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Unlikely Role for Northcutt

Postby slowkidz » Sat Oct 23, 2004 10:31 pm

Unlikely role for Northcutt
Saturday, October 23, 2004
Mary Kay Cabot
Plain Dealer Reporter


Receiver Dennis Northcutt has gone from vowing
he'd never play for the Browns again to finally
getting another chance to start.

Thanks to Andre Davis' turf toe and the trade of
Quincy Morgan, Northcutt is expected to start
Sunday against the 5-0 Eagles, along with fellow
backup Andre King. And depend ing on how quickly
new comer Anto nio Bryant catches on, Northcutt
could make a case to keep the starting job.

"I've been here before in the starting lineup,
and things didn't work out," Northcutt said.
"It's been a long time since then.

"I have to remember how long it took me to get
back here. But I wouldn't be in this position if
they didn't believe in me."

Northcutt hasn't been a regular starter since his
first and second seasons, 2000-01. After last
season, he was excited about the prospect of
becoming a free agent, because he wanted to start
again.

It didn't happen. Northcutt wound up back with
the Browns after his agent failed to file a
letter in time for him to become a free agent.
When he vowed in March that he'd never wear a
Browns uniform again, he said, "I want to be a
Pro Bowl receiver, and I'm never going to get
that chance here."

For the first six games of the season, Northcutt
came off the bench in passing situations. Despite
the fact Morgan was unproductive and up to his
old habits of catching one and dropping the next,
Northcutt still couldn't crack the lineup.

Yet, he never regretted his decision to return.

"I've said from day one, I would never look back
no matter how bad things may look, no matter how
ugly they get," he said. "When I make a decision,
I live with it and move forward. You can't go
back in time."

Northcutt's biggest issue this season has been
finding his chemistry with quarterback Jeff
Garcia, especially on third down. In Pittsburgh,
Garcia threw to Northcutt five times on third
down but completed only one. They had a heated
exchange after one botched pass near the
goal-line.

"I think our timing is good," Northcutt said. "I
don't think all of it's been our timing. It's
that everything's different. We have different
plays, a different coordinator and a different
offense on third down. When I was making all
those third downs in the past, it was a
third-down package designed for Dennis
Northcutt."

Northcutt, who made first downs on 41 of his 62
catches last season, leads the Browns with 21
receptions, but has only 172 yards for an
8.2-yard average. But perhaps the quarterback and
receiver have turned the corner together. Last
week against the Bengals, Northcutt made a
sensational 49-yard, one-handed grab while he was
falling on his back.

"Nine times out of 10, I don't make that catch,"
he said. "But 10 times out of 10 if I don't try,
I never will. The play is never over until the
ball hits the ground."

It's catches like those, he said, that will make
for chemistry between him and Garcia.

"You want to get on the same page with the
quarterback? Go out and make some plays for him
and see what happens," Northcutt said. "Trust me,
I know. I've had a couple of quarterbacks here."

He said he doesn't find it ironic that of the
four receivers pictured on the cover of the media
guide last season, Kevin Johnson and Morgan are
gone and he's still here.

"Things happen," he said. "You have to have your
head on a swivel because you never know what's
going to happen. Quincy was unhappy, so it's not
that surprising, but I was a little shocked. But
you just have to move on and make the best of
it."

He said he'll do everything he can to help
Bryant, despite the fact it could mean the loss
of the starting job he so covets.

"I told him, 'We're a family here and we'll do
everything we can to bring you along,' " he said.
"I said, 'This group is very tight and we welcome
you with open arms. We want you to come in and
help us make plays. Welcome to the family.' "
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