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Nate Burleson: Our wide receivers will surprise you

Posted Jul 27, 2014

Eclectic unit of pass catchers looking strong so far in training camp

Don’t tell 12-year veteran Nate Burleson that the Cleveland Browns lack firepower at the wide receiver position.

“As a whole I think we’ve got some pieces to the puzzle that can be really powerful,” said Burleson on Sunday. “Miles Austin is a beast. He looks like a linebacker. He’s fast. He’s strong. He snatches everything. Andrew Hawkins is a guy that is just a fantasy football guru’s dream. He can run any route. He’s so quick — just gets so open. I’ve made a few plays here and there in the league, so we’re good.”

For the first time in his career, Burleson is not exactly guaranteed a roster spot. He knows this is the case. And it’s lit a fire under the 32-year-old. Burleson shook off some drops in Saturday’s practice by rebounding Sunday to look like the Nate Burleson we’ve seen throughout the years. 

Burleson’s all-encompassing career is part of the reason the Browns brought him to Cleveland. He’s a professional other Browns receivers can not only seek out for advice, but use as a model to further their own careers.

A third-round draft pick in 2003, Burleson wiggled his way into the Minnesota Viking’s starting lineup opposite Randy Moss. Burleson is a balanced player across the board – speed, route running and hands – whose work ethic was unmatched. The Vikings had no choice but to play the rookie.

Burleson’s 12 touchdowns in three seasons with the Vikings established himself as a proven NFL player. He eventually signed a $49 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks.

The last four seasons Burleson served as a mentor the one of the league’s most talented receivers in decades, Calvin Johnson. Detroit had plans to phase out Burleson a few seasons ago, but his production on the field forced the Lions to tap the breaks on their idea.

“When I was in Detroit, they brought in (WR) Titus Young, second round draft pick. As soon as he got in I told him, ‘You’re here to replace me. You’re cheaper. You’re a playmaker. If you do your job, I should be gone.’ That was two years ago.

“It’s the same thing here. These guys are brought in here to make plays. I’m here to tell them straight up, ‘You should be looking at me like the old guy. I want to go out and outshine the old guy.’ The difference is I’m the old guy that’s going to try to outshine you every day. That’s the competitive nature of this position.”

It was impossible not to ask Burleson, an aspiring football broadcaster, his thoughts on the Browns’ quarterback competition. After all, he’s right in the thick of it.

Burleson on Brian Hoyer: “He’s fantastic. He knows the playbook. I just said earlier he has a quiet swag about him. He has a lot of qualities. He’s really good. I like him a lot.”

Burleson on Johnny Manziel: “I love Johnny. I do. Johnny is for real. I like confident quarterbacks. I like guys that are borderline cocky. Both of those guys have that. You can see it. Johnny makes a play. He walks back and he’s got a swag to him. His shoulders are bouncing. Same thing with ‘B’ (Brian Hoyer)—Hoyer would throw a ball and throw a little wink at you.”

Don’t expect many more comments on other positions from the likable Burleson. He has his own job to earn. And the fight for his spot is well under way.  

Burleson broke his way into the Vikings lineup. He hung onto his spot with the Lions. Why can’t he prove his doubters wrong again? The Browns could be the latest team Burleson wins over.