Chris Tabor was comfortable with Cody Parkey as his kicker from the moment he joined the Browns in Week 3 of last season to the final game. He just didn't want Parkey to feel too much comfort as he embarked on his first offseason in Cleveland.
Enter Zane Gonzalez.
Parkey, a former Pro Bowler and four-year veteran, will square off with Gonzalez, the first kicker to be drafted by the Browns since 1989, in a competition that will extend deep into training camp. It's nothing new for Tabor and the Browns, who have routinely pitted kickers against each other while the rosters afford them to keep two or more kickers.
"What we're always trying to do is add competition at all roster spots," said Tabor, Cleveland's special teams coordinator. "I think that's what our front office is doing. You don't want anyone to be comfortable at any certain spot. Once you get comfortable, you get lax and coaches always state we want guys at every position to compete for starting spots and our position is no different.
"I think it is going to be a great competition. Both guys are really good players. They both had great springs, so I am excited to see what the fall—how it transpires—and where they go from there."
Parkey is no stranger to competition.
When Parkey entered the league as an undrafted rookie, he went from the odd man out in Indianapolis to the winner of a three-man battle in Philadelphia, which acquired him in a mid-training camp trade. He made the Pro Bowl after connecting on 32-of-36 kicks but lasted just three games the following year after suffering a groin injury. The following training camp, Parkey lost a two-man competition with then-rookie Caleb Sturgis before landing with the Browns in Week 3.
Tabor hasn't sensed any change in Parkey's demeanor since Gonzalez was selected in the seventh round of this year's draft.
"He's tough, mentally strong," Tabor said. "He's working on his craft and Zane is working on his craft. At the end of the day, they just have to handle their kicks and not worry about the other guy and that's what they're both doing. They both get along real well and I look forward to seeing how it plays out in the fall."
Even though he wasn't the special teams coach of Gonzalez's team, Tabor got a close look at the rookie during the Senior Bowl. He was sharp on his kicks throughout the week and set a Senior Bowl record with three made field goals.
Gonzalez was simply doing what he did all throughout his Arizona State career. A first-team All-American selection, Gonzalez won the 2016 Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's top collegiate kicker, after connecting on all but two of his 25 field goal attempts. He made 14 kicks from at least 40 yards, a total that led the nation, and was 7-of-9 from 50 yards. His longest kick came from 59 yards.
"Zane had good accuracy coming out his senior year there," Tabor said. "I think he has a strong leg and as you're building a team and building a roster, you're always looking for competition at all the spots and our spot is no different."
And Tabor made one thing clear: Gonzalez won't be treated or viewed any differently because of his status as Cleveland's first drafted kicker in nearly 30 years.
"I always look at whoever does the best is going to win the job, regardless if you are drafted or not drafted," Tabor said. "I have had players play for us that have been good players that were drafted, and I have had players that have played for us that were not drafted. That status does not mean anything to me."