Defense opens fire on Browns' gunners
By ERIC FONTES
News Sports Reporter
PITTSFORD - Just in case Leigh Bodden might have
been sleepwalking during the first 20 minutes of
Friday morning's practice, Nate Clements and
Pierson Prioleau delivered the ultimate wake-up
The Cleveland Browns defensive back was running
downfield as a gunner during a punt return drill
in the Buffalo Bills and Browns combined practice
at St. John Fisher College. But as he tried to
elude Clements and Prioleau, the players shoved
him backward before lowering their shoulders,
picking Bodden up and pile-driving him into the
As Bodden slowly got up, clapping his hands as if
celebrating that his health was still intact,
cheers from the Bills' sideline and public
onlookers pierced the damp air and gave life to
an otherwise dreary morning.
"Both clubs are trying to establish identity,
both clubs are trying to look good against an
opponent and, you know, we play a contact sport,"
Bills cornerback Troy Vincent said. "It's a
physical and emotional game, so you're going to
have emotions flaring because everyone wants to
make a play. (The gunner drill) is the highlight
of the morning. It got the juices flowing."
"I think it was good for both sides," Bills head
coach Mike Mularkey said. "(The Browns) got going
early, and it was probably good that they started
it because our guys took it and ran with it when
it was our chance. Nothing got out of hand in my
It was the first opportunity to hit an opponent
"It's always good competition with both teams,"
Cleveland running back William Green said. "We've
been hitting on each other the whole time, and
those Buffalo guys have been banging on each
other. So it's good just to get out there and hit
a guy with another color jersey on. Guys are
revved up for first-time contact with another
team in a while."
It also gave the Bills a chance to test different
tandems of gunners, whose abilities to avoid
blocks and get downfield are essential to having
good punt coverage. The Bills' first unit is
comprised of Terrence McGee and Kevin Thomas.
Buffalo also tried Clarence Coleman and Sam Aiken
as a gunner tandem, along with Jabari Greer and
But at Friday's practice, the execution of the
Bills' gunners took a back seat to the defensive
players knocking over the Browns' gunners.
Tempers flared occasionally, such as when Lawyer
Milloy delivered a big hit to Browns tight end
Steve Heiden as the whistle was being blown.
"It's about trying to get that first hit, not
trying to be cheap and all that," Milloy said.
"It's just football. Contact is part of the game.
I can't be out here and not hit, that's the
Even Vincent, who admits he's never been one to
enjoy the gunner drill, took a couple of reps
Friday. Aside from Pro Bowl practices, Vincent
has shied away from being a gunner. Who can blame
him after watching multiple scuffles and shouting
matches break out during the practice with the
"These things right here are like all-out
brawls," Vincent said. "They go from good, solid
technique to somebody throwing punches and
grabbing. You see shirts going up, you see a
whole bunch of stuff going on."
After several days of not much going on, though,
Vincent welcomed a change of scenery with having
the Browns get into it with the Bills.
"It breaks up the monotony of every single day
being the same thing, knowing what to expect and
what not to expect," he said. "It's a nice change