White pays tribute to ex-Brown Rhett

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 31, 2001

The Associated Press

BEREA – Errict Rhett did little on the field during his one season with the Cleveland Browns.

Tuesday, July 31, 2001

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BEREA – Errict Rhett did little on the field during his one season with the Cleveland Browns. Off the field, however, one former teammate said the running back was an All-Pro.

To honor the veteran released Saturday, backup running back Jamel White has switched his jersey number from No. 30 to Rhett’s No. 23.

”I did it to honor Errict,” White said between training camp practices Monday. ”Someone would get his 23 and not have any idea what Errict stood for, what kind of great guy he was here or how hard he works.

”They wouldn’t appreciate it. It would mean nothing to them. ”I’d rather take it. Someone else can have my No. 30.”

A seven-year veteran, Rhett was supposed to be Cleveland’s top back when he signed a three-year, $4.5 million dollar contract in February 2000. But he played in just five games last season before tearing a ligament in his foot and undergoing surgery.

Rhett was cut two days into camp as coach Butch Davis decided rookie James Jackson and second-year pro Travis Prentice were better suited for the Browns new offense.

White, a third-down back and special teams player, said younger players will suffer without Rhett’s tutelage.

”When I first came here, Errict called me aside and took me into the lunchroom,” said White, who was picked up by the Browns last preseason after being released by Indianapolis.

”He made sure no one was around and he said, ‘Look, Jamel, this is what you need to make it,”’ White said. ”Then he took me to his house that night. When he did that, I said, ‘Errict, you don’t have to do this. I mean, I’m competing for your job.’ But he wouldn’t listen.

”He taught me all the plays and made sure I knew them. The next day, everyone was amazed that I knew the offense so quickly. It was because of Errict.”

Rhett didn’t play in Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage and was cut shortly afterward.

Davis said Rhett can still play in the NFL, but is not the same player who rushed for 1,000 yards in the 1994 and ’95 seasons with Tampa Bay.

”I think maybe the years and some of the injuries have maybe taken a toll on some of his skills,” Davis said.