BEREA — Jerry Rice expects to be joined by Browns receiver Josh Gordon at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
Rice, considered the greatest receiver in NFL history, brought up Gordon when discussing the league’s best receivers Monday during a conference call to promote the new Pro Bowl format. Rice and Deion Sanders will serve as alumni captains and help draft the teams.
“He’s a guy that can run good routes, he has confidence in his hands and he’s making plays right now,” said Rice, who’s the all-time leader with 22,895 receiving yards and 208 touchdowns.
Gordon, 22, set NFL records for two- (498), three- (649) and four-game (774) stretches before being held to three catches for 67 yards and a touchdown Sunday against the Bears.
“That speaks in volume right there, that this guy is starting to really come into his own and he’s only going to get better,” Rice said of the record streak. “I’m sure he’s going to work harder. I’m expecting a lot more from Josh Gordon.”
Rice isn’t the only Hall of Fame receiver who’s noticed Gordon. Cris Carter singled him out on ESPN’s pregame show Sunday morning.
“In my search of who’s going to be the next great receiver in the National Football League, outside of Calvin Johnson, you’ve got to put this kid in the conversation,” Carter said. “He’s big, strong and fast.
“He’s a household name. Get used to it. A smart decision, too, by the Browns not trading him, trading Trent Richardson.”
Gordon wasn’t targeted until the final minutes of the first half Sunday, and coach Rob Chudzinski was asked for an explanation after watching the game film.
“We had some things up for him early, it just didn’t work out to get him the ball in the first half,” he said. “We never were able to really get into a rhythm. We had some misses on him and a near-miss right there before the half that would have been a big play.
“We just weren’t able to make the connections with him. Sometimes it’s going to be that way. It may be a quarter, it may be a half that he doesn’t get a lot of work and then all of a sudden he could get a lot of throws. That’s the cycle it goes in. We’re always going to work to get him the ball and certainly he’s a big part of what we want to do.”
I DEFER TO YOU
The Browns won the coin toss Sunday, and Chudzinski kept to his practice and deferred until the second half.
“You get the potential of a double possession at the end of a first half and the beginning of the second half,” he said. “So if it works out that you get that, that’s a big factor and if you take advantage, you can take the game.”
The decision to defer became a topic of conversation after the Bears scored 21 points in the fourth quarter with the wind at their backs to rally for a 38-31 win. Chudzinski explained his decision to defer in the cold and windy conditions.
“I really felt like it was important for us to get off to a good start and the field position in that game was going to be important,” he said. “The wind was more of a factor in the kicking game. I really didn’t feel like that affected us offensively. (Quarterback) Jason (Campbell) actually preferred throwing into it.”
Chudzinski didn’t deny the wind was a factor. He called a timeout in the third quarter before a Bears punt to extend the period in case the Browns would need to kick a field goal or punt.
Outside linebacker Paul Kruger isn’t used to losing. He never missed the playoffs in four seasons with the Ravens and won a Super Bowl in February.
He’s 4-10 and has lost five straight with the Browns.
“It’s hard but I’ve been here,” he said. “This is my team. I really don’t think about those past situations very much. I’m very focused on what we’re doing.”
Kruger was asked if he has any regrets about signing with the Browns. He inked a five-year, $40.5 million deal in March.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “It just gives me that much more desire and passion to want to win and I know we’re building something here.
“I know we’re making the right moves, we just need to figure out how to win at the end of the game — that’s the bottom line. And if we can do that, as you guys can see, we would have a pretty good record right now.”
Rookie seventh-round pick Garrett Gilkey saw his first offensive action of the year Sunday, playing three snaps at left guard in the first quarter. The plan to replace Jason Pinkston for a series was made before the game.
“Just have to make the most of the plays, the time when you’re out there,” Gilkey said. “Hopefully the next two weeks I’m able to get some more playing time and show the coaching staff that I can be a productive player.”
Gilkey wasn’t told the reason he played, but said he felt comfortable in the game.
“I’m sure they just want to see how I’ve developed and how I’ve gotten better,” he said.
Chudzinski’s wife, Sheila, gave birth to a baby boy Monday morning. Everyone’s healthy, and he’s the fourth young child for the couple.
** Running back Willis McGahee said he’s feeling “pretty good” after sustaining a concussion Dec. 8 and expects to be back this week. He was inactive Sunday and had yet to be cleared to practice after blacking out on the field after a hit in the fourth quarter against the Patriots.