As the Cleveland Browns spent time preparing for their 2012 Rookie Mini Camp this week, current defensive back
An ankle injury caused Ventrone to miss most of his senior season at Villanova University. Although he “wasn’t anticipating getting drafted,” Ventrone was hoping to receive a phone call from a team as an undrafted free agent. Not long after the draft, Ventrone’s phone call came from the New England Patriots.
“I actually spoke with Coach Eric Mangini,” Ventrone recalled. “He was the D-coordinator at the time and said that I had a real good opportunity to have an impact on special teams and learn from a veteran group. They had Larry Izzo on special teams, Rodney Harrison at safety, so I was able to learn a lot from those guys and that’s helped me out to this point.”
After getting the phone call from the Patriots, Ventrone had one thing in mind as he prepared to go to Foxborough, Mass. for the camp.
“My mindset was to go play as hard as I can, try to learn as much as I could from the veterans,” Ventrone said. “I think the most important thing was giving as much effort as I could every play. Whether I was making a mistake or not, it was as fast as I could go, 100 miles-an-hour every play and the coaches saw that I wanted it pretty bad and was able to make an impact and stay.”
Ventrone had to work doubly hard at rookie minicamp because he was undergoing a position change. A defensive back by trade who registered 251 tackles, 19 tackles-for-loss and two sacks during his Villanova career, Ventrone switched from being just a defensive back to playing a key role on the Patriots’ special teams units.
“Coach Brad Seely said, ‘You could study that defense as much as you want, but the only way you’re going to stay in this league is on special teams, at least initially,’” Ventrone said. “I made my mark on special teams since I’ve been in the league. I’ve learned from a lot of veterans up there. I ended up watching tape on a lot of good special teamers in the league. I just studied a bunch of guys that were good at special teams because special teams is different than any other part of the game. It’s full-speed, full-contact, high-intensity, high-collision play, so you have to be on top of your game at all times.”
Ventrone spent the 2005 season on New England’s practice squad before bouncing between the Patriots and New York Jets’ organizations. After a long road to New England’s active roster, Ventrone made his first career special teams tackle against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
The Browns saw some struggles on special teams in 2011, something Ventrone is hoping to overcome during the 2012 season.
“We’re eager and anxious to be at the top of the league in all of the special teams categories,” Ventrone said. “We want to get back to the level we were at a couple of years ago. We didn’t have as good a year as we wanted last year and we know that. We’re going to come out and work as hard as we can and are going to make a lot more plays on special teams.”