After running back Ben Tate signed a two-year, $6.2 million contract with the Browns as an unrestricted free agent March 15, he told reporters he was eager to escape the shadow of former teammate Arian Foster and prove he’s one of the best running backs in the NFL.
Well, Foster believes Tate is capable of accomplishing his mission. They spent the past four seasons together with the Houston Texans, so Foster has intimate knowledge of Tate’s talent.
“He’s always been a really good running back in the NFL,” Foster said today during a conference call promoting the NFL- and Browns-themed film Draft Day, which will open in theaters April 11. “It’s unfortunate he got drafted here and he was behind me for a while. But he’s going to be a great addition to Cleveland. They’re going to love him up there. He’s a very skilled athlete, and I’m looking for big things from him.”
Foster, who plays a draft prospect in Draft Day, entered the NFL in 2009 when he signed with the Texans as an undrafted rookie. The Texans drafted Tate in the second round of the 2010 draft, but he missed his entire rookie season with a broken ankle.
With Tate sidelined in 2010, Foster had his breakout season, compiling 1,616 yards on 327 carries (4.9 average) and 16 touchdowns to go along with 66 catches for 604 yards and two scores. Foster made the Pro Bowl that season and the next two while Tate worked his way back from the injury and became the Texans’ No. 2 running back.
“It was very tough because when you’re stuck behind someone like that, it’s tough to really showcase your talent on a consistent basis,” Tate said March 15. “And that’s kind of why I’m in the situation that I’m in now where I did sign a two-year deal because I wanted to be able to show what I can do on a more consistent basis. It’s tough because you can’t be seen. You can’t show everyone what you can do, so therefore everyone doesn’t know your full worth.
“I feel like now that I’ve been given this opportunity, that I can be one of the top backs in the league. I don’t want to really get into that too much. I’m going to let my play speak for itself. But I want it to be known that I do feel like I’m a guy who’s going to be a top-10, top-eight, top-five running back. I feel like my play will speak for itself next year. After I play, I think everyone is going to agree.”
Now Tate is on the verge of receiving his own starring role with the Browns.
Last week at the NFL owners meetings, Browns coach Mike Pettine said the franchise could “absolutely” count on Tate as its featured back next season.
“Anytime that you have a player or coach that has some extra motivation, I think that helps separate you from the pack,” Pettine said.
Perhaps Foster can appreciate Tate’s determination more than most. The Browns certainly hope to benefit from it.
Said Foster: “It’s a great opportunity for him.”