Throughout the Browns' training camp in Berea, Bernie's Insiders will focus on players' thoughts as they get ready for the 2005 National Football League season. Today, we talk with rookie quarterback Lang Campbell, punter Derrick Frost, tight end Steve Heiden, safety Brian Russell and rookie offensive tackle Jonathan Dunn.
Q – You're one of four quarterbacks in camp. What's been your mind-set so far with two of the other three having pro experience and the third a high draft pick of the club?
A – Making the roster any way I can, be it practice squad or trying to make the organization better. Because there are so many other quarterbacks, I get limited opportunities in practice. So I have to make the most of my opportunities when they arrive.
Q – And how would you assess what you've done so far?
A – There's always a lot of room for improvement. But I think I've made a lot of strides since May when we first got in here with the minicamps.
Q – It's said that the jump to the pros from college is tough. Sometimes it depends on the position you play. What about quarterbacks?
A – It definitely is tough. You have Heisman Trophy winners who have to sit a year. And if they play, they don't really their feet under them for a while. It's a much more mental game on the pro level. It's a major jump, but it is a lot of fun.
Q – What do you bring to the table that you believe will help you make this team?
A – Just patience, not expecting too much, not expecting to go out and get every rep, not being surprised by the lack of reps and being mentally capable of making the most of those limited reps.
Q – And so far?
A – I think I've done a
pretty good job, but only time will tell. We'll see in another month or so.
Q – How much was overpreparation last year a causal factor for a decline in your performance in the second half last season? Too much kicking?
A – That's part of it. I think for the most part, starting in January (of 2004) – and there's no one to blame for that (because) I'm trying to get ready to win a job as a young guy – I wanted to throw the best I had at them right away and I did. I just didn't sustain it and that's what I'm looking to do this year. Mentally, it's hard. One, as a young guy, you have no idea what playing 20 games is like and two, you have a hard time mentally saying, "I had a bad day today. I have to fix it right away." It's hard to just swallow that and say tomorrow, come out and be better. Focus more and punt less and do better. That takes years of experience. And it takes good mentoring from guys like Phil (Dawson) and Jerry (special teams coach Jerry Rosburg) to stay on my case.
Q – What did you not do in the past offseason that you did do the previous offseason?
A – I cut down on my reps a lot. Went out with more focus. It sounds odd if you haven't done this type of routine. But if you've played golf or anything like that, you have to put yourself in kind of automatic mode or a zone. And when you come to practice, it's like when you go to the driving range. You just sit here and hit balls all day long and just hit them right down the middle. And when you get to the course, you just can't do it. It's the same thing here. You come out here and kick balls in the offseason and you can just sit there and hammer them down the field. There are tons of guys out there like that. And then they can't play in a game. The thing is you've got to learn how to switch it on and switch it off, really dial it up high when you're ready to get your reps in instead of just wasting your leg on just ho-hum, kick-it-down-the-field reps.
Q – When the Browns signed Kyle Richardson, how did they approach you?
A – I talked to Jerry (Rosburg) about it. I haven't really talked to any of the front-office people. I knew for the most part what the situation was going to be before I got here. After they signed him, I knew it was going to be a kick-to-kick competition. Jerry told me to do my thing. At this point in time, I know it's not under my control. All I can control is I'm going to hit my best ball. And if they like it, I'll stay here. If they don't, someone else might. That's just all you can do.
Q – So perhaps you might be kicking to impress someone else.
A – Someone in my position
without a long-term contract . . . you never know what's going to happen.
There's good and bad to it. The one good thing is I can control my own destiny.
If I hit the ball well, it doesn't matter what return they put back there, as
long as you've good snaps and good coverage, the rest will take care of itself.
Q – And what kind of a day was it for you?
A – I had a (terrible) day today. Don't know why. Just didn't play well today.
Q – You always that tough on yourself?
A – I think I'm tougher on myself than anyone else can be. That's the way it's got to be.
Q – You're the No. 1 tight end in camp. You've got to be looking forward to this year.
A – I think I'm more excited about our team and what we can do. I think this is the best core group of guys I've been around since I've been in the league, so I'm excited about that.
Q – Your thoughts on the new offense.
A – The first thing I recognize when I look at other teams that run this offense is that it's very tight-end friendly. (Dallas Cowboys tight end) Jason Witten caught 80-some (87) balls last year. And there are some other guys who really produced in this offense. That's the first thing you notice.
Q – What goes through your mind when a guy like Kellen Winslow Jr. goes down? It affects you and your playing time.
A – I feel bad for him. As hard as he worked – he came in every day and worked out with me; he was my workout partner – as hard as he worked all season and for something unfortunate like to that to happen to a good person, it's disappointing. I can't wait till he's back on that field with me.
Q – How much have you connected with Trent Dilfer, trying to get on the same page?
A – The thing about Trent is
if I do my job and do the things I'm supposed to do on the field, he's going to
get me the ball. He's such a veteran. He knows where everyone's going to be on
the field at certain times. As long as I do my job and just worry about myself,
I'm going to get my catches. It won't be an issue.
Q – Coming here reunites you with a high school teammate.
A – I played with Daylon McCutcheon in high school (Bishop Amat in LaPuente, Calif.). He was my running back when I played quarterback. Small world, huh?
Q – So when you came here, was he the first person you called?
A – Yeah. In fact, they've set my locker up right next to him. He picked me up at the airport. He knows my family; I know his. I followed him when he was at SC (Southern California). It's comforting and it's fun to be able to play with him again.
Q – How's he doing?
A – He's doing well as far as I know. I don't the details of what going on. I just hope we have him back soon.
Q – The coach said it's going to be pretty much wide-open competition at safety. Does that put a lot of pressure or no pressure on you?
A – I don't consider that pressure. They don't give jobs away in the NFL. You have to earn what you get. Having started somewhere else, that gives me experience, but that doesn't dictate that I'm going to have a starting job here. I've got to come in and earn that. So I'm going to fight my way on the field and then when I get on the field, I'm going to use that experience to make some plays.
Q – Have you every played the 3-4 defense before?
A – No.
Q –How much of an effect does a new defense have on you and the trickle down back to the secondary?
A – On the free safety, coverages are coverages. Cover 3, cover 4, all those things. There are some different techniques and some nuances in our coverages that I've had to learn. Vocabulary and those things. But a lot of it carries over and so that experience definitely helps.
Q – Do you find you're still making mistakes back there, but correcting them as you go?
A – I try not to make too
many mistakes. I have a few starts and a few plays under my belt and I just try
and carry that experience over and not make any mental errors. That's really
what they're looking for out of the free safety – to get guys lined up and make
the right call
Q – What has camp been like through the eyes of Jonathan Dunn?
A – It's definitely a learning experience to say the least. You come to practice every day and learn something from the vets. You're constantly learning and try to get better at your position.
Q – What have you learned in the last 10 days that you hadn't thought about coming in here?
A – There's a lot more technique on this level. In college, you probably got away with things being a bigger guy. In the NFL, everyone is big, everyone is strong. And it really comes down to technique.
Q – Are you talking to the veterans or are they talking to you?
A – It goes both ways. The coach is always getting on me about my technique, about my hands, about my feet. I'm always asking the older guys to watch my footwork on a certain play. I'm trying to learn as much as I can.
Q – What about this offense suits you best from what you've seen thus far?
A – The running game. I come from Virginia Tech and it starts with the run. It seems like this team has that same mentality. The run has to be established first.
Q – What about your pass blocking.? I'm sure they've put you to the test.
A – It's funny. I think my pass blocking might be coming along a lot faster than my run blocking. It kind of threw me off.