BEREA, Ohio – Browns notebook from Aug. 1
One moment, LeBron James got coronated on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The next, the Cavs got swept.
“Why Sizemore Matters” was the tagline on a spring S.I. cover story about a Tribesman named Grady. Lately, his bat has been irrelevant amid an Indians skid.
How will the “Sports Illustrated jinx” bite Cleveland’s other big team now that Browns running back Jamal Lewis is running a gauntlet drill on the current cover?
“I don’t believe in jinxes,” Lewis said.
Lewis has come back from two ACL surgeries, one wrecking a season at Tennessee, another a season with the Ravens. He did jail time for a youthful transgression. He limped through 2006 on an aching ankle.
The way he sees it, “I’ve already had the jinx.”
In 2003, Lewis was a Browns jinx, rushing for 500 yards in two games against Cleveland. From 2003-06, the team’s record is 19-45.
Lewis was hired as an anti-jinx. With 7,801 rushing yards in six NFL seasons, maybe he has the formula.
The question is whether his last three seasons, covering 3,044 yards, signal a clear decline. He rushed for 4,757 yards in his first three seasons.
He hopes offseason surgery to correct his ankle woes can make the Ravens sorry they turned to Willis McGahee.
“A hungry Jamal is a good Jamal,” Phil Savage said. “He’s got something to prove.
Savage worked for the Ravens when they picked Lewis fifth in the 2000 draft.
As Browns general manager, Savage chased Lewis hard in 2007 free agency.
Lewis signed March 7, five days after the Browns locked up free-agent guard Eric Steinbach. The deal got done partly because Savage said the Browns weren’t through adding blockers. Lewis may have been among the first to know Savage intended to spend a No. 3 overall pick on left tackle Joe Thomas.
Baltimore’s offensive scheme and eroding line wore on him. He loves the new scheme and the blocking.
“I haven’t seen a line like this in a long time,” he said. “They look magnificent.”
Lewis turns 28 on Aug. 26. Erosion is a concern. Ankle problems contributed to a poor per-carry average -- 3.49 yards -- over the past two seasons. He has made 1,822 NFL carries, 88 more than 33-year-old Priest Holmes, the man he replaced in Baltimore.
“I learned to train from older guys, Rod Woodson and Shannon Sharpe,” Lewis said. “I know what it takes to keep your body in shape.”
What would it take to get Lewis back to his 2003 season? He rushed for 500 yards in two games against the Browns that year, but he hurt everybody else, too.
He piled up 1,566 yards in his other 14 games. To put that in perspective, the best Browns’ rushing year since 1978, when the NFL went a 16-game schedule, was 1,294 yards by Mike Pruitt in 1979.
“I’m not going to say I’m as good as I was then,” Lewis said. “But I am smarter. I’m more patient. I’m much wiser.”
“It feels good,” Lewis said. “I’m making some cuts I haven’t made in awhile.”
In the cover shot, Lewis is running straight at a Sports Illustrated camera.
The Browns, obviously, hope he’s running over and not into “the jinx.”
With Brady Quinn doing a fade route on the depth chart, holding out a sixth day, Derek Anderson outplayed Charlie Frye in Wednesday morning’s practice.
Anderson had a few glitches. He tends to do well when he airs it out with his big arm. When he fired a long sideline strike to Travis Wilson, a fan yelled, “Who needs Quinn?”
He seems to struggle with touch passes. A short fade route turned into an underthrown interception.
On a short throw that got tipped before it reached tight end Steve Heiden, coordinator Rob Chudzinski yelled, “Take him outside, D.A.,” meaning Anderson threw to the wrong shoulder.
Frye had a shaky session, probably his worst of camp. Two of his better passes in a session-closing 11 on 11 were tipped away by safety Brodney Pool. In a 7-on-7, he was off the mark with three straight throws.
There were hints of optimism in talks with Quinn. Romeo Crennel says he will start at the bottom of the depth chart. The preseason opener against the Chiefs is nine days away. Even if Quinn is in uniform soon, look for Crennel to play Ken Dorsey over Quinn in the fourth quarter, after Frye and Anderson get long stints.
Live From Berea
Some notable glimpses from training camp Wednesday:
- Add Alfredo Roberts to the list of coaches who have turned up the volume coming from assistant coaches. After tight end Darnell Dinkins failed to come up with a sideline catch, Roberts barked, “Attack the football! You’re playing soft!”
- The way 30-year-old Lennie Friedman is being used on special teams leads one to guess he’ll make the team as a backup guard and center.
- Braylon Edwards likes to show off his ability to make one-handed catches. He’s good at it, but not as good as Kevin Johnson used to be.
- Departed safety Brian Russell was one of those straight-A student types good at calling out offensive formations before the snap. Crennel said this year’s starting safeties, Sean Jones and Russell’s replacement, Brodney Pool, will share the communications load. “They’re both doing very well,” Crennel said.
- Willie McGinest turns 36 in December. Crennel doubts the fuel gauge is empty. “He played really well against the run last year,” Crennel said. “It’s very hard to run the ball against Willie.”
Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or email@example.com.