BEREA—What a difference a year makes!
Hank Fraley has been a jack-of-all trades for the Browns this season. Last year, he was the captain and the anchor of the offensive line at center. With the first-round drafting of Alex Mack, the writing appeared to be on the wall for Fraley.
However, the veteran started three games at right guard when Floyd Womack was injured. Last week, he started in place of Robert Royal at tight end. He is listed as the backup center to Mack, but hasn’t started there.
“Every year I have the mindset that if I’m not playing center, I can play somewhere else,” Fraley said. “I always attempting to make the most of the opportunities that I’m given and help out.”
That attitude has helped the 32-year old Fraley survive for 10 years in the NFL after being an undrafted free agent from Robert Morris.
“I have always taken motivation from the fact that I was an undrafted free agent,” he said. “That’s what drives me.”
Many wondered if Fraley would make the team coming out of training camp. However, Rex Hadnot injured his knee and Fraley’s versatility proved to be invaluable. Eric Mangini said he didn’t think Fraley was in danger of not making the team.
“Rex went down fairly early in the process and I don’t think I was looking at (Fraley not making the team), at all,” Mangini said. “As we got to know Hank better, you see his versatility and be able to play three interior positions.”
This isn’t the first time Fraley has come to the Browns’ rescue. When he joined the Browns four years ago, center LeCharles Bentley had a career-ending injury and backup Bob Hallen retired. Several other candidates didn’t work out and Fraley joined the team a week prior to the season opener and started at center.
“Hank has been through a lot,” Derek Anderson said. “He has been a great team guy. He’s been that guy since he’s been there. He’s been doing everything he’s been asked to.”
Mangini said he appreciates Fraley the more he sees him.
“I really like Hank for a lot of reasons,” Mangini said. “I like the way he approaches everything. He’s helped Alex throughout the process. He’s an excellent communicator. With last week, without Robert or Steve (Heiden), he stepped in and has done well. “
Fraley takes everything in stride.
“My time in Cleveland has been fun,” he said. “My career has been great.”
Anderson said that the reason he hasn’t thrown the ball to Fraley at tight end is because Fraley can’t catch.
Fraley said that’s not true.
“I’m a gamer.”
Protect the Ball: Mangini said the Browns must not turn the ball over this week to the Bears.
“Thirty percent of their points come off of turnovers,” Mangini said. “Their ability to identify the football, but to get it out has been consistent since (Lovie Smith’s) been there.”
Stay Away from Cribbs: Mangini said that he doesn’t think the Packers were trying to kick the ball out of bounds in order to keep it away from KR Josh Cribbs.
“I don’t think they were trying to kick it out of bounds, but to overload one side and pin it to the side line,” he said. “To start at the 40 yard line is a good starting point.”
Hadnot in the Mix: Mangini said that OL Rex Hadnot is progressing each week and is getting more reps with the first team at right guard.
“We’re trying to get him to a place where he’s handling more and more reps,” he said. “He gets a little bit more each week. I thought he played better last week.”
Injury Update: Mangini said that TE Steve Heiden has a chance to play this week and there hasn’t been thought to placing him on injured reserve.
“I think he’s making progress and has a shot to play,” Mangini said.
Heiden was suited up and on the practice field.
Mangini said the same about K Phil Dawson, who has now missed five games with a calf injury. With the bye week following this week’s game, the players with lingering injuries could be held out.
Coye Biding Time: With the Browns struggles in the secondary, it would seem logical that rookie CB Coye Francies might see some action at cornerback. He was inactive last week.
Mangini said his case is similar to that of WR Brian Robiskie’s a few weeks ago.
“He needs to make his case on special teams and as any young defensive back, work to get his opportunity, and make the most of it.”
Mangini’s got his Back: Mangini has been very supportive of QB Derek Anderson, who has the lowest QB rating of starting NFL quarterbacks and he appreciates it.
“Obviously, I haven’t been good enough,” Anderson said. “I appreciate the support and I have to do better.”