Finding a center no snap for Browns
CLEVELAND -- Help Wanted: NFL franchise seeks experienced, motivated self starter. Must have excellent hands and ability to snap football between legs. Heavy lifting/blocking required. Drug screening conducted. Great benefits package. Apply in person to general manager Phil Savage.
No, they haven't reached the point of taking out a newspaper classified ad just yet, but the Cleveland Browns are desperate for a center.
Ross Tucker thinks they've found one.
"I'm the best man for the job here, and really, the best man for the job anywhere," he said.
Tucker, acquired last week in a trade from New England, will try to ease the Browns' concerns over their most troublesome position when they host the Detroit Lions in an exhibition game on Friday night.
Since training camp opened last month, the Browns have lost three centers: one (two-time Pro Bowler LeCharles Bentley) got hurt, one (backup Bob Hallen) retired amid controversy, and the other (Alonzo Ephraim) has been suspended for four games by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Unless the Browns make another trade or Tucker falls on his face, the Princeton graduate who made seven starts for Dallas in 2002 and 17 for Buffalo in 2003 and 2004, will be the one snapping the ball and helping protect quarterback Charlie Frye this season.
"I feel 100 percent ready," he said. "I'm looking at it as a great opportunity for me to get my career back on track."
Tucker isn't nervous about his audition against the Lions.
"I'm extremely confident. This isn't my first rodeo," he said. "I've started 24 games and I don't know how many preseason games. So this is a good opportunity for me."
The Browns (0-1) played poorly in a 20-7 loss in their exhibition opener last week at Philadelphia. Coach Romeo Crennel wasn't pleased with his team's performance and wants to see improvement across the board.
What exactly does he want to accomplish?
"To get more playing time for some of the starters, perhaps into the second quarter," Crennel said. "To show some improvement in our timing and execution that we didn't show in the first game. To be better in the running game on both sides of the ball, to be better on third down on both sides of the ball and to score points."
Frye went 4-of-7 for 23 yards last week before taking a seat. The second-year QB, who has shown poise and a stronger arm during camp, may play most of the first half as the Browns are expected to open more of their playbook.
The Browns will be missing several injured starters, including cornerbacks Gary Baxter and Daylon McCutcheon and right tackle Ryan Tucker. Linebacker Willie McGinest, who missed last week's game as a precaution after recent surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, is questionable.
Detroit coach Rod Marinelli plans to play quarterback Jon Kitna and his starters "25 to 30-plus plays, depending on the game situation." The Lions beat Denver 20-13 in their exhibition opener and Marinelli has a simple outline for his team to follow in Game No. 2.
"Win each snap," he said. "That's our goal; to come out and every man that goes out there continues to play and we improve our system and we improve our players. They understand they're getting evaluated. That's the goal every snap."
The Lions will be without wide receiver Charles Rogers, who missed three days of practice this week with a sore knee. Rogers, the No. 2 overall pick in 2003, has been plagued by injuries since joining the league. He also was suspended last season for a violation in the league's substance-abuse program.
Rogers, battling for a roster spot with rookie Shaun Bodiford and Glenn Martinez, understands that his playing career could soon take him elsewhere.
"I hope that the organization still has faith in me," he said after practice this week. "I'm coming out here every day working hard. But if I'm not a Lion, I know that I can catch on somewhere else."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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