For defensive end
Rucker played in a rotation system in Cincinnati and officially joined the Cleveland Browns organization Thursday after finding the right place to show his skills. In a conference call with the Cleveland media Thursday afternoon, Rucker said he was “happy to finally be a Brown.”
“It was pretty much a no-brainer,” Rucker said of signing with Cleveland. “When I got in town, the organization and how it’s built, all of the coaches that are on that staff and the goals they’re trying to reach, it was just a no-brainer wanting be a part of something on the rise.”
Rucker, a 6-foot-3, 280-pound defensive end, is coming off of his best season as a professional. In 16 games with the Bengals last fall, Rucker registered 44 total tackles, including 32 solo stops, 12 assists and four sacks, all four of which were career highs. He also defended two passes.
“The thing we had going on in Cincinnati, it worked,” Rucker said. “A lot of people got a lot of snaps and we were fresh when we needed to be fresh, but me, as a player, I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to have more on my plate. A lot of people have already had their time and I just feel like it’s my time to take control of it.”
In 53 career games, Rucker has made 19 starts. He has registered 105 total tackles, 68 solo stops, 37 assists and seven sacks. Rucker has defended six passes, intercepted another and forced three fumbles.
Rucker stated that he was given “the keys to the car” and is expected to start at right defensive end, opposite second-year Brown
“I’m adding to an already productive group,” Rucker said. “I’m just excited. Across the board, what we’ve got going, the sky’s the limit for that group. They didn’t get a spring last year and they still finished out 10th overall. Hopefully, I can go in and help and we can get the job done.”
Rucker was selected by the Bengals in the third round (No. 91 overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft. After suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in his first-ever preseason game, Rucker missed the 2006 season. Rucker has played in at least nine games in each of the last four seasons, including 11 or more in three of those years. Rucker started 11 of the Bengals’ 16 games last year.
Now a member of the Browns, Rucker will line up against his former teammates, including offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, twice a year.
“I’m going to play versus Whit like I play against anyone else in the league,” Rucker said. “I’m just going to play my game, be tough and physical and I know that’s one of his attributes. It should be a good matchup for years to come.”
A native of Tustin, Calif., Rucker played college football at the University of Southern California after redshirting for a year at Colorado State University. During his time at USC, Rucker played on national championship teams in 2003 and 2004 and was voted the co-winner of USC’s Most Inspirational Player in 2005. He made 30 starts in 39 games and registered 111 tackles, 10.5 sacks, two interceptions and four fumble recoveries.
Success on the college gridiron came with some off-the-field troubles for Rucker. However, since joining the NFL, Rucker has worked hard to better the community in which he played.
“I’m at a good place in my life right now,” Rucker said. “I’m not around any knuckleheads and I’ve got a good drive. I put those things behind me a long time ago and you just come to a point where you focus on your career and what’s important and I did that years back when I got to Cincinnati. I knew I was never going backwards and I was always going forward.”