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Miller voted to Pro Bowl

The Associated Press

BEREA – Jamir Miller and the Cleveland Browns achieved new firsts – together.

Thursday, January 03, 2002

BEREA – Jamir Miller and the Cleveland Browns achieved new firsts – together.

Miller, currently tied for the AFC lead with 13 sacks, on Wednesday was voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time in the linebacker’s eight-year career.

And he’s the first Cleveland player picked to make the trip to Hawaii since the Browns returned to the NFL as an expansion team in 1999.

”Finally, everyone around the league says the Cleveland Browns are for real,” Miller said. ”That makes it sweet.”

Miller, 28, has had a breakout year in Cleveland’s new defensive system which allows him to roam freely and gives him more opportunities to make big plays.

He has made a bunch.

”It’s wonderful. He deserves it,” safety Earl Little said of Miller’s selection to play in the Feb. 9 game at Honolulu. ”The guy went out there all year and played like an All-Star.”

The Browns (7-9) won just five games in their first two seasons back in the league. Punter Chris Gardocki was the only Cleveland player worthy of being a Pro Bowl selection and he never made it.

But first-year coach Butch Davis has put Cleveland and its players back on the NFL map.

”When I first started off here with an expansion team, everybody in the league thinks that everyone on this team is the worst player in the NFL,” Miller said. ”To finally have everyone say, ‘Hey, they do have some players on that team. They can play some football in Cleveland.’ That’s the best reward of all.”

Miller, who recently switched to defensive end after playing the first 12 games at linebacker, will be the first Browns player to start in the Pro Bowl since safety Eric Turner and nose tackle Michael Dean Perry in 1995.

Miller was selected as an outside linebacker on AFC’s roster along with Pittsburgh’s Jason Gildon and San Diego’s Junior Seau. One third of the voting was done by fans, one third by players and one third by coaches.

Although the starting lineups won’t be announced until Jan. 13, Miller said he has been told he’ll start.

Miller was seventh in the fan voting heading into the final week of balloting, so he made up the difference by being picked by his peers and other coaches.

”The other teams felt that, ‘This guy’s been doing his job. He’s helping his team win’,” Miller said. ”That’s the best thing of all.”

After playing five with the Arizona Cardinals, Miller signed as a free agent with the expansion Browns in 1999. He played well in his first two years in Cleveland, but wasn’t the playmaker he or the Browns expected him to be.

Last spring, Davis decided to make Miller one again.

He promised Miller that he would get a chance to make big plays and he would be used differently this season.

”I tried to tell him what I wanted from him,” said Davis. ”If he would buy into the system, he would really like it. He could be a dominant force.”

”I was like, ‘OK’,” Miller said.

Miller changed his workout regimen during the off-season and trained for his new role by running in the mountains.

”All the stuff that makes you throw up,” Miller said. ”I didn’t want to be one of those guys that got the opportunity and can’t cash in. I wanted to be able to take advantage of the opportunity, and I did.”

Miller is second on the team with 111 tackles, and with one game left he is tied with San Diego’s Marcellus Wiley for the league lead in sacks.

Wiley’s season is finished (the Chargers are idle this weekend) and Miller has a chance to become the first Browns player to lead the AFC in sacks since they became an official stat in 1982.

”That’s my goal,” said Miller, who with two sacks can break the club single-season record set by Bill Glass in 1965.

Miller was recently voted a permanent captain by his teammates, getting named on 61 of 66 ballots. He said the honor meant as much to him as his winter trip to Hawaii.

”That shows that the guys in this locker room that I strap it up with every day feel that I’m a leader,” he said. ”Even more that I’m a model person and a model player. They feel that I get the job done.”