New Browns wide receiver Nate Burleson is a self-proclaimed “social butterfly,” so it’s not surprising that he went into great detail while discussing several topics Monday during a 20-minute conference call with beat writers.
But leadership is hardly the only subject Burleson addressed. Below are some other highlights from the conversation.
Burleson visited the Miami Dolphins last week before meeting with the Browns on Saturday. Was there any hesitation on Burleson's part to join the Browns because of the firing of coach Rob Chudzinski after he spent just one season on the job and all of the turnover the franchise has undergone?: “No, there wasn’t. I left Miami and at the time I was leaving Miami, they showed some interest. I have some great relationships over there. I sat there and I told them this is a football decision. So from a football standpoint, I have to go take this trip to Cleveland, plain and simple. And that was just me thinking as a football player. And I’m glad that I did. I was able to sit down and talk with everybody from the GM down to the receivers coach, had dinner with the head coach. Just got a great feel for what they’re trying to do. And I think they understood what I wanted to do, and that was win games. At this point in my career, I can either look at it two ways. Year 12, I can say I want to get as many touchdowns and catches as I can, or I can say I want to be productive in a winning program. Injuries have kind of hurt my success over the last couple years in Detroit. In a half season I put up over 400 yards. I’m trying to give Cleveland a healthy Nate Burleson, and a healthy Nate Burleson in 16 games can tap dance around 1,000 yards easily. But more importantly, I can move the chains. Any team can utilize a guy that can move the chains. With the features that they already have and with some of these young guns that they have on this team, I’m just a guy that wants to be a part of it. I’m not going to come in and try to be the man. I just want to be one of the guys that’s part of a great winning program.”
What was his knowledge of Browns before he joined them?: “Luckily I didn’t have to research much. I played against the Browns. We had some preseason battles. Even when I played with the Seahawks, I remember playing there during the regular season and then last year just competitive preseason games, always the most competitive preseason game, and that set the tone for what I thought about the Browns. When people would speak about certain teams, being that I’ve had experience a lot in the NFL and they’d mention the Browns and mention the record, I would say that’s not an indication of how talented that team is mainly because I just finished a game with them. My body’s feeling banged up and bruised. Very competitive. They talk a good game and go out and walk a good game. Closing out games and not getting wins is obviously something they’ve dealt with, and I say that from experience because I dealt with it in Detroit being that we were so talented at times, had the games won, were in position to win games. I see them as a team that’s ready to take that next step. The talent is there. Not only is the talent there, there’s been some great moves made this offseason. I’m sort of the end of the list as far as acquisitions, but they’ve done some things and have been one of the more aggressive teams in free agency. I’m looking forward to the draft and piecing together something than can be special. This isn’t a program that’s rebuilding. I’m not coming here to deal with losing, just like everybody else is. I think the people that are putting on this jersey this year want to win games. That’s what it’s all about.”
What’s the secret to playing 11 years in the NFL?: “It’s just like anything else: it’s going out and competing for opportunity. I’ve been in 11 years because I’ve been able to compete for every spot. In 11 years, I’ve been everything from a No. 1 to a No. 3. The thing I learned the most about being a successful offense is that it’s less about a title and more about your production. So I can care less what they label me. What I’m more concerned about is helping this offense be productive and that’s moving the chains, catching tough balls over the middle, being able to take some pressure off the other wide receivers and other playmakers on offense. If that comes in the tune of 60 catches, fine. If it comes in the tune of 80, 100, fine. Whatever the case is, it’s more about being consistent and helping this team win. So I’ve got to come in and play. Nothing’s going to be handed to me. I don’t want it that way. I would never want it that way.”
Burleson suffered a broken arm in bizarre fashion last year. How does that story go again?: “Happy Asker, he owns Happy’s Pizza. It seems like there’s 1,000 of them out there in Michigan. He’s a great friend of mine, so I would usually go there on Sunday night and watch the game. We went there and we were relaxing, watching the game. I took home not just pizza. Pizza kind of stood out in the story, but everything from pizza to ribs and salad to pies for the family, for my wife and kids. I got on the freeway, doing what I usually do, which is poor driving with my knees and plugging in my music, thinking I’m on the freeway by myself, and once I reached over to make sure the pizzas weren’t falling down, I looked up and there’s a van in front of me. I thought I was alone on the road. Before you know it, I was trying to overcorrect, trying to avoid this van. I started left, went back right and then I tried to correct it one last time. I thought I had it. Once I faced the concrete median, I realized in my head, ‘Oh no, man. You don’t got this.’ So I braced myself. I grabbed the steering wheel as hard as I could, and that’s how I broke my arm. Because of the impact, my hand was wrapped so tightly around the steering wheel that when I hit the median, it pretty much fractured my arm. It was unfortunate because at that point, I feel like I was playing as consistent as any receiver in the league. I had a really good rhythm with [quarterback] Matt [Stafford], but everything happens for a reason, so I couldn’t really get too mad. I’ve dealt with a few injuries in my time. The only frustrating thing is it wasn’t on the field. Being that I’m a gladiator in the sport of football, when you do get injuries, you just hope it’s in the arena of football. It was tough because when I went down I knew that the offense wasn’t going to be the same. So it was less about me and knowing the impact my injury was going to have on my team. It was unfortunate to watch because it certainly did.”
