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Browns notebook: Despite inconsistent career, Billy Cundiff confident he can create more good memories in Cleveland

By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer

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BEREA: For the most part, Billy Cundiff can recall every field goal he has attempted since he entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2002.

“It’s kind of like an episode of Seinfeld,” Cundiff said Wednesday before practice. “If you give me enough details, I can probably tell you what it is.”

He remembers the game-winning, 18-yard field goal he made as a member of the Browns in 2009, lifting them to a 6-3 win over the Buffalo Bills on a windy day at Ralph Wilson Stadium. And he’ll never forget the 32-yard attempt he missed for the Baltimore Ravens in the final minute of their 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game in January 2012.

After winning a tryout Tuesday and signing with the Browns, Cundiff is hoping to create more positive memories in Cleveland. He’ll get a chance Sunday when the Browns host the Miami Dolphins in the regular-season opener.

“It obviously restarted my career,” Cundiff said of his first stint with the Browns. “For my wife and I, we have very fond memories here because for two years, I didn’t play in the regular season. This was a team that took a chance.

“The next season I was playing in the Pro Bowl [as a member of the Ravens]. I felt like I really got on track toward reaching my potential as a kicker. I’m very grateful for what they did for me. That’s why I’m so excited to come back because of all the memories I have here.”

Cundiff made all six field goals in 2009 while filling in for former Browns kicker Phil Dawson, who was sidelined with a strained calf. Dawson, 38, had been with the organization since 1999 until the new regime let him depart in free agency this past March. After earning his first Pro Bowl selection, Dawson signed a one-year, $2.25 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers.

“Phil and I were going back and forth last night, just texting,” Cundiff said. “I’ve stayed in touch with him every year since I left here. He’s a great guy. There’s obviously a lot to learn from what he’s done. I think it’s a good thing to come in after a guy who’s played at such a high level. You’ve got to bring your game up.”

Cundiff, 33, will need to step up if he’s going to rebound from his infamous miss with the Ravens. He made only 7-of-12 field goals last season with the Washington Redskins.

“I think that’s kind of a good way to put it — nothing really got back on track,” Cundiff said. “But for me, I felt like I’ve continued to build on my skills. So obviously things didn’t work out the way I wanted to in the AFC Championship Game, but I think there’s a lot of things you can learn from that.”

Cundiff said his tryout Tuesday against Giorgio Tavecchio, 23, was about the 30th audition he has gone through during his career. The duel was held in windy conditions outside at the team’s training facility.

“He had a good workout,” Chudzinski said of Cundiff, adding he will practice kicking at FirstEnergy Stadium before Sunday. “He knows the division, and he’s played here. He’s kicked well in the preseason thus far. He’s outstanding as a kickoff guy. I think he is 60 percent on his touchback percentage, and he has been in the Pro Bowl. He is a resilient guy. He’s on our football team, and I have the utmost faith in him.”

The New York Jets cut Cundiff last week, even though he made all three of his field-goal attempts and all four of his extra-point tries in the preseason. Meanwhile, the Browns cut veteran Shayne Graham, 35, and waived/injured undrafted rookie Brandon Bogotay, 24, with a groin injury. Graham experienced tightness in his back during warm-ups before the preseason finale, but Chudzinski said that had nothing to do with him being released.

Cundiff has played regular-season games with five NFL teams and spent time with several others. Despite the letdowns he has experienced, he’s still going.

“I’m either really persistent or just dumb, one of the two,” Cundiff said. “I feel like I’m extremely persistent. I feel like I’ve got the talent to play in this league at a high level. I proved that in 2010. I’ve had other years where I’ve done extremely well. So I feel like it’s just a matter of getting the right timing, and when you get an opportunity, you have to take advantage of it. That’s why I’m here.”

Injury updates

Browns rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo was limited again during practice Wednesday as he continues to recover from a bruised lung.

Mingo, the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft, participated in some non-contact drills with the linebackers, backpedaling, running around cones and catching passes. However, he sat out once they started hitting a blocking sled. He also watched punting drills from the sideline.

Reporters were allowed to watch about the first 30 minutes of practice.

Browns CEO Joe Banner told the Beacon Journal on Tuesday that Mingo would undergo further medical testing this week to determine whether he’ll be able to play Sunday. He said the Browns expect to know Mingo’s status by today or Friday.

When asked Tuesday whether Mingo will play in the opener, Chudzinski said, “We’ll wait and see.”

Mingo is the main backup to Jabaal Sheard, who will start at right outside linebacker opposite Paul Kruger. Because Mingo might be ruled out, Sheard said he and Kruger have been doing extra conditioning to prepare for more playing time.

“On the side, you’ll see me and Krug doing a little extra running,” Sheard said. “You really have to get more running. You’ve got to be in shape.”

Right guard Shawn Lauvao (high ankle sprain) was the only player on the Browns’ active roster who did not practice Wednesday and Chudzinski ruled him out for Sunday. But there is some encouraging news for Lauvao — he strolled through the locker room Wednesday without the walking boot he had been wearing for the past month.

In addition to Mingo, starting right defensive end Desmond Bryant (back) was limited for the Browns.

Dolphins rookie defensive end Dion Jordan (shoulder) fully participated in practice.

“We’ll decide at the end of the week how much of a role he’ll have,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said of Jordan, the third overall pick in this year’s draft.

Talking trash

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith took a shot at his former offensive coordinator, Chudzinski, during a conference call Wednesday with Seattle media.

“The prior offensive coordinator [Chudzinski] really was positioning himself to just apply for that head coaching job,” Smith said. “I think our offense suffered a little bit because of that.

“At times, we got cute. We did things that weren’t necessarily us, like the under-utilizing of [running back] Mike Tolbert. But we’re out of that. The past is the past.”

Extra points

Chudzinski named wide receivers Davone Bess and Travis Benjamin “co-starters” in place of Josh Gordon, the team’s No. 1 receiver who is suspended for the first two games of the season because he violated the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. “They’ll play a lot,” Chudzinski said of Bess and Benjamin. “We’ll rotate those guys quite a bit.” … Although free safety Johnson Bademosi is listed as the top kickoff returner on the depth chart, Chudzinski wouldn’t commit to him filling that role Sunday. Chudzinski said the team will continue to experiment with Bademosi, Benjamin, running backs Bobby Rainey and Dennis Johnson and cornerback Buster Skrine as kickoff returners during practices this week. … Chudzinski said guard Jason Pinkston, who was placed on short-term injured reserve Tuesday with a high ankle sprain, doesn’t need surgery.

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.


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