INDIANAPOLIS (92.3 The Fan) – There has been a common theme concerning the Cleveland Browns – the state of the franchise is held in much higher esteem around the league than in Cleveland.
Teams see the Browns, who have been going through yet another offseason of changes, as a team on the rise and not one in complete disarray once again following a change in ownership and another house cleaning in the front office and the coaching staff.
That includes their in-state rivals – the Bengals.
“They are inheriting a much better football team,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “They’ve done a nice job over the last couple of years of the addition of guys through the draft and watching them grow. Rob (Chudzinski) has been a productive guy as a coordinator. His coordinators are experienced. Mike Lombardi has had great experience in the NFL, Joe Banner.
“They have put together a group of people that have been successful and you come together and bring some ideas together.”
Lewis would know. His Bengals lost to the Browns in October, 34-24 after winning 7 of the previous 8 meetings between the 2 teams.
“They are a much better football team than what their record showed,” Lewis said. “It was a team that was improving. In my mind they were going in the right direction. We have a tough division
and have to play great football.”
– Kent State tackle Brian Winters is hoping to shine at the combine. Winters met with the Browns, who are no strangers to employing former Golden Flashes, twice on Friday.
Josh Cribbs, Usama Young and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen are all former Kent Staters who played for the Browns this past season.
“It’s an awesome to come from the school I went to,” Winters said. “Me and Ish are real good buddies. I played with Ish, and he’s a great person. To see them succeed, that’s something that I want to do. The future is great because it doesn’t really matter where you are. As long as you show yourself, you can be wherever you want.”
Winters has a lot to prove – especially from a versatility standpoint. He moved from his comfort zone at tackle over to guard last month at the Senior Bowl.
“You know it was a little bit of a transition going into the Senior Bowl,” Winters said. “It was a little difficult at first, but as days went on, I got progressively better. I’m fine with whatever they want me to play. That’s the good thing about me is I’m versatile. So I’m excited to have the opportunity.”
– Cincinnati tight end and Cleveland Heights native Travis Kelce seems to have resurrected his football career which was once derailed by a season long suspension in 2010.
“You live and you learn,” Kelce said. “No regret at all. Just to overcome the difficulties not being able to play an entire season like I did in 2010. Just being able to learn from my mistakes and be able to grow from that.
“I got kicked off the team when Butch Jones came in. It was just a matter that needed to be dealt with, that I ended up learning from. Coach Butch Jones and my tight ends coach Dave Johnson
helped me mature from that incident.”
Kelce comes into the draft ranked as one of the top tight ends in a class full of them.
He played through the pain of an abdominal tear after sustaining the injury 3 weeks into the 2012 campaign which required surgery after the season. He’s not sure if he’ll be 100 percent in time for his pro day on March 13.
“I’ve played through a lot of injuries,” Kelce said. “Unfortunately, I’ve been hit with a shoulder injury twice. I played through that in the 2011 season. Haven’t had a problem with that since. And being able to play through this, yeah, I think teams want to have a guy on their roster that’s going to keep playing knowing that the team needs them on the field.”
Even though he said Friday he had yet to talk to the Browns, he did take a moment to ponder what it would mean to play for his hometown team.
“I love Cleveland to death,” Kelce said. “It’s my home city. Obviously being from Cleveland you’ve got to have some type of heart for the Browns. Just to play in the NFL period would be a dream for me. To be part of any team, an NFL organization would be big for me. Not just the Browns.”
– Ohio State fullback Zach Boren has caught the eye of both the Browns and Bengals and he wouldn’t mind moving up I-71.
“They’re a great organization,” Boren said of the Browns. “I grew up a Cleveland Indians fan my whole life and have a bunch of family there. I know they just drafted a fullback there from Stanford a couple years ago. They have Trent Richardson. Who wouldn’t want to block for him?”
Boren expects to visit with the Browns before leaving Indianapolis.
This past season he switched from fullback to linebacker where he amassed 50 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery over the final 6 games of the season.
His willingness to make the switch is being received well by coaches this week.
“I think more shocked than impressed,” Boren said of their reaction to the move last season. “There were a couple coaches who brought up being a team player. That’s all I wanted to do. I think it all comes back to I was doing whatever I could at the time to help out the team. Whatever NFL teams and coaches think, that’s their opinion. I’ll do whatever it takes, whether it’s as a free agent or being drafted.”
– The NFL announced the tentative draft order for all 7 rounds not including compensatory picks which will be awarded at the bottom of rounds 3-7 in late March.
The Browns’ top 2 picks are No.’s 6 (round 1) and 68 (round 3) overall. They have 6 picks total including the 7th pick in round 4, 6th in the 5th, 5th (from Philly) and 7th in the 6th round. The overall number of those selections will be determined after the compensatory picks are handed out by the league.