July 31, 2014

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Browns linebacker Craig Robertson has a knack for being around the ball

BEREA — Browns linebacker Craig Robertson has been one of the bright spots in the team’s dark, winless season to date.

In his first NFL season, the North Texas product is tied for the AFC lead with two interceptions and has carved out a significant role for himself on defense and special teams.

“It’s still unreal at times, like a dream come true, so I’m going to cherish every moment here,” Robertson said as he surveyed the Browns locker room.

“A lot of people back home are like, ‘I can’t believe you’re playing in the NFL, man.’ Sometimes, I can’t either, which is why I’m never going to stop giving it all on every single play.”

The 6-foot-1, 229-pounder impressed Cleveland’s coaches throughout training camp and the preseason, which allowed him to win a spot on the 53-man roster.

Simply making the team was an accomplishment, considering Robertson went undrafted last season and only logged two weeks on the Browns’ practice squad in 2011.

Earning regular reps at linebacker, as he has in the first four games, defied the odds in an even bigger way. Robertson played 44 snaps Thursday in a 23-16 loss to Baltimore, only trailing defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson at the position.

“Craig Robertson … the guy is finding a way to make plays,” Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur said. “It’s a credit to him because that’s not the first time he’s done that for us.”

Robertson’s first big play of the season came in Week 1, when he picked off Eagles quarterback Michael Vick in a 17-16 defeat.

The native Texan came up even bigger in Week 4 at Baltimore, making a beautiful interception on Joe Flacco in the end zone.

“I heard the play called, I did my job, and the football came to me,” Robertson said. “I saw (wide receiver Jacoby) Jones run the slant, so I figured the seven-route was coming, since that’s what happens most times in the NFL. When he ran it, the ball was right there.”

Robertson then broke into a smile and admitted, “It was kind of cool picking Flacco off in the red zone. A lot of people texted me about that since it was on national TV (on NFL Network). I love having the ball in my hands whenever I can.”

That’s not surprising, given the myriad positions Robertson played during his All-District football career at Stafford High from 2002-05. Though he primarily served as an option quarterback, the four-year letterman also saw time at running back, wide receiver, cornerback, linebacker, punter and kicker.

Yes, the hard-hitting Robertson played kicker, but noted that Phil Dawson has nothing to worry about.

“I was a straight-ahead kicker, none of that soccer-style stuff, and I taught myself to do it pretty well,” he said, again smiling.

“My long was about 40 yards, but I knew my kicking career wasn’t going to last too long. Late in the season, I was ready to move on to basketball. I was always wanting to shoot the round rock.”

Fortunately for his future, Robertson fully focused on football when North Texas recruited him at his present position.

After red-shirting in 2006, he anchored the Mean Green’s defense for four years in the Sun Belt Conference, recording 382 tackles and nine interceptions in 48 games.

Robertson worked out for the Browns after not being picked in the 2011 NFL Draft, and was added to their practice squad Dec. 19. He’s been on a magic carpet ride ever since.

“That’s why none of that talk about us being 0-4 affects me,” Robertson said. “When we start winning, those questions won’t be asked again. In the meantime, all us young guys are building confidence and getting better because we know what good days are ahead for the Cleveland Browns.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

NEXT UP

• WHO: Cleveland vs. New York Giants
• WHEN: Sunday, Oct. 7, 1 p.m.
• WHERE: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
• TV/RADIO: Channel 19; WMMS 100.7-FM, WTAM 1100-AM