In a 2011 preseason game, Burleson scored a touchdown against the Browns in Cleveland and imitated LeBron James’ talcum powder pre-game toss. James left the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010, so Browns fans didn’t appreciate Burleson’s celebration. Has he taken flak for it?: “No, not at all. The thing that’s so crazy is I did the LeBron celebration a while ago, before LeBron made the switch to Miami. I don’t know if people remember, but I did it when LeBron was still playing [in Cleveland]. Back then when I did it, it was when LeBron was still playing for Cleveland, so it was kind of a homage to the city of Cleveland and kind of the buzz surrounding the Cavaliers. And then when I came back it was just basically saying I’m still here. I still [like] to celebrate. But I haven’t taken any flak. I’m pretty sure I will. I’m pretty sure I’ll be at the grocery store one day and somebody’s going to run up on me in the cereal section and I’m going to have to address it. But it’s all out of good nature. When you’ve got competitive guys and you have young, feisty individuals like [Browns cornerback Joe] Haden talking trash, you’ve got to have something in your back pocket to quiet them, so that was it. But I think people that know me as a player, they know that I’m going to go out there and be competitive. Here’s how I explain celebrations: As long as they’re not excessive, they’re OK, but one thing I can say about receivers who celebrate, you’ve got to give them credit because they planned on getting in the end zone, and that’s what it’s all about. Hopefully I can celebrate a lot more in a Browns jersey, and I’m pretty sure the fans would be OK with that.”
What does Burleson make of the Browns’ quarterback situation?: “Just watching it from a distance, I don’t really know much about what decision they’re going to make from a coaching and organization standpoint. The good thing is I put on a jersey, so I’m not paid to make those decisions. Brian [Hoyer], he did well in the games he played, but coming off an injury, I’ve had an ACL before, so I know the path that you take to get healthy, which everybody hopes for. All I can do as a receiver is make sure that the group I’m in is well prepared and whatever quarterback that we have, we create chemistry with. It’s the NFL, so everybody at this level is talented. Now there are elite guys. There are the Tom Bradys and Peyton Mannings and Drew Brees. More importantly, if every quarterback is good at this level, what’s going to make him really good is that chemistry with the receivers, being able to drop back and know not only where everybody is but what type of catch does each individual like, where can he place the ball, knowing when you can ad-lib a little bit and where certain guys are going to go. Those are the little things that are going to make the quarterback regardless. So for me, it’s less about the quarterback situation and making sure whoever is throwing us the ball that we give him everybody opportunity to make sure that we make those plays.”
What does Burleson think about the possibility of playing with a rookie quarterback?: “I’ve played with a vet quarterback. I’ve played with a young quarterback. The one thing that I do love about young quarterbacks is that they’re fearless. Because you come in, you’re leaving a college program where you almost feel like you had amassed control over your movements and the game and it was very slowed down to you, it’s OK. There’s a certain idea that they have about the NFL that suits them well because you don’t want to over think it. You definitely don’t want to over think this game. You want to come in and feel like you can do the same things in college that you can do in the league and that’s perfectly fine, so for me it doesn’t matter the years on the guy. It just matters if he’s ready to play. Confidence is key. I don’t think there’s any more, any other position where confidence doesn’t matter the most and rookies usually come in with a great deal of confidence at that position.”
Burleson has made a bunch of NFL Network appearances. Is that his way of preparing for another career once he’s finished playing football?: “Yeah, it is. I’ve always had some type of TV or radio show every single year I’ve been in the NFL, and I did it originally to kind of get my voice out there. And to be honest, I’m your typical wide receiver diva, so I love attention, but then as I got older towards the middle of my career, I realized this is something that I’m decent at. I’m OK. I can actually articulate my words and give people a different type of insight to a sport I played for so long and then these networks started to reach out to me over the last couple of years, showing a little bit of interest. It’s something that I’m going to keep in my back pocket, you know just having a plan. You guys know just like I know, even though I’ve been blessed to play over a decade, you got to have an exit strategy, and I’ve been planning my exit strategy for some years now. I’m always going to be a football player. Football always comes first, but I’m going to be ready when the day comes and I’m not going to be surprised by what real life can bring to me. I’m going to bring it to real life and have a plan. So yeah, I’m interested in doing a little bit of TV, so if you guys want me to get on the radio and talk a little bit of trash, I can do that over the summer and during the season. Just let me know what’s up.”