Browns would give Cavs' James a shot

Updated: November 20, 2009, 1:38 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

BEREA, Ohio -- If LeBron James truly believes he can help the Cleveland Browns, coach Eric Mangini has an orange helmet waiting for him.

"I think he should come on down," Mangini said, smiling. "I know he's pretty busy right now, but if he wants to give it a shot, the guy is gifted. He's competitive and tough. I'm sure whatever he applied himself to, he'd probably be good in baseball or soccer or swimming."

The NBA superstar, who was an all-state wide receiver in high school, said Tuesday night that if he put the time and commitment into it, he could be a good football player.

"If I put all my time and commitment into it, if I dedicated myself to the game of football, I could be really good," he said Tuesday night, "no matter what team I was on."

Mangini agreed, calling James "a freak athletically," and said the 6-foot-8, 250-pounder could be dangerous at tight end, wide receiver or even outside linebacker.

When the gist of Mangini's comments was relayed to James, he smiled -- but didn't take the bait.

"I had what I had to say, and that was it," James said before his Cavaliers played at the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

Quarterback Brady Quinn also heard about James' football interest. He would love to have a target like James to throw to in the red zone.

"That'd be great," Quinn said. "Tell him to suit up and let us know, we'll get him working. Obviously he's an incredibly talented athlete. If he wants to try to play a little bit now, we'd be more than willing to pick him up."

Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers isn't convinced James, as great as he is, could step into the NFL and be able to handle the pounding.

"I heard that comment," Rogers said. "I have mixed emotions about that. A great athlete? Yes. A football player? No."

Rogers then looked into TV cameras.

"Yeah LeBron, I said it," he said. "It's a punishing game. I just don't think you can step off the basketball court after not going through this year in and year out and just play football. From that standpoint, I just don't think it's possible. You have to weather and condition your body to take this punishment."

So what if James had a year to train? Could he do it then?

"Yeah, he might make a heckuva tight end," Rogers said. "I'd like to see him out there running down the seam."

James was an All-Ohio wide receiver at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School before quitting football after his junior year to focus on basketball. But he still follows the game closely and believes he could have been a hybrid tight end/receiver in the mold of San Diego's Antonio Gates or Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez.

Gates, who played basketball in college and not football, is listed at 6-4 and 260 pounds.

"They're not always lined up next to the tackle," James said. "Sometimes they go against strong safeties and linebackers. It's tough to match up with those guys because they're so athletic."

James filmed a commercial last year for an insurance company that depicted him in a No. 23 Browns jersey with "LeBron" stitched across the back.

He has no serious plans of returning to football, but said playing the two sports takes entirely different types of stamina.

"I'd be in football shape during football season, then I'd go to basketball and feel like I was out of shape," he said. "It's totally different. And another thing you have to get used to is getting hit again."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.