November 29, 2014

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Browns notes: Fullback Vickers excels without fanfare

BEREA – Lawrence Vickers is the forgotten man when it comes to the running game.
Everyone cheers the guy gaining the yards – Jamal Lewis – and most people acknowledge the offensive line when a running back has success. But the fullback goes unnoticed.
Vickers is the man in front of Lewis and led the way for a 134-yard effort Sunday vs. the Texans. It was the second 100-yard game of the year for Lewis.
“You feel good about it,” Vickers said. “Evidently you did something right. He`s achieving his goals and we`re working together to achieve our goals as a team. It`s a good feeling.”
Vickers is in his second year after being drafted in the sixth round. He started one game as a rookie and moved into the lineup this year.
“He has improved very much so since the beginning of the year,” general manager Phil Savage said.
“I feel like I`m getting better and better,” Vickers said. “But I don`t really take heed to when I`m doing good. It`s something I do to help myself stay humble and keep going after it.”
Vickers (6-foot, 252 pounds) said his reads have gotten better, which means he`s picking out the right hole to lead Lewis through. He also said he`s being more aggressive.
Lewis is one person who doesn`t underestimate the importance of a fullback.
“He`s special guy,” he said of Vickers. “I love having my fullback in front of me. He`s my eyes to the hole a lot of times.
“Sometimes it takes awhile to get confidence in a fullback. You have to build that chemistry. He`s not the biggest fullback, but he packs a punch.”

BOUNCING BACK?
The Cardinals lost a heartbreaker Sunday, 37-31 in overtime to San Francisco. Neil Rackers made a 27-yard field goal that would`ve won the game, but a delay-of-game penalty wiped it out. He missed the ensuing 32-yarder and the 49ers eventually sacked quarterback Kurt Warner in the end zone and recovered the fumble for the win.
Warner and Rackers said they were awake until
3 a.m.
“It was obviously a hard loss for us,” Warner said. “We did a lot of things well, had a lot of chances and didn`t get it done. It`s one of those you think about for a couple days and don`t get a lot of sleep.
“But you get over it, and now it`s back to the drawing board.”
First-year Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said he learned a lot about handling tough losses during his days as a Steelers assistant.
“We lost two (AFC) championship games when I was there and those are pretty devastating things to lose,” he said. “I think I learned a lot from (coach) Bill Cowher as far as how you deal with the team. It was an especially difficult game with the emotional aspect of it, but that game is over.”

INJURY REPORT
Receiver Braylon Edwards (hamstring) was back at practice Friday in a limited capacity, but looked ready to go during the time open to the media. He said he was just resting Wednesday and Thursday and would be fine for the game Sunday. He was listed as questionable (50-50) on the injury report.
Linebacker Antwan Peek (knee) and defensive end Orpheus Roye (knee) were limited and listed as questionable, but both said they planned on playing. Right tackle Kevin Shaffer (knee) and defensive end Robaire Smith (knee) practiced and are probable. Backup tight end Steve Heiden was added to the list as probable with an ankle injury. He was limited.
Rookie cornerback Eric Wright, who missed last week`s game with a sprained knee, was listed as doubtful but he returned to practice in a limited role. Nose tackle Ethan Kelley (knee) hasn`t practiced in two weeks and is doubtful.

SUDDEN STAR
Rookie cornerback Brandon McDonald has been in the spotlight since getting an interception and four pass breakups Sunday vs. Houston. He did television and radio interviews and was the subject of many newspaper articles.
“It`s good just to get that little exposure,” he said. “It`s all fun.”
McDonald, a fifth-round pick out of Memphis, is playing the nickelback role with Wright injured. He was given game balls for his play on defense and special teams vs. the Texans.
“I always expect to win my battles,” he said. “Sometimes I expect to make plays I shouldn`t be making. That`s just the competitor I am.
“But I`m still appreciative and I`m going to stay humble, I`m going to keep working and try to get more game balls on down the road.”

CARDINAL CONNECTIONS
The Browns will see a few familiar faces on the Cardinals sideline.
Maurice Carthon, who resigned under fire as Browns offensive coordinator in the middle of last season, is Arizona`s running backs coach. John Lott, who was here in 2005-06, is the strength and conditioning coach.
Fullback Terrelle Smith was a Brown from 2004-06 and starts for the Cardinals. Whisenhunt was Cleveland`s special teams coach in 1999.

EXTRA POINTS
The Browns will honor Hall of Fame defensive lineman Bill Willis by wearing a sticker on the back, lower left of their helmets for the rest of the season. The sticker will be black with BW in white letters. Willis died Tuesday at 86.
* Former Browns punter Chris Gardocki tried out for the Cardinals this week. Mitch Berger was signed instead to replace Mike Barr, who was released.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.