Verba in no rush for repeat of 2003
Saturday, August 7, 2004 By STEVE DOERSCHUK
Repository sports writer
ROCHESTER - The hitting was on Friday. And the
Nine-year veteran Oliver Gibson, an ex-Steeler
and ex-Bengal now playing defensive tackle for
Buffalo, got surly early on during one-on-one
drills against Cleveland guards.
After failing to beat Chad Beasley, Gibson
initiated a third-rate shoving match.
Then, after a stalemate with a different
challenger, Gibson pelted Paul Zukauskas with a
few quick unprintables.
Nearby, Ross Verba missed out the fun in a way
that could make Browns fans nervous. The veteran
left tackle sat on the grass at St. John Fisher
College, stretching a groin muscle that didn't
feel quite right.
A while later, a trainer applied a heavy wrap of
tape around Verba's upper right pant leg. Then,
the trainer wrapped a more tape around Verba's
midsection, so his lower back was covered.
Verba rejoined morning drills after a while, then
came away from the day's full-contact practice
shrugging off a slight groin strain.
Verba dressed in the afternoon but didn't play in
11-on-11 drills, instead leading drills for young
Verba said he won't know until this morning if he
will play in today's scrimmage against the Bills.
"The leg is just tight," Verba said. "I just
slipped on these shoes."
The Browns hope Verba has better luck than he did
in the 2003 preseason. Then, he went down with a
biceps injury that required season-ending
surgery. This was a major factor in the team's
After an offseason that not only didn't deliver
Iowa tackle Robert Gallery in the draft, but
produced no immediate new help at the position,
Verba's return is a big reason the team thinks it
can reverse fortunes.
Browns coaches will hold their breath about Verba
making it through today's scrimmage against the
Bills and the preseason games that start Aug. 14
Verba, on the other hand, exhaled easily after
getting through Friday's practice with that heavy
tape job. He loved what he saw from the line in
"I thought we looked the best we did in four
years," he said. "I really did. There's a lot of
good enthusiasm and excitement. We build from
The Browns' No. 1 line against the Bills had
Verba, 30, at left tackle; Chad Beasley, 25, at
left guard; Jeff Faine, 23, at center; Kelvin
Garmon, 27, at right guard; and Ryan Tucker, 29,
at right tackle.
"With me and Tuck and Kelvin," Verba said,
"that's three of the five that are pretty good
ballplayers ... and Faine (last year's
first-round draft pick) is coming along real
nice. Beasley is working his way in there."
Beasley was making headway in 2003 as a converted
defensive lineman. He got a start in last
December's Monday night game against the Rams
after Zukauskas left the team to attend his
Now, Verba sees Beasley and Zukauskas in an
interesting duel for the left guard job.
"Paulie's definitely trying to make a run for the
first team," Verba said. "It's gonna be a good
battle between him and Beasley."
Verba is first team, period - if he's healthy.