team in any way I can. If that is as a starting or backup linebacker, I am fine with that. I definitely do not have a problem playing special teams. I take pride in that aspect of the game."
Coming out of nowhere and quickly signing with the Browns, Gardner did not know what to expect when the Browns initially called. It did not take long for him to know where he wanted to play.
"Everything the Browns do is first-rate. They treated me great, explained what they wanted from me, and let me know they wanted to sign me. The Browns are an up-and-coming team that I want to be part of."
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