BEREA, Ohio -- Feature on Ryan Tucker and other Browns news.
Browns right tackle Ryan Tucker let out a little secret under the blast-furnace sun Tuesday.
“I’ve played a lot of pass rushers,” Tucker said as sweat streamed down his face. “(Antwan) Peek’s got it all, baby.”
In Tucker’s mind, Peek isn’t the guy who spent four forgettable years with the Houston Texans. He’s the force who helped the Cincinnati Bearcats put Ohio State on the ropes in a near-loss that would have cost the Buckeyes a national championship.
He’s the free agency pickup who will get Cleveland’s pass rush over the hump.
“Peek is a helluva pass rusher,” Tucker said a few minutes after a two-minute drill. “I’m so happy I get to work against that guy. He’s gonna take my game to another level. With him, Kamerion Wimbley and Willie McGinest ... it’s gonna be fun, man. I’m telling ya.”
Fun wasn’t in Tucker’s vocabulary last year. Battling mental health issues, he played in only nine games, preventing him from reaching the 100-starts milestone in career that began as a fourth-round draft pick of the Rams in 1997.
Now, almost two months past his 32nd birthday, Tucker speaks humbly but confidently about his comeback bid.
He said he feels “great” physically but still is fighting to master new coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s terminology.
“I don’t feel tired,” he said. “Basically, it’s getting everything into my skull, organizing it, getting to where I don’t have to think.
“On Day 4 ... it’s not all there yet for me.”
When Tucker joined the Browns as a free agent in 2002, offensive line guru Jim Hanifan said the Browns were getting a quality starter everyone in Cleveland would grow to like. That pretty much came true.
“What we’re doing here now,” Tucker said, “is the same things we did in St. Louis with Jim (he went to two Super Bowls under Hanifan’s tutelage). There are some different nuances here and there, but it’s still mostly the same ... and I still screw it up sometimes.”
The Browns’ offensive line has been messed up most of the time since 1999.
“There can’t be any excuses any more,” Tucker said. “They’ve done everything in their power to improve the line.”
Even if 2006 free agency pickup LeCharles Bentley can’t recover from a serious injury, coaches think the Browns can function with Hank Fraley at center.
Rookie No. 3 overall pick Joe Thomas seems on course to start at left tackle. Eric Steinbach, this year’s top free agency pickup, is having a strong early camp at left guard. In practice, the team is running lots of reverses to the left side, a nod perhaps to Tucker’s and Steinbach’s prowess.
On the right side, 2006 left tackle Kevin Shaffer might wind up competing against Tucker at right tackle. If Tucker is his old self, though, he looms as a better right tackle than Shaffer, who isn’t suited to play guard, General Manager Phil Savage has said.
The current No. 1 right guard is free agency pickup Seth McKinney, who says he thinks he can be one of the league’s best at the position.
Tucker’s eyes light up when a question about the line’s overall quality comes up:
“Oh, man. It’s awesome. It really is. The running game is to another level right now. It’s better than it has been since I’ve been here. (Running back) Jamal Lewis ... the dude’s a stud.
“The guys are playing well together. It’s physical. Good athletes who are physical. You can’t ask for any more.”
Only Steve Heiden, Orpheus Roye and Phil Dawson have been with the current Browns longer than Tucker. If he can’t make it back, Shaffer and young veteran Kelly Butler can fill his spot.
“This is a no-promise league,” Tucker said. “Right now, I try get as much as I can out of each day.
“I can’t promise anybody how long I’m gonna be here ... a year or two or three or four or five ... or if I’ll be here tomorrow.
“All I can do is try be a leader on the team and have some fun.”
Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or firstname.lastname@example.org.