Pierre Desir's strong 1st impression a confidence booster for more than himself


The praise came without prompting.

On a day otherwise devoted to reflecting upon all that went wrong Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, coach Mike Pettine devoted nearly a minute Monday to a rookie who didn't even wear a helmet and pads for the Browns' first 11 games.

Thrust into some unexpected playing time, rookie cornerback Pierre Desir thrived when he could have just as easily been overwhelmed. The fourth-round selection from tiny Division II Lindenwood University was headed toward a "redshirt" season before he was called up a few weeks back to play on special teams. After two games of doing just that and nothing else, Desir was called to duty when Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert both exited during Sunday's first half with injuries.

Desir was essentially the last man standing, and he stood his ground for the entire second half. Though the Bengals didn't exactly air it out, they didn't accomplish much when they did, either, and Desir had a hand in it.

"(He) went out and played 39 snaps and played at a high level - was very physical, tackled well," Pettine said. "Here's a kid coming from Lindenwood where our training camp practices had more people than his games did, and it was not big for him at all. That was great to see because it's a good example to everybody else. When you're on the scout team, here's a guy who perfected his craft. Those guys coached him hard when he was on the scout team and got better each week.

"Here's a guy that I think he heard from everybody that, 'Hey, this is your redshirt year.' He didn't want to hear that, and he certainly didn't prepare that way. He went out and played very well. It was very encouraging."

Desir primarily lined up against Cincinnati wide receivers Mohamed Sanu and Brandon Tate during the second half. Sanu caught one ball for 4 yards and the one pass thrown Tate's way went incomplete.

Desir picked up the first two tackles of his career with both coming on running plays.

"For me, I'm always a person that likes to work hard and we have a thing where it's the next guy up. I knew my time would come," Desir said. "I didn't know when it was going to come. I didn't want to go into the game and not be prepared, so I just prepared each week like I was going to go in and when my time was called I was prepared and I went out there and played football."

What this means for Desir's immediate future depends on the health of Haden, who did not practice Wednesday because of an injured shoulder, and first-team nickel back K'Waun Williams, who missed Sunday's game with an injured hamstring and did not practice Wednesday. Gilbert, a fellow rookie who was drafted three rounds ahead of Desir, was a full participant Wednesday after missing Sunday's second half with a head injury.

Though it's unclear what kind of role Desir will have against the Carolina Panthers, Pettine talked with much more confidence about the rookie's ability to hold his own because he's seen it happen.

"I feel a lot more comfortable now and have a lot more confidence in Pierre knowing that he's going into a game in a situation going from zero plays to all of a sudden playing just a hair under 40 and played some quality reps for us," Pettine said. "There will be a lot less hesitation to put Pierre in at this point."

Cornerback Buster Skrine said he's seen Desir improve with each passing week, even though the majority of Desir's work has been with the scout team. Desir credited the mentorship of Skrine, Haden and safety Donte Whitner as one of the main reasons why he was prepared for Sunday's challenge.

Haden, he said, will often tap him on the shoulder at practice to explain how he could have handled the previous play better.

Still, all the practice time in the world and all the advice from some of the NFL's top defensive backs didn't fully prepare him for the first play of his career.

"There was a lot of motions going on, my heart's racing," Desir said. "Just hearing the crowd and just really was in tune to the game. After that play, I calmed down and had fun."

With the fun came a much more important feeling.

"I think for me, DB-wise, you've got to have confidence," Desir said. "Being able to play in the game and finally being able to get reps has helped me along the way just to build that confidence even more."

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