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Miller shows for first Browns drills



Published: Sat, July 27, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Although he wants a new contract, the linebacker decided to focus on football.

By JOE SCALZO

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

BEREA -- Cleveland Browns linebacker Jamir Miller trotted off the field after Friday's practice and stopped to sign a few autographs.

"One of the fans said, 'Glad to see you showed up,' " Miller said. "But like I said, I'm a man of my word. I said I was going to be here. I want to be here. This city has been good to us.

"I think it would do an injustice to the fans to not show up."

Miller has been outspoken in recent months about his desire for a new contract. He has two years left on his deal and is seeking a big signing bonus. The Browns would rather offer him incentives based on performance.

Some wondered if he might hold out, but Miller was there for the Browns' first full practice of the summer.

That didn't surprise Browns coach Butch Davis.

"I never once thought he wouldn't be here," Davis said. "He's a professional."

New contract expected

The Browns are expected to restructure Miller's contract before the end of training camp. Miller declined to talk about the negotiations.

"There's definitely a timeline, but my main focus is on camp," Miller said. "I'm not going to go into details and I don't even know the details. We're working toward an agreement and I think it's advantageous for both of us to get it done."

With first pick William Green still not signed, the Browns inked former Notre Dame running back Autry Denson to a one-year deal. Running back James Jackson has seen the bulk of the carries so far in camp and was banged up in practice on Thursday. Denson, who has played with Tampa Bay, Miami and Chicago, will add depth and could compete for a spot on special teams.

Autry has potential

"This was not a token signing; we feel like Autry has a chance to earn a spot on the team," Davis said. "He's a valuable player."

Davis said he was pleased with the energy of the team during the practice and said the Browns are "light years" ahead of last year.

"It was a very good football practice," he said. "A year ago, we did not do as well as I would have liked. The best part has been the attitude and intensity of the guys at camp. Guys were making plays."

This is the Browns' second year under Davis and it's obvious the players are more comfortable with his system.

"Instead of thinking about what we need to do, we can just go out and make plays," said quarterback Tim Couch. "Last year we took a big jump and now we have higher expectations. Hopefully we can get into the playoffs."

Offensive help needed

Cleveland ranked last in many offensive categories last season, and Couch's only reliable weapon through his first three seasons has been receiver Kevin Johnson. The addition of Green and the maturity of some younger receivers such as Quincy Morgan and Dennis Northcutt, along with the signing of rookie Andre Davis, could change that.

"We were last in the league in amount of plays run last year, so that shows you that there are plenty of balls to go around," Johnson said. "There's no reason why two or three receivers can't catch 70-80 balls."

With most of the starters set, Coach Davis is focusing more on the second and third stringers. If the Browns can avoid injuries -- something that has plagued them since returning to the NFL -- they could sneak into a playoff spot.

And Davis doesn't mind saying so.

"There's not a single person on the planet who could ever have higher expectations than the coaches and the players," Davis said. "If you're not thinking about the Super Bowl, the playoffs or the division, then there's something wrong with your organization."

scalzo@vindy.com




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