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Wide-eyed Browns rookies arrive in Berea with a lot to prove

Browns kicker Cade York
Matt Starkey
Cleveland Browns
Browns kicker Cade York draws a huge crowd during the team's Rookie Minicamp Saturday.

The nine players recently drafted by the Browns got their first NFL experience this past week: meeting with the media at the team’s headquarters in Berea. Commentator Terry Pluto says he always enjoys talking with the players shortly after they step into the locker room for the first time.

"Because this is when these young men get their first look at the NFL. Each of these guys had sort of different views of things," Pluto said.

Staring at the locker
Pluto heard from the player the Browns drafted the highest, Mississippi State cornerback Martin Emerson. He was selected in the third round.

"I asked him, 'Well, what made you feel that you're sort of in the NFL?' He said, 'My locker with my name. I just kept looking at my locker.' He said, 'I'm in there with a bunch of these stars.' I just thought it was very cool. And he wasn't trying to act like, 'Oh, I've been there before,'" Pluto said.

Eyeing a new position
Another rookie who stood out to Pluto was running back Jerome Ford out of Cincinnati, drafted in the fifth round. Ford started out at Alabama, thinking he would be a star on that team. He ended up being a backup and transferred to Cincinnati after two years. Now, Ford is eyeing a spot on special teams with the Browns.

"On special teams, you run down and tackle guys or you return kicks. And I said, 'Well, which would you rather do?' [Ford] said, 'I would rather run down the field and smack guys in coverage.' And he said, 'I got to find a role.' And I'm thinking, this is how Josh Cribbs talked. Remember, he was a star quarterback at Kent State, but he found a way to make a long term career in the NFL as a special teams guy, both returning kicks and covering and then later became a receiver," Pluto said.

"I asked him, 'Well, what made you feel that you're sort of in the NFL?' He said, 'My locker with my name. I just kept looking at my locker.'"
Terry Pluto

Projecting confidence
Then there's Mike Woods, a wide receiver from Oklahoma, picked in the sixth round.

"I said, 'What kind of receiver are you?' He said, 'Well, you know, I can do it all. I can do the short catches. I can do medium. I can run long. And I was a sixth round pick. And Donovan Peoples-Jones was a sixth round pick. And, you know, he made it.' He's trying to talk himself into, 'I could do this,' because the odds are really against him, drafted that low," Pluto said.

The star rookie
The Browns drafted a kicker, Cade York from LSU. It's very rare to draft a kicker, especially as high as he went in the fourth round.

"They've gone through 10 kickers in nine years since Phil Dawson left. I think York was a little surprised. He had the biggest crowd around him of media people. He's going to be in for an experience," Pluto said.

Looking up to Myles Garrett
Another player who had a memorable rookie meet-and-greet was Perrion Winfrey, a defensive tackle from Oklahoma, taken in the fourth round.

"His moment was seeing Myles Garrett, the Browns star defensive end. [Winfrey] said, 'When he goes to the bathroom, I'm going to the bathroom. When he gets something to eat, I'm going to get something to eat!' It was so funny. But I loved the honesty of — here is one of the top defensive players in the NFL and I'm going to follow him around," Pluto said.

Pluto says it's unknown whether any of these rookies will make a big impact on the team. But anything is possible.

"You know, there are enough stories like Donovan Peoples-Jones in the sixth round going into his third year with the Browns. Rashard Higgins not only was a fifth round pick by the Browns in 2016, he was the fourth receiver in that draft that the Browns took. So, football's got so many jobs, it's a little different than the NBA or even baseball, where you send guys to the minors and see how it works out. You're coming in here, and you've got to always find a way to get on the practice squad to hang around," Pluto said.