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Need to Know: Competition bringing best out of Browns kickers

When Cody Parkey heard the Browns drafted Zane Gonzalez, his motivation to maintain Cleveland's kicking job only grew stronger.

The third-year kicker ended 2016 on a high note and wants to see it carry into the 2017 season.

"For me, it just kind of makes me want to work even harder just to prove people wrong about me," Parkey said. "I have had success in this league. I have had my ups and downs like anyone else, but just to go out there and show the team that I can do it. I hope that I am going out there and showing the coaches what I am capable of doing.

"Zane is an awesome guy – but at the end of the day, this is my job. I want to win. I'm just going to go out every day and try to compete."

The competition has been a tight one. Both Parkey, a former Pro Bowler who made 17 of his final 19 field goal attempts last season, and Gonzalez, a seventh-round draft pick and one of the most decorated kickers in college football history, have made most of their kicks during periods open to reporters, especially of late.

Gonzalez made both of Cleveland's extra point attempts in the preseason opener. Browns coach Hue Jackson expressed regret about not getting the kickers any field goal opportunities, but they simply never materialized.

"We have both been kicking phenomenally," Gonzalez said. "It is really hard to say if anybody has the edge right now. The last few days, everybody has pretty much been hitting the balls the same. When you have two kickers going 100 percent, it is hard to complain about that."

Parkey's been on both sides of this kind of kicking competition. As an undrafted rookie, he was traded from Indianapolis to Philadelphia during the preseason, won a three-man kicking battle and earned Pro Bowl honors after making 32-of-36 attempts. After playing in just three games the following year because of a groin injury, Parkey lost a two-man competition to rookie Caleb Sturgis before landing on his feet with the Browns three games into last season.

"Competition breeds success. At the end of the day, I am competing against myself. I am not trying to beat Zane that day. I am trying to beat myself," Parkey said. "As good as it is having another guy in there – we can talk kicking and stuff like that, and (special teams coordinator) Coach (Chris) Tabor is awesome with that, too. It is definitely refreshing having another guy in there that is very good. We are getting each other better, and I think that is what they wanted."

-- Rookie tight end David Njoku, who has been sidelined on and off with a back injury, made his presence felt at Monday's practice when he beat his man and caught a short touchdown pass. He celebrated with a leaping two-handed spike through his legs.

Jackson wouldn't mind seeing more of those celebrations from Njoku, the first-round pick who dealt with some ups and downs during the early part of camp and did not play in last week's preseason opener.

"Just needs to get in better shape. He has been gone for a while. You have to play. You have to be out here every day grinding," Jackson said. "It is hard. This is a hard business. He is a young man who is learning how to play. I'm asking a lot of him. He is trying, and he just has to continue to get better."

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