Reporting Daryl Ruiter
BEREA (92.3 The Fan) - The Cleveland Browns have high expectations for receiver Greg Little.
Little has the same for himself and he is putting in the work this offseason to meet, if not exceed them.
When last season ended, Browns coach Pat Shurmur sat down with Little and told him that he had to prepare himself better this offseason.
“He wanted me to change my body type and lose some weight,” Little said. “He wanted me to take the offseason time very seriously to conduct myself as a professional and to get my body to where I could withstand a lot more plays and a lot more work.”
He admitted that last year after being drafted by the Browns in the second round he undervalued the offseason. Not being around coaches and trainers because of the lockout also had something to do with it.
He made sure to heed Shurmur’s advice this offseason.
“Once you think about it, it does have a direct reflect on your performance on and off the field,” Little said. “If you are not as heavy or as light as you need to be, you’re not going to be as swift on the field as you need to be as well.”
Little has lost 11 pounds this offseason from working out and modifying his diet. On the field, he looks leaner but stronger.
Shurmur has noticed.
“I’ve seen him look a lot quicker, a lot more sudden and I think to this point he has caught the ball at a much more consistent rate and he just looks like a different guy to me,” Shurmur said. “To his credit, he has done a really nice job of getting his body into the right kind of shape he needs to be in to be a receiver in this league.”
Little’s work though just hasn’t been limited to the weight room or treadmill. He’s also spent extra time on the field to improve his route running and most importantly – catching the football.
“People talk about being a better free throw shooter. What do you do? You shoot free throws,” Little said. “I’ve been running routes and getting catches all of the time. Anytime whether I was starting a workout or ending a workout I made sure to run routes and get catches.
“That’s where I really hope to see my game take off.”
Little played in all 16 games as a rookie – started 12 of them – and finished the year with a team leading 61 catches for 709 yards and two touchdowns – including a 76 yard touchdown catch in week 15 at Arizona.
That was the good news.
The bad – he was also among the league leaders in dropped passes with 12.
That is the number he remembers most from his rookie season when asked how well year one in the NFL went for him from his point of view.
“I am always going to be my biggest critic,” Little said. “When I look at things hindsight, maybe not. When you say that you have arrived, that’s when you fall off as well.”
Little wasn’t the lone receiver to catch a bad case of the dropsies in 2011. The Browns entire receiving corps lead the league with 35 dropped passes, according to Stats LLC.
As for his goals in 2012, Little won’t quantify them statistically.
“Just to get better,” Little said. “Just to get better in every aspect as a player and every aspect as a team as well. Just try to win as many games as we can. That’s always going to be the ultimate goal.”
Who will be throwing the football to him this coming season has yet to be determined.
Shurmur and the Browns maintain that Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden are competing for the job but Little has learned that it doesn’t matter who is throwing him the football if he doesn’t catch it.
“It really doesn’t,” Little said. “I’ve had a year with Colt and Brandon is new and coming in and playing well. Both of those guys are really pushing each other to be the best and that’s what you love. We have wide receiver competition. We have DB competition. We have competition all over the field and that’s really going to push our team to be better as well.”
Weeden has shown that he clearly has the stronger arm but Little hasn’t noticed – because he’s too focused on himself.
“I really can’t even notice (a difference) because I’m so focused on the ball coming to me,” Little said. “I’m not worried about where it’s placed or how fast it’s getting there.
“It’s just catch the ball.”
As long as Little does that this season, the Browns offense will be much improved, which is why the front office has resisted the temptation to sign receivers in free agency.
They are counting on him.