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Browns notebook: Kickers Billy Cundiff, Giorgio Tavecchio set to audition Tuesday

By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer

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BEREA: The Browns are scheduled to try out kickers Billy Cundiff and Giorgio Tavecchio today at their facility, a league source confirmed for the Beacon Journal Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team has not revealed who will audition.

The Browns originally planned to pit Cundiff against fellow veteran Dan Carpenter, but the latter dropped out of the workout to sign with the Buffalo Bills after their kicker, Dustin Hopkins, suffered a groin injury Monday during practice, ESPN reported.

The Browns do not have a kicker on their active roster, even though they’ll open the regular season Sunday against the visiting Miami Dolphins.

“There’s so much crazy stuff that happens in the NFL that I’m not surprised by anything anymore,” Browns long snapper Christian Yount said Monday after practice. “We just adjust and adapt and continue doing our job.”

Last week, the organization terminated the contract of veteran Shayne Graham and placed undrafted rookie Brandon Bogotay on the waived/injured list with a groin injury. Bogotay officially moved to the Browns’ injured reserve Sunday after passing through waivers unclaimed.

Browns coach Rob Chud­zinski conceded the team’s decision makers haven’t been satisfied thus far in their attempt to replace Pro Bowler Phil Dawson, who signed a one-year $2.25 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March after the new regime let him depart via free agency.

Meanwhile, Yount and punter Spencer Lanning, the holder for placekicks, are awaiting the arrival of a third amigo.

“A specialist can step in and do it,” Yount said. “As long as you can do your job and mentally not let the outside factors affect you, you’re going to be fine. I’m sure we’ll have a kicker by Sunday, and I’m sure he’ll be a great kicker. Whenever he comes in, mine and Spencer’s job is to be perfect for him and make sure the ball’s down and he can make his kick.”

Cundiff, 33, made the Pro Bowl in 2010. He has played regular-season games for five NFL teams, including the Browns in 2009, when Dawson was sidelined with a strained calf. He made an 18-yard field goal to lift the Browns over the Buffalo Bills 6-3 on Oct. 11, 2009.

Cundiff has made 139-of-184 field goals (75.5 percent) and 217-of-218 extra-point kicks during his career. He made all three of his field goals and all four of his extra points in the preseason before the New York Jets cut him and signed Carpenter on Aug. 27.

Three days later, the Jets cut Carpenter, 27, who made the Pro Bowl in 2009, in favor of Nick Folk.

The Green Bay Packers cut the Italian-born Tavecchio on Aug. 26. Tavecchio, 23, spent training camp with the San Francisco 49ers as a rookie last year but didn’t catch on.

In the preseason, he converted 1-of-2 field goals for the Packers, making a 38-yard attempt and missing from 49 yards.

No matter who wins the job with the Browns, Lanning has faith the new kicker will be ready for the Dolphins.

“I’ve got confidence in our special-teams unit that we can handle it,” Lanning said. “The coaches don’t seem to have a problem with it, so we don’t have a problem with it.

“We might have to work a little more. The guys they’re potentially going to bring in are going to be true professionals, and they’re expected to handle themselves like that.”

Cornerback situation

Buster Skrine said defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi informed him Sunday that he would start at right cornerback opposite Joe Haden against the Dolphins.

“It feels good to be named the starter for Week 1,” Skrine said. “It shows that my coaches have a lot of confidence in me, and I just want to take advantage of the opportunity.

“Of course, I was happy [to hear the news]. But I still have things to prove.”

Skrine expects to be tested early and often by Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Co. He’ll likely cover Brandon Gibson in the slot when the Dolphins employ three-receiver sets.

“Our secondary always has a chip on our shoulder,” Skrine said. “We’ve got some good players in the secondary, and we’re just looking to go and show it.”

Skrine held off fellow cornerback Chris Owens to win the starting job, at least to begin the season. Owens missed the final two preseason games with a strained foot arch, but he returned to practice Monday.

“I think I’ll be all right,” Owens said. “Knock off the cobwebs during this week of practice, and I’ll be ready to go.”

Others return

In addition to Owens, starting right defensive end Desmond Bryant (back spasms), wide receiver Davone Bess (tendinitis knee), starting tight end Jordan Cameron (strained groin) and rookie outside linebacker Barke­vious Mingo (bruised lung) returned to practice Monday.

Bryant missed the final two preseason games, though he’s confident he’ll be ready for the Dolphins.

“I don’t believe I was ever not confident about [playing in Week 1],” Bryant said. “I feel pretty good right now, so hopefully that carries over.”

Bess is back in time to face his former team after sitting out the final two exhibition games. The Dolphins traded Bess to the Browns during the draft in April.

“I wouldn’t say I got hurt toward the end of training camp,” Bess said. “A lot of it was just for maintenance, precaution, the coach was kind of taking care of me, and I’ll be ready Sunday.”

Guards Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston were the only players absent from practice Monday. They suffered high-ankle sprains last month and will miss the early stages of the regular season.

Practice squad

The Browns signed University of Mount Union product Jasper Collins, an undrafted rookie wide receiver, and seven others to their practice squad Monday.

“It’s all part of God’s plan — that’s how I look at it,” Collins said. “Everything happens for a reason, and I wasn’t invited to the combine, didn’t get drafted. But it’s just another chip on my shoulder. I’m just ready to compete. I’m excited to be here and ready to work.”

Collins said the Dolphins waived/injured him because he was dealing with a hamstring injury.

“I’m healthy now, 100 percent,” Collins said. “I rehabbed, got ready, was cleared and I’m ready to roll.”

Rookie free safety Jamoris Slaughter, whom the Browns picked in the sixth round, defensive backs Kip Edwards, Darius Eubanks, Terrence Frederick and Julian Posey, wide receiver Tori Gurley and guard Caylin Hauptmann joined Collins on the practice squad.

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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