Make or Break Time

Make or Break Time

Lee Suggs faces a make or break year with the Cleveland Browns in 2006. A player who has shown very bright promise during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, Suggs has had a career derailed by injuries and the Browns may be losing patience...

This is going to be a make or break season with the Browns for Lee Suggs, one of less than 20 players remaining from the team Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage inherited 18 months ago.

No one is debating whether Suggs has the skill to make it and even start in the NFL. He rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the last three games in 2004. He averaged four yards a carry on 263 carries in his first three seasons, which isn't bad at all considering he was behind an offensive line Savage and Crennel have found necessary to revamp by 80 percent.

On the other hand Suggs has missed 23 of 48 games with various injuries. If it were a knee injury that kept him out one full season, management could look upon that as a hazard of the job. Suggs has had injuries to a toe, an ankle, a neck and his shoulder over three years. When he has been hurt he has proven to be a slow healer.

"This is almost like Lee's first year with us because of injuries and different things that happened last year," Savage, in his second year as general manager, said recently. "Lee Suggs is a talent. We don't want to short-change talent with the Browns. If he can play, then we want him as part of our team, but he has to prove he can do it for more than one game.

"I've gotten emails from people saying not to give up on Lee Suggs. We haven't done that. But what you have to realize is we don't play a one-game season. We play 16 games. Sometimes dependability and durability override pure ability. That's what he has to show us."

For the first time since their return in 1999, the Browns have depth at running back. With one spot going to starter Reuben Droughns -- assuming Droughns escapes league punishment in his domestic violence case -- and another going to rookie Jerome Harrison, either Suggs or William Green is in danger of being cut.

As unproductive as he has been, Green has at least stayed healthy for four years, excluding the shoulder injury that was the start of his troubles in 2003. The Browns view Green more as a first- and second-down player and Suggs as a change of pace back.

Savage and Crennel also like Jason Wright, the running back from Northwestern who last season scored the team's first rushing touchdown of 2005 eight games into the season.

SAFETY BATTLE COMING UP: The Browns have 18 defensive backs in their minicamp, an indication the secondary is unsettled after the starters. Safety is a particular area of concentration, where Brian Russell is the only sure starter.

Sean Jones, after a disappointing 2005, had a strong offseason, according to general manager Phil Savage. Since Butch Davis, not Savage, drafted Jones, Savage's praise has to be genuine. The Browns thought enough of Jones to trade starter Chris Crocker in the offseason.

Significantly, Jones had major knee surgery in June 2004. He was healthy enough to play last season, but rust from going a year without football might have contributed to his poor play last season. It might be an indication Braylon Edwards won't be 100 percent until 2007. Edwards had major knee surgery in January. The target date for his return is Oct. 1.

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