Rookie Green struggles in first scrimmage with Browns

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 30, 2002

BEREA -- William Green dropped a pass, fumbled and didn't break off a run longer than six yards.

As debuts go, Green's was rather forgettable.

''I was a little rusty,'' the Cleveland Browns rookie running back said Monday. ''I need to knock a little rust off.''

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Green didn't report to training camp until Sunday following a contract holdout, and was outshined by other -- less-expensive -- running backs as the Browns held their first intrasquad scrimmage on Monday.

Green didn't start with the first unit, and he didn't do anything spectacular in the 13 plays he was on the field during the two-hour scrimmage in front of 3,700 fans at the Browns' suburban training complex.

He finished with seven carries for 16 yards, but was outgained by Autry Denson, James Jackson, Jamel White and Carl Fair -- none of whom signed a five-year, $7.85 million deal or is expected to be the Browns' next 1,000-yard rusher.

''It was good to get out there,'' said Green, who had only two practices before the scrimmage. ''The speed was unbelievable.''

Green joined the starting offense for the sixth play, and on the seventh, made his first rushing attempt.

After taking the handoff from quarterback Tim Couch, Green tried to sweep the left side but had nowhere to go cut back toward the middle where he ran into linebacker Dwayne Rudd.

Green moved Rudd back a yard on the collision, a shot that was noticed by some of Cleveland's defensive players.

''You like to see his aggressiveness,'' said linebacker Jamir Miller. ''The back we need is going to have to tote it 25 to 30 times a game. He'll have to put his head down and show he can be that guy.''

Green and Rudd got to each other better on the former Boston College star's second carry, a three-yard pickup.

On the next snap, Couch's short sideline pass was dropped by Green, who said he took his eye off it.

''That's all part of being a rookie,'' Green said. ''I was a little anxious. You can't run without the ball.''

Browns coach Butch Davis wasn't surprised to see Green struggle.

''He's behind, and he's got to learn,'' he said. ''He needs the reps.''

Davis expected Green to have some jitters in his first full-contact NFL scrimmage.

''There's not a guy who gets drafted who doesn't want to come in and do well,'' Davis said.

Denson, who played mostly special teams for the Chicago Bears last season, signed a one-year contract by the Browns on Friday as insurance while Green remained out.

But Denson had already made an impression in his first few days of camp before gaining 58 yards on 12 carries and scoring from 8 yards on the scrimmage's final play.

''We didn't sign Autry like he was an emergency throw-in,'' Davis said.

Denson, Notre Dame's career rushing leader, has also had stops in Tampa Bay and Miami during his four-year career. He's hoping to make Cleveland a permanent one.

''You want an opportunity,'' he said. ''So this makes it feel good.''

White, too, continued to raise eyebrows.

The third-year back, who has added 10 pounds of muscle this summer, had a 22-yard run and later turned a short pass into a 21-yard gain.

Earlier in camp, the 5-foot-9 White flattened the 6-5 Miller on a block.

''He accelerated into him and knocked him on his butt,'' Davis said.

White started in seven games last season, but says he isn't worried about where he is on the depth chart.

''I'm not worried about starting,'' he said. ''I'm not saying I don't want to start, though.''

Notes: K Phil Dawson made two field goals, one a 54-yarder with a stiff wind at his back. Dawson's career-best in a game is 49 yards. … DE Kenard Lang didn't participate in the scrimmage. Davis said Lang, signed as a free agent this winter, has a sprained ankle. … Davis praised DT Orpheus Roye, who was credited with a sack and knocked down one of Couch's passes. … Couch went 2-of-5 for 15 yards. The Associated Press