By Dan Hiner
Former Pro Bowl running back Greg Pruitt was a great while playing football for the Cleveland Browns, but he has some improving to do on the boccie court.
The four-time Pro Bowler attended the 18th Annual Ron Stoops Sr. and Anthony Pelini Memorial Foundation Bocce Social at the MVR Restaurant Sunday in Youngstown.
“I came here about 15 years ago. It was a bunch of old guys playing a game I never saw before — looked pretty easy,” Pruitt said. “I said it’d take me a few minutes and I’ll probably be beating them in about an hour.
“Well, about 12 hours later I was still looking for my first victory. I’ve been trying to master the game ever since.
“I’ve been making very little progress.”
The former Oklahoma star attended the boccie social after building a connection with former Sooners head coach Bob Stoops.
Pruitt said he believes the Browns have the pieces to turn their misfortune around this season. He said the franchise has been in a period of growth over the last several years — even if Cleveland fans don’t believe it.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam bought the team in 2012, and the franchise has gone 20-76 since.
But Pruitt says players and coaches aren’t the only ones in the NFL who have to mature into a position, owners need to learn how to lead a franchise. He said the first step in Haslam’s growth was moving away from analytics.
“We had an owner who had the money to buy a team, it doesn’t mean he had the experience to run a team,” Pruitt said. “He’s had to learn that. He was sold a bunch of goods and now he’s back to old school.”
But what is old school?
“Old school is how fast do you run the [40-yard dash], how high is your vertical jump, how many times can you lift weights and how big your heart is. If you put those things together, you got a great player.”
He said No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield and rookie running back Nick Chubb will be key players for the Browns in the future.
Due to his ties with the Sooners, Pruitt watched Mayfield over the last two years. He said he believes Mayfield will be successful, but the Browns shouldn’t throw him on the field too early.
“The fact that I went to Oklahoma meant that I’ve been watching Baker Mayfield for a [while],” Pruitt said. “I knew Baker Mayfield would be a good fit here. He’s a guy that works hard and he’s a guy that’s extremely competitive.”
Pruitt also said fans and teams shouldn’t worry about Mayfield’s size.
“That same thing followed me when I came out,” Pruitt said. “If I was two inches taller, I’d be $3 million richer.”
Chubb, a second-round pick, broke his leg against Tennessee in 2015 — an injury that sidelined him for the season and caused some concerns during the pre-draft evaluations.
Pruitt, who also was a second-round pick of the Browns in 1973, suffered from multiple leg injuries while in Cleveland. But for him, Chubb’s injury isn’t cause for concern.
“He’s very good. Everybody said, ‘Oh well he changed after the injury,’ you can come back,” Pruitt said. “If it was 30 years ago, he might not come back.”
Unfortunately Pruitt’s football knowledge and talent doesn’t translate to the boccie court.
“[My boccie game] ain’t changed,” Pruitt said. “That ball’s too little. I can’t control it.”