Reporting Daryl Ruiter
BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – For the second time in 3 years, the Cleveland Browns are turning to Chris Ogbonnaya to fill a hole in the backfield.
With Dion Lewis and Montario Hardesty on injured reserve and done for the year, Ogbonnaya’s role will expand – at least early in the season.
“My biggest thing is to try and get on the field in some sort of way,” Ogbonnaya said. “This staff has allowed me that opportunity so I am going to do the best job that I can to continue and have success at it.”
The ability to block, run and catch the ball out of the backfield is what makes Ogbonnaya so valuable to offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
“Ogbonnaya’s going to have to take some of the pressure off Trent,” Turner said. “And I think Trent has worked hard with his conditioning. That’s the most important thing. He didn’t get a lot of reps in the preseason but I do believe he’s ready to go. We just have to get those other guys ready to play.”
Ogbonnaya was tabbed as the team’s fullback early in training camp but he will now also be the No. 2 runner behind Trent Richardson.
“Versatility overall, being able to do a bunch of little things and trying to do them well is important,” Ogbonnaya said. “I am a work in progress, I would say continuing to do those things to get better as overall player.”
The Browns added a pair of young running backs – Bobby Rainey and undrafted rookie Dennis Johnson over the weekend but they both are raw and need to get caught up to speed.
“In our room those guys they have to continue to do a good job and understand how hard we work,” Ogbonnaya said. “I think Trent and I hold our room to a particular standard along with Coach Settle and so we have to live up to that standard everyday with that mindset that we have to go hard and work hard.”
Gettting picked up by the Browns in 2001 kick started Ogbonnaya’s NFL career after spending the better part of the first 3 years of it on practice squads in St. Louis and then Houston.
Midway through the 2011 season the Browns found themselves shorthanded in the backfield.
Jackson, who was cut last weekend, was put on injured reserve in training camp after signing as a free agent. Then there was the Peyton Hillis saga.
Hillis sat out week 3 due to strep throat and a few weeks later sustained a hamstring injury that essentially derailed the season for the 2011 Madden NFL cover boy.
That’s when the Browns found Ogbonnaya on the Texans practice squad on Oct 18, 2011.
A former 7th round pick (211 overall) by the Rams in 2009, he spent 11 weeks of his rookie year on the Rams’ practice squad before being elevated.
He played in 2 games as a rookie, was inactive for 4 others, and ran for a team-high 45 yards on 9 carries and added a 19-yard reception in his NFL debut at Arizona on Dec. 27, 2009.
After being unable to make the Rams in 2010, the Texans picked Ogbonnaya up and stored him on their practice squad.
Ogbonnaya started the 2011 season on the practice squad before Houston activated him for 2 games before he was waived and brought back to the practice squad.
Then Cleveland called.
“It does not matter how you got here, it matters that you are here,” Ogbonnaya said. “What are you going to do to stay here, to keep your job and help your team?”
After arriving from Houston, he played in 11 games and started 4 for the Browns with Hillis and Hardesty both hurt.
He averaged 4.6 yards per carry, scored a touchdown and caught 23 passes including a breakout game against Jacksonville that saw him rush for 115 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
Ogbonnaya’s role was reduced in 2012, although he played in 15 games with 1 start. He was limited to just 8 carries for 30 yards but did catch 24 passes for 187 yards.
He’s hoping for a bigger year and he’ll get the opportunity starting Sunday against Miami.
“I am different, every year you have to reinvent yourself and every year you have to change what you have done in the past,” Ogbonnaya said. “Other teams and other players are so good in this league that they are able to catch on to your tendencies.
“This new staff has done a nice job of teaching me a lot of new things that I can apply to my game whether it is special teams, fullback or running back, to become a better player.”
And so the Browns are counting on an improved Ogbonnaya to help carry the load – again.
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