BEREA -- The Browns' tight end pool is too crowded. Someone will have to do a backstroke out of Berea.
It seems certain Steve Heiden will make the team. He has looked strong in practice and drew raves from Head Coach Butch Davis for his off-season work.
Darnell Sanders isn't going anywhere. The former Ohio State player was a Davis draft pick last year.
Aaron Shea, a No. 110 overall in 2000 (Sanders went at No. 122 in '02) seems safe.
The presence of these three is why the Browns didn't think twice about trading Mark Campbell (16 starts in 2002) to Buffalo.
Yet, the position remains crowded in part because intriguing 295-pound blocking machine Chad Mustard is making a bid.
The real surprise, though, could be forgotten man Rod Monroe. The former University of Cincinnati basketball player (he helped Bob Huggins' Bearcats to a 28-5 finish in 1996) has bounced around Berea for four years, without ever catching a pass in a game.
Just when Davis sensed a breakthrough last year, Monroe suffered a season-ending injury.
"In the Buffalo scrimmage a year ago," Davis said, "he played extremely well. Had he not broken his leg, he would have made a legitimate bid to make the team."
Monroe is healthy now, and looking forward to another big scrimmage against the Bills on Saturday.
Monroe has seemed assertive and strong after catching the ball in training camp. He still has the element that has kept him around this long: speed.
"If you can develop the threat of getting the ball to the tight ends,'' Davis said, "it will make the receivers and the running back that much better."
Shea said a reasonable goal for the tight end group is to total 75 to 80 catches.
"Opponents are going to be doubling K.J. (Kevin Johnson) or Quincy Morgan or whomever is the hot receiver," Shea said of the Browns' strong wide receiver group. "That will make some opportunities for us.''
At this time last year, Heiden was in his fourth training camp with the Chargers, having been drafted by San Diego in the third round in 1999. Heiden was a bit stunned when he was traded to Cleveland last Aug. 31.
"I look back, and it's probably the best thing that happened to me," he said.
Heiden figures to improve his 2002 totals with the Browns - 17 catches, 105 yards.
"I don't think people paid much attention to what a valuable pickup Steve Heiden was," Davis said. "He's a pass-receiving threat. He's got good run after catch skills. I love what Steve said in the off-season, 'You haven't seen the best of Steve Heiden.' ''
But keep an eye on Rod Monroe.
WORKMANLIKE WEDNESDAY: To some, the Browns - especially the center-stage quarterbacks, Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb - seemed flat in Wednesday afternoon's practice. It was the only full practice of the day, with the morning having been devoted to special teams. Davis, though, said the mark of a good team is stringing two good days of practice together, and he insisted that his team had done so. There was no tackling, but the quarterbacks spent a lot of time handing off to running backs. Davis came away from the session revealing his general plan for the season. The Browns will run 40 to 45 percent of the time, and pass 55 to 60 percent of the time. He promised the ball will be spread around, even with potential stars at wide receiver. "As much as I'd like to get one of these guys to the Hall of Fame by catching 100 balls a year," he said, "I'd much rather see four or five guys catching 60 to 75 balls a year."
CAMP LOG: Wide receiver André Davis (knee) missed practice again but might practice today, Davis said. There is a chance the receiver will play against Buffalo on Saturday. ... Davis said he wouldn't reveal until today how he will divide playing time against Buffalo. Davis said the loose goal is to get every man at least 20 plays during live action Saturday.
ADDING HELP: With their two drafted cornerbacks still not at training camp because of contract holdouts, the Browns signed free-agent defensive back Jermaine Jones. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Jones gives the Browns some insurance in case they can't sign either cornerback Chris Crocker (third round) or Michael Lehan (fifth round). Jones, who played at Northwestern State, was originally selected in the fifth round of the 1999 draft by the New York Jets. After being released, he spent part of '99 with the Chicago Bears and was with the Dallas Cowboys in 2001. Last year, he played for Dallas of the Arena League.
Camper of the day C.J. Jones
Wide receiver, No. 3
Analyst Trev Alberts became public enemy No. 1 in Columbus last November when he sneered that Ohio State was no match for Iowa. Jones was one of the guys Alberts really liked. The strong, swift wide receiver (he ran a 47.1 400-meter dash in high school) was part of a balanced attack that had the Hawkeyes in the national championship hunt until a bowl loss to Southern Cal. Even then, Jones returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Lacking great overall statistics, the 5-foot-11 Florida native wasn't drafted, but he is making a serious bid to make the Browns as a sixth wide receiver. He caught more passes than anyone during Wednesday afternoon's practice, including a spectacular grab of a Nate Hybl pass deep over the middle that drew a big cheer. Jones reached across his body, raked the ball in with one hand, and charged ahead. "He's been a very pleasant surprise,'' Head Coach Butch Davis said. "He's been hungry to learn. When his number has been called, he's developed a habit of making plays."