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Gay becomes highlight of Browns first scrimmage

The Associated Press

BEREA – Signed just last week, rookie running back Ben Gay put a little extra pressure on himself by wearing jersey number No.

Monday, July 30, 2001

BEREA – Signed just last week, rookie running back Ben Gay put a little extra pressure on himself by wearing jersey number No. 34 as he took the field Saturday midway through the Browns’ 45-minute intrasquad scrimmage.

Though he is still light years away from approaching the success of former Brown’s stars like Kevin Mack and Greg Pruitt, who wore the same jersey number, Gay was the star of the scrimmage when he had a 58-yard run and narrowly missed scoring a touchdown.

Gay’s timing couldn’t have been better.

Coach Butch Davis waived veteran running back Errict Rhett Saturday so that he could get a better look at his young players.

Rhett, who signed as a free agent from Baltimore before last season, was to be Cleveland’s feature back until he tore a ligament in his foot and missed 11 games last year.

Gay, working with a mixture of second- and third-teamers, took a hand-off on a draw, burst over the left guard, broke two tackles and then sped down the left sidelines. He was nudged out of bounds at the 2 by safety Michael Jameson.

”This was the first step toward making the team,” said Gay, who bounced around to two colleges and the CFL since his prep days. ”It was fun.”

It was a hopeful sight for a team that had a horrible ground game the last two seasons, with long runs being almost nonexistent.

”He showed good explosion on the play,” Davis said. ”He displayed some of the skills he had early in his career, when he was a home-run hitter.”

”Some people may been surprised with the speed he showed once he got into the secondary, when he ran away from people,” said Davis, who added Gay was the second-fastest prep player in Texas when he tried to recruit him to the University of Miami several seasons ago.

Gay’s run delighted a crowd of 2,900, the biggest to watch the Browns practice since their return to the NFL in 1999.

The Browns got some bad news Saturday. Wide receiver JaJuan Dawson will miss four to six weeks after breaking a knuckle on his left ring finger in the morning practice. And veteran tackle Tony Jones announced his retirement Saturday.