Chris Kirksey with linebackers coach Chuck Driesbach
Although some – especially in the national media – would have you believe that Duke Johnson Jr. is the only Cleveland Browns rookie worth discussing, there truly are others who merit a great deal of attention.
And Saturday night's preseason-opener at Detroit will serve as the first opportunity for them to show that the Browns, by all accounts, have gotten a strong infusion of young talent.
At least one rookie, guard Joel Bitonio, has secured a starting spot, but two others – cornerback Justin Gilbert and inside linebacker Chris Kirksey – appear to be making strong cases to do the same … or at least to receive a great deal of playing time this season.
In fact, in recent practices in training camp, Kirksey has done plenty to grab the attention of the coaches. He could take some additional major steps forward with a strong showing against the Lions.
"He's been great," coach Mike Pettine said of the third-round draft pick from Iowa. "If you were just an observer at practice and didn't have a roster, you wouldn't think he was a rookie. He's great on the practice field. He asks the right questions. He's been very engaging in the meeting rooms. He really learns on (fellow inside linebacker) Karlos (Dansby), who I think is a good resource for those young linebackers.
"(Kirksey's) been a guy that's been as advertised."
Kirksey was mostly advertised as excelling in pass coverage. However, the Browns have been pleasantly surprised by the fact that he also looks stout against the run.
"(Pass coverage was) the one thing we knew he could do," Pettine said. "The one thing we didn't get a lot of looks at from his college tape is being an inside-the-box linebacker. We knew he could cover because he played a lot over the top of wide outs. There were some reps of him inside, but we just felt a lot better when he got here and realized that this kid is a complete linebacker."
ELSEWHERE AROUND THE NFL …
ONE MIGHT ASSUMEthat Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll would be upset that the NFL, in response to the Seahawks' physical style of play in their secondary, is putting greater emphasis on penalizing defenders for illegal contact with receivers. But that isn't the case. Carroll told the Seattle Times that he views the league's emphasis as a sign of "respect." Carroll added, "We're not fighting or resisting the changes that are here. We're trying to adapt and go with it."
HOUSTON TEXANS OWNERBob McNair told the Houston Chronicle that he is healthy after a 10-month battle with two forms of cancer. "I've never been through anything like that, but two days ago, I was given a clean bill of health, so it was worth the pain and suffering," said McNair, 77, who had tried to keep the matter confidential. "I didn't think I was going to die. I knew some did. I knew there were some rumors. That's one of the reasons I'm talking about it."
GREEN BAY PACKERSquarterback Aaron Rodgers has been instrumental in the team's efforts to finally bring Brett Favre back to the fold and retire his number while also inducting him into the Packer Hall of Fame next year. "I've kind of been on the forefront of getting this thing done, you know, in my own way," Rodgers was quoted as saying in the Green Bay Press-Gazette. "I wanted to make sure my voice was out there and behind Brett coming back. I think it's important to bring him back into the fold. It was a great thing to be able to announce that and retire his number and put his number in the Packer Hall of Fame, which is obvious – of course it's going to happen. He's one of the greatest Packers of all-time and one of the greatest NFL players of all-time. It's good to get him back here and hopefully get him here in the fall, as well." >>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for "Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford" on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com. We take your questions at 216-578-0850 and via Twitter @Browns_Daily.