BEREA — Listed at 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, Davone Bess is one of the smaller wide receivers in the NFL.
Bess is plenty big enough, though, to affect opposing coaches’ game plans and help his team win.
“I’m glad we have Davone Bess here,” Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said Thursday. “He’s a critical part of what Miami used to do, and I think they’ve lost something by not having him. I’m glad he’s on our team now.”
Bess will make his Cleveland debut — and play against his former squad for the first time — when the Browns open the regular season Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. Kickoff at FirstEnergy Stadium is 1 p.m.
The Dolphins deemed the five-year veteran expendable during the spring, prompting them to trade him during the NFL Draft.
He only cost the Browns an exchange of mid- to low-round picks, which was a surprisingly low price for a player with 321 receptions and 12 touchdowns since 2008.
“It would be easy getting emotional this week, but I want to treat this game like it’s any other,” said Bess, who will turn 28 on Sept. 13. “We all know the NFL is a business. When I got traded, it was in the best interests of the Miami Dolphins.
“For the most part, there is still mutual respect. But there is a little part of you that always wants to show a team that they made a mistake.”
Ironically, a mistake by Cleveland wide receiver Josh Gordon will allow Bess to start against Miami.
Gordon failed an offseason drug test, prompting the NFL to suspend him for the first two games of the season. He is permitted to attend team meetings, but not participate in practices.
Third-year pro Greg Little remains the Browns’ top wideout, while Bess has moved into Gordon’s spot on the opposite side. Travis Benjamin and Josh Cooper are the only other receivers on the active roster, but both are unproven at the pro level.
“I know Davone will be able to extend drives for us,” Little said. “He’s a great slot route runner, and he’s going to make catches, so we’ll ultimately get more plays because of it.
“Obviously, not having Josh is a huge loss, but we have a guy that has made similar plays in this league, and will go out and play well on Sunday.”
Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle also is confident Bess will be productive, even though it’s his job to try and stop him. He continues to speak highly of the University of Hawaii product, praising his off-the-field professionalism as much as his on-field talents.
“I have nothing but great respect for Davone. I loved being around him when he was here,” Coyle said. “Our guys know we had a heck of a time trying to cover him out here (in practice), and he proved to be such a clutch guy for us.
“He’ll be a go-to guy for Cleveland, too, and we’re going to have to do a great job because he is a very, very nifty slot receiver.”
The only concern about Bess heading into the opener is his physical status. He battled knee tendinitis late in the preseason and missed roughly a week of practice.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski and Bess, though, termed his injury minor and said he was held off the field for precautionary reasons.
“From a mental standpoint, I’m ready to go,” Bess said. “And my knee is fine.”
So is his attitude. He said he appreciates all the Dolphins did for him, beginning with signing him as an undrafted free agent in 2008, and continuing through his trade to Cleveland.
“If I was the type of guy that held a grudge, I would have one against every team in the league because I didn’t get drafted,” he said, smiling. “There won’t be any trash talking or anything like that on Sunday.
“My only goal is trying to get the Cleveland Browns a win against the Miami Dolphins.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.