BEREA - At least some good news came out of the Browns first day of mini camp as Leigh Bodden was back on the field. With the injuries to Gary Baxter’s knees and the departure of Daylon McCutcheon, Bodden is counted on as being the Browns’ No. 1 cornerback.
Bodden was plagued most of last season with a high ankle sprain to his right ankle. He played off and on through the season, but opted for surgery after the season as it didn’t seem to be healing properly.
He started and played in nine games and finished with 35 tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble and 11 passes broken up.
He first injured the ankle against the Raiders in the second quarter and missed the next two games. After playing two games, he was shut down again for three more weeks. He then came back for three games before missing the final two regular season games.
“I’m feeling good,” Bodden said after Tuesday morning’s practice. “I’m progressing. It’s been a slow process, but we still have six weeks until training camp.”
Bodden said he wasn’t planning on surgery, but the medical staff felt it was the best thing to do.
“I had (the ankle) cleaned up, so hopefully, I won’t have any problems this year,” he said. “I still feel a little pain, but it will be o.k.
“Surgery wasn’t mentioned at the time, but I felt it wasn’t getting any better.”
Bodden is entering his fifth season with the Browns after signing as an undrafted free agent from Duquesne. He had a breakout season in 2005 as he started 11 games and had a career high 59 tackles with three interceptions and 20 passes broken up. The Browns signed him to a multi-year deal following the 2005 season.
The Browns are counting on him to regain his health and the form he displayed in 2005 when he shut down opponents’ top receivers, including the Bengals’ Chad Johnson.
“I welcome the pressure,” Bodden said. “I don’t buckle under the pressure.”
Bodden is optimistic about the Browns young secondary. Besides Bodden, rookie Eric Wright is being counted upon to step in and play. Daven Holly returns after starting 12 games for the Browns in 2006. The Browns also signed nine-year veteran Kenny Wright as an undrafted free agent in the off-season.
Romeo Crennel thinks the cornerback position will be stronger this season.
“(Cornerback) is another situation with competition going on,” Crennel said. “We gave some experienced guys like Kenny Wright and some other young guys learning.
“We’re encouraged by what we see.”
And so is Bodden.
“We have a lot of young guys and I think we’ll be alright,” he said. “Eric Wright looks excellent.
“Kenny Wright and DeMario Minter are looking good,” he added. “I think the secondary will be fine. We have a lot of young guys and hopefully, Gary Baxter will be back.”
Out and About: TE Kellen Winslow did not participate in the mini camp practice, but was running at half or three quarter speed on the sidelines. CB Gary Baxter did not practice but continues to do “controlled jogging” as Crennel referred to it. He did say that Baxter has told him his goal is to be ready for the first game against the Steelers. Crennel said they will evaluate him at the beginning of training camp.
Rookie free agent OL Scott Stephenson sprained his ankle coming down stairs in the facility and did not practice.
Crennel said training camp begins July 23 for rookies and for veterans on July 27.
Quinn Speaks: Rookie QB Brady Quinn said he feels he is adjusting to the Browns system, but it’s too early too tell how far he has come along.
“I’m digesting the system, but it’s tough to tell until we get into a game scenario,” he said. “My goal is not where I’m at now, but where I am headed. I feel like I’m getting used to the speed of the game and how quickly the windows open and close.”
Crennel said not much has changed with the quarterbacks.
“The competition is still going on and all the guys are competing and making progress,” he said. “We’ll continue to evaluate them.”
Crennel was asked about who’s ahead.
“The experienced guys have the edge and the rookie is a rookie.”