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Droughns looking to end drought



Published: Tue, August 2, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Browns haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher since 1985.

BEREA (AP) -- The Cleveland Browns haven't had a running back rush for more than 1,000 yards since Ronald Reagan was in the Oval Office and "Back to the Future" prevailed at the box office.

Back in 1985, when a first-class stamp was only 20 cents, the Browns actually had two runners, Kevin Mack (1,104) Earnest Byner (1,002), surpass the 1,000-yard plateau.

Since then, zip -- the NFL's longest drought.

"Yeah, it is surprising," Hall of Famer Jim Brown said with a laugh after watching practice Monday. "Because 1,000 yards isn't that tough to get."

Never was for Brown, arguably the greatest running back of all time, who went over 1,000 yards seven times in nine seasons. The closest the Browns have gotten to 1,000 was Leroy Hoard's 890 yards in 1994 and William Green's 887 in 2002.

This season, Reuben Droughns wants to end Cleveland's 20-year dry spell.

"Hey, every team goes through slumps," Droughns said. "Maybe we can do something about that one."

A little help

Droughns, acquired in an offseason trade with Denver, should bring life to a Browns running game that has seemingly been in reverse since the team's expansion rebirth in 1999. A converted fullback, Droughns ran for 1,240 yards last season with the Broncos, whose back-friendly system pumps out 1,000-yard backs regularly.

The 26-year-old wants to show that last season was no fluke. Validation is his driving force.

"I want to prove to everyone in the NFL and in the world that I can do it again, that it wasn't just because of Denver's system," Droughns said. "Last year was last year. I need to get back out there and do it again."

To do so, Droughns will have to earn his carries. He's pitted in a three-way fight for Cleveland's starting job at tailback with Lee Suggs and Green, who combined for 1,329 yards a year ago.

Droughns isn't intimidated by competition. Rather, he relishes it.

Rising to the top

Before his breakout season, Droughns, originally drafted by Detroit in the third round in 2000, had to climb the depth chart from its lowest point. Heck, he was barely on the chart. At one point, he was the club's No. 7 back behind Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary and others.

"I was seventh string," he said. "I was a 'camp guy,' that's what I read in the Denver papers."

In Cleveland, he's starting out as No. 1 or 1a.

"I think it's great," Droughns said of his battle with Green and Suggs, the most compelling competition at Browns camp. "It's bringing out the best in all of us. A three-headed monster is better than one. We're all pushing each other every day."

It's still too early for first-year Browns coach Romeo Crennel to name a starter or even handicap the field.

"We have three good running backs," Crennel said. "We have a good, competitive situation. All of them are doing a very good job and all will be able to make a contribution. We're trying to find out who is the front-runner. It's close in my mind. We have to evaluate them a little more and see what happens."

Early leader

Droughns could be the man to beat out.

Although he's the fastest and shiftiest runner of the bunch, Suggs has been injury prone during his first two pro seasons.

Green, who was on his way to 1,000 yards through six weeks last season before fading, has finally resolved personal issues and has impressed coaches with a renewed determination.

Can all three play?

"There's always enough carries to go around," Droughns said.

Not long after arriving in a trade for defensive linemen Ebenezer Ekuban and Michael Myers, Droughns left the Browns' offseason conditioning program.

Like many other clients of agent Drew Rosenhaus, Droughns threatened to hold out if the Browns didn't redo his contract, which will pay him $950,000 this season and $1.15 million in 2006.

But former Denver teammate Rod Smith and others advised Droughns that if he wanted more money that the best way to get it was to earn it.

"That wasn't me," Droughns said of his contract posturing. "My character is that I'm a team guy. I'm all about my coaches and my players around me."




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