BEREA: With the Browns resting last week because of their bye, wide receiver Greg Little met with former NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning for a two-hour lunch at a deli in Miami and came away with a new appreciation for the importance of sacrifice.
Little was so moved by Mourning’s advice that he addressed the team Monday before practice, so he could spread the words of wisdom. The Browns (2-7) hope to rally around the message as they prepare to visit the Dallas Cowboys (4-5) Sunday.
“I just wanted to share it with the team,” Little said. “The same message that he gave to me is just find something that you can sacrifice, what you’re willing to give up to win. And that’s kind of the message I kind of relayed to our team — ‘What are you willing to give up? What are you willing to sacrifice to finish this season out like we really want to?’ ”
Little said his friend arranged the meeting with Mourning, the vice president of player programs for the Miami Heat. Although they had not met before, Mourning was well aware of the problems Little encountered earlier this season — dropping passes and squabbling with fans on Twitter.
Little said he has sacrificed Twitter. He hasn’t tweeted since Sept. 22.
“I didn’t know he was following me as close as he was, and you know I had the thing on Twitter where I had been talking to a few fans and that whole debacle and he just explained to me that they were right,” said Little, a second-round pick in the 2011 draft. “There’s two things that people care about: your money and winning.
“Winning is more important than any other thing in sports, and that’s just something that I enjoyed to hear from him. He said that the biggest thing that helped LeBron [James] in his playoff run was the sacrifice he made to stay off Twitter, don’t text people, don’t Instagram, things like that. He said that was the best performance that he’s seen other than Michael Jordan.”
Little believes refraining from Twitter has helped him play better because it’s no longer occupying time he can use to focus on improving. He has 27 catches for 301 yards and two touchdowns this season. In the past three games, he has 13 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown.
Mourning also emphasized the value of commitment.
“He also explained a story that Tiger Woods would putt 5-foot putts 500 times and he would have to hit 500 in a row and if he missed at 299, he was starting all the way back to one,” Little said. “That was the way he was explaining to me about when I have drops, doing something so many times where it’s just muscle memory. And 500 putts is just crazy to me.”
Little said he was speechless after his chat with Mourning. And he believes his own motivational speech caught the attention of his teammates.
“Usually I’m more the joker on the team,” he said. “If I get up and say something that [is] a serious message, I think the guys were really shocked at the beginning, and I think they took it well.”
Receiver and return man Josh Cribbs described Little’s message as encouraging.
“If everybody does extra, we’ll be a complete football team,” Cribbs said. “Everybody took it to heart coming from him. We were surprised, and we back him 100 percent and I’m proud of him.”
Putting forth extra effort through sacrifice became the theme of the Browns’ return from the bye.
“Everybody has to come in and just do more, do a little bit more because what we’ve been doing in the past obviously isn’t working,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “So if it’s another hour of film study, if it’s another workout, if it’s a little more conditioning, if it’s meeting with your coaches, if it’s anything like that, take that next step because obviously what we’ve been doing for the first nine weeks hasn’t been working.”
Back in action
Starting defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin returned to practiced Monday and hopes to play against the Cowboys after missing three of the past four games with an injured calf.
“The leg feels great,” he said. “I’m just really trying to get back in here, so I can contribute here on Sunday.”
It would be the first time this season the Browns have had both of their starting defensive tackles in the lineup.
Phil Taylor, who started all 16 games alongside Rubin last season, made his 2012 debut Nov. 4 in the Browns’ 25-15 loss to the Baltimore Ravens after missing the first eight games of the season while recovering from a torn pectoral muscle.
“We’re both dominant,” Rubin said. “If I’m not making a play, he’s making a play and vice versa. We’re just chipping away, trying to get back out there 100 percent. When we do get out there, it’s going to be something nice.”
Taylor played 50 percent of the defensive snaps in his first game back. He said he felt good and expects his playing time to increase Sunday.
If Rubin can successfully return, the combination of him and Taylor could have a ripple effect on the entire line. Defensive ends Jabaal Sheard and Frostee Rucker could have better chances for sacks in one-on-one, passing-rushing situations. It could allow rookie defensive tackle Billy Winn to play some defensive end, a spot at which he’s been practicing a little bit. And Rubin’s relentless style could spread, too.
“To see a big guy flying down the field and making plays, it just shows if he can do it, you should be able to do it,” Sheard said. “Sometimes when I’m tired, I look over and I see he’s not breathing hard. I know I can just suck it up and just keep playing through it.”
Before the bye, coach Pat Shurmur said he would streamline the play-calling process moving forward. But on Monday, Shurmur said he and offensive coordinator Brad Childress would continue to collaborate when calling the plays. “I don’t think anybody’s going to recognize any big changes there,” Shurmur said. … Dimitri