BEREA – Romeo Crennel wasn’t a fan favorite during his tenure as Browns head coach from 2005-08, but he’s got plenty of fans inside team headquarters.
Not only do many of the players rave about their time with Crennel, his replacement, Eric Mangini, considers him a mentor from their days as assistants with the Jets and Patriots under coach Bill Belichick.
“He is one of the best people I know,” Mangini said Friday. “He’s a really good coach.”
Crennel returns to Cleveland on Sunday as defensive coordinator of the Chiefs. He was fired by the Browns following the 2008 season with a 24-40 record.
Mangini and Crennel lived together for a short time when Crennel joined the Patriots staff in 2001 as defensive coordinator.
“It was like one of those reality shows,” Mangini said. “He was a great houseguest. We watched a lot of bad TV together. See him all day at work and hang out on the couch later on.
“Obviously, we snacked together. We both appreciated our snacks. We had a lot in common.”
The favorite snack?
“Nachos with cheese,” Crennel said. “Eric is a very smart young man and picks up things quickly. I hope he forgets a little bit Sunday.”
Crennel sidestepped questions from Kansas City reporters about his return to Cleveland. He said he was focused on the game and his defense, which held the Chargers to 14 points Monday night in a win.
Kansas City coach Todd Haley tried to hire him in 2009 – as did Mangini in Cleveland – but Crennel took the year off following hip surgery.
“I was very excited when Romeo decided to get back into this thing,” Haley said. “Even more excited that he would want to come work on my staff. As a guy that worked with Romeo as a younger coach and really looked up to him and had a great amount of respect for him, for him to want to come back and work for me was as big a compliment as I could receive.
“I know what an excellent coach he is and a coach I always looked up to and tried to learn a bunch from.”
Crennel’s critics in Cleveland ripped what seemed like a lack of discipline in the locker room, but his team respected him and played hard.
“I loved playing for Romeo,” fullback Lawrence Vickers said. “He was a great coach. He was a great man.”
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was excited about the debuts of rookie safety T.J. Ward and rookie cornerback Joe Haden. Ward had a game-high 10 tackles and a forced fumble against Tampa Bay.
“They weren’t in awe of everything,” Ryan said. “I thought they played fast. I think they are going to get better each week.
“That T.J. Ward really is a tough guy and what a special guy he is going to be for a long time.”
Haden had two tackles and a pass breakup, but was beat for the winning touchdown when left in single coverage on an all-out blitz.
“His coach could have called a better call,” Ryan said. “I got a little stubborn. You guys said we couldn’t rush so I (expletive) blitzed. I just went with my gut feeling there and it didn’t work out.
“I’m not afraid to put any of our guys in man coverage.”
• Ryan said he wasn’t hanging his head about the performance against the Buccaneers, in which the defense allowed 17 points and 288 yards.
“I’m raising it up and we’re going to beat the (stuffing) out of this next team,” he said.
• Ryan called Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles a home run hitter. He rushed for 154 yards and a 47-yard touchdown against the Browns last year, and had a 56-yard score Monday night.
“That (Usain) Bolt guy might be faster but that might be about it,” Ryan said, referring to the 100-meter champion. “This guy can run.”
Nose tackle Shaun Rogers (ankle, hip) returned to practice in a limited role and was listed as questionable on the injury report. The ankle was surgically repaired late last season, while the hip injury occurred Sunday in the opener.
“I think he should be able to play,” Mangini said before practice.
Rogers played primarily in passing situations against Tampa Bay, as Ahtyba Rubin got the bulk of the time at nose tackle in the base defense.
• Inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson practiced for the first time since injuring his right pectoral muscle Aug. 10. He was limited and ruled out for Sunday as the Browns proceed with caution.
“I feel good. It was good to be running around,” Jackson said. “I didn’t feel sore at all. I didn’t think about (the pectoral).”
Jackson said he hopes to increase the workload and add contact next week with the goal of playing in the Ravens game. He will wear a double-sided harness to protect both pectorals. The left one tore off the bone last year, and the right one partially tore last month.
• Rookie offensive lineman Shawn Lauvao (ankle) will miss his second straight game. He was still wearing a walking boot Friday.
• Defensive back/special teamer Derrick Roberson (hip) was listed as doubtful.
• For the Chiefs, outside linebacker Tamba Hali (foot) and right tackle Ryan O’Callaghan (groin) are questionable.
Chiefs defensive lineman Shaun Smith could start against his former team. Smith’s listed as the second-team defensive end behind Tyson Jackson, who’s questionable with a knee injury. Jackson was the No. 3 pick in the 2009 draft.
Smith played for the Browns in 2007 and ’08 under Crennel and was cut during the 2009 training camp by Mangini after a practice run-in with line coach Bryan Cox. Smith reportedly punched quarterback Brady Quinn in the weight room in 2008.
Ward was voted the Maurice Bassett winner for being the best rookie in training camp.
• The Browns have 18 players 30 years old and older, which leads the league. Pittsburgh is second with 17.
• Ohio State had 34 players on NFL rosters in Week 1, ranking fifth. Texas was first with 40, followed by Miami (38), USC (36) and LSU (35). Michigan was 10th with 29.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or email@example.com.