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News » Browns' Edwards has caught on to what it takes

Browns' Edwards has caught on to what it takes

Browns' Edwards has caught on to what it takes
BEREA, Ohio - Quinn Clarke was wearing a maize University of Michigan cap and the No. 17 Wolverines jersey of his hero.

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But the grinning 8-year-old boy wanted Braylon Edwards to autograph something else.

"You really want me to sign your head?" a startled Edwards asked during a private meet-and-greet with Quinn's family Thursday afternoon inside the Cleveland Browns' fieldhouse.

Quinn reaffirmed the request, removing his hat to reveal a skull left bald from the ravages of chemotherapy. Edwards graciously obliged, inking his name atop Quinn's noggin.

The bonding between the two doesn't end there. While the commitment and sacrifices required for NFL stardom can't compare to the physical and emotional strength needed to battle a life-threatening ailment, Quinn and Edwards do share a common trait: perseverance.

Originally diagnosed with cancer at the age of 2, Quinn has beaten the disease before and received encouragement from Edwards toward doing so again following a recent recurrence. As for Edwards, the wide receiver's challenge was overcoming some of the obstacles that others atop his draft class couldn't.

After a breakthrough campaign last season, Edwards is the only top 10 selection from 2005 to have reached the Pro Bowl. Four of those picks — running back Cedric Benson (Chicago, No. 4), cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones (Tennessee, No. 6), and wide receivers Troy Williamson (Minnesota, No. 7) and Mike Williams (Detroit, No. 10) — are no longer on the team that drafted them. Four others — running backs Ronnie Brown (Miami, No. 2) and Cadillac Williams (Tampa Bay, No. 5) and defensive backs Antrel Rolle (Arizona, No. 8) and Carlos Rogers (Washington, No. 9) — have suffered serious knee injuries.

And the biggest bust of all was the player chosen first: San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith, who is fighting for a starting job this season against NFL Europa alumni Shaun Hill and J.T. O'Sullivan.

"Alex shouldn't have been the No. 1 overall pick," Edwards said when asked to reflect upon his draft class. "That was a situation where (the 49ers) were desperate for a quarterback."

Edwards offered more candid thoughts on why the other picks flopped. Edwards said Williamson "never was proven (in college). He was a guy who ran extremely fast at the (NFL Scouting) Combine, so that put him on the radar." Edwards also pinpointed Mike Williams' weight problems as the reason he is currently out of football.

"At this level, you can't play at 250 pounds at receiver," Edwards said. "It's not going to happen."

For two seasons, the Browns wondered what would happen with Edwards. He too suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament as a rookie and generated more headlines for his immaturity than on-field exploits.

Edwards defied head coach Romeo Crennel in 2006 by attending a Michigan-Ohio State football game in Columbus, causing him to arrive late for yet another team meeting on the eve of a Cleveland-Pittsburgh match-up. Edwards publicly chastised Browns coaches and teammates for his modest productivity even though he was dropping too many passes. Cleveland's 10-22 record in 2005 and 2006 after he experienced so much team success at Michigan further compounded the problem.

Browns general manager Phil Savage praises Crennel for working closely with Edwards to improve his shortcomings without trying "to really crush his spirit like some coaches would have."

"We just sat down and had talks about different things — how to act, what's important, priorities," Crennel said. "To his credit, he listened. He understood that I do know a little bit about what I'm talking about.

"A rookie, when they come in, they don't know as much as they think they know. He understands now if he concentrates on football and does the good things there, other things will happen for him."

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Crennel's advice started paying dividends in 2007. Surrounded by much better offensive talent — which he volunteers as the biggest reason for his own improvement — Edwards stopped yapping and started producing. He registered 80 receptions for 1,289 yards on a Browns team that went 10-6. Edwards also had 16 touchdown catches, finishing behind only New England's Randy Moss in that statistical category.

Browns wide receiver Donte' Stallworth, who played with the Patriots last season, said Edwards and Moss share some of the same traits.

"He's got a big body and he's fast," Stallworth said of the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Edwards. "You get a lot of guys who are tall but really don't know how to use their bodies. He definitely does. He puts himself in position between the ball and (defensive backs). He's able to out-jump a lot of guys."

Stallworth invokes Moss' name to motivate Edwards during practice.

"If he drops a ball or anything, I always mess with him and tell him, 'Randy wouldn't do that,'" said a laughing Stallworth, a close friend of Edwards since 2005. "But Braylon usually doesn't make too many mistakes. Just as long as he continues working hard, he's going to be one of the great players for a long time."

Edwards' confidence in his NFL future — "The groundwork for the cake is laid," he said. "Now, I just have to put the icing on it." — can come across as arrogant. But Edwards' actions off the field belie that persona.

Besides his interaction with children like Quinn Clarke, Edwards made a $1 million donation in 2007 toward helping 100 Cleveland-area eighth-graders receive a college education. Edwards, 25, also has increased his public profile this offseason through numerous media appearances and is emerging as a team leader.

"It feels good," he said. "It's something I always imagined myself doing and a role I've always wanted. I just have to uphold my end of the bargain and do what I'm supposed to do on and off the field. Just continue to be a positive reflection of the Browns as opposed to a negative one."


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 2, 2008

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Brady Quinn Name: Brady Quinn
Position: QB
Age: 23
Experience: 2 years
College: Notre Dame
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