McGee welcomes day off

Published 12:39 am Monday, August 8, 2011

BEREA (AP) — New Cleveland Browns punter Richmond McGee finally settled down Sunday.

Sort of.

The Browns were off, and McGee needed the breather.

Email newsletter signup

“It’s been a wild few days, but I wouldn’t want it any other way,” McGee said.

He didn’t plan on resting much anyway, utilizing every minute he could get to put his personal life back into some semblance of order.

McGee’s world was turned topsy-turvy when the Chicago Bears released him Monday. He went back to his job as a stock trader the next day in Austin, Texas, and was there for a few hours when his fortunes turned again after Browns punter Reggie Hodges was lost for the season with an Achilles’ tendon injury.

“I got a call at 4 (p.m.) and was on a plane to Cleveland at 6,” McGee said. “I tried out the next morning, signed a few hours later and pretty much all I’ve been doing is practicing.”

The 28-year-old McGee has put all his time into trying to capitalize on his best shot at an NFL starting job. Meanwhile, his laundry list of duties has piled up. One of his first chores Sunday was shopping for clothes.

“I just packed a bag and left,” McGee said. “I guess I had enough confidence that at least I took two changes of clothes, but that was about it.

“I need a day. At the same time, I don’t want any time off. I want to impress the coaching staff every minute I can. This is a big opportunity.”

After one year on Philadelphia’s practice squad and two more in that role in Chicago, McGee has yet to kick in a regular game. That could change with a good exhibition season, starting Saturday against the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.

New coach Phil Shurmur intends to find out if McGee can do the job by the time Cleveland opens the season Sept. 11 against Cincinnati.

“He has a chance to make this team, better chance than most, because he’s here,” Shurmur said. “He’ll have a chance to perform in the preseason games and we’ll make an evaluation. If somebody is available we’re interested in, we’ll have to make a comparison.”

McGee is familiar with the Packers, seeing them the past couple of years in the NFC Central. What he’s unsure of is kicking at Cleveland Browns Stadium, where the winds can whip around unpredictably.

“I’ve heard about it, but I was in Chicago and the wind can be pretty wild there,” McGee said.

Fans at a practice at the stadium Saturday were mumbling when McGee got off a 16-yard punt. He quickly pointed out why it wasn’t a big deal.

“They stopped the play and I should have just held up,” he said. “They blew the whistle. I think I hit the next one 50 yards.”

McGee knows every kick will be scrutinized and there are no guarantees. The Bears gave him a two-year contract in February. They voided it after signing free agent Adam Podlesh from Jacksonville.

“This is my fourth year trying,” McGee said. “I know the drill. My wife’s not moving up here, yet. I have to make the 53-man, then I have to make sure I stay here and am the best punter.”

McGee said he’s never been better prepared to do it.

“I’ve never kicked better in my life,” he said. “I’m at my peak. I worked out a lot this offseason. I’m stronger mentally and physically.”

“This isn’t my first rodeo, as we say in Texas. There are 32 jobs available in the NFL. I have to make sure I’m one of the best 32. I’m super motivated to do that.”

McGee has a comfort zone in Cleveland. A member of Texas’ 2005 national championship team, he was welcomed to town by kicker Phil Dawson, also a former Longhorns star. They worked out together in Austin during the 4 1/2-month NFL lockout.

“I’ve known Phil since I first got to UT in 2001,” McGee said. “He was a legend down there. He came back and helped me with my form. It was a great time this summer working with him.”

Shurmur wants McGee to hold for Dawson’s attempts.

“Fine with me,” McGee said. “I couldn’t imagine being in a better place. I know Phil the best out of all the kickers in the NFL.

“I’ve got good hands. A punter has to handle bad snaps. That’s not a problem in Cleveland because Ryan (long-snapper Ryan Pontbriand) is so good, but having quick hands and catching the ball is nothing new for me.”

Browns management didn’t just pick McGee’s name out of a hat. General manager Tom Heckert knew him in Philadelphia. New special teams coordinator Chris Tabor came from the Bears.

“It’s a really good fit for me,” McGee said. “Working with coach Tabs the last two years was good. I know what he expects. It just seems like all of the cards are aligning.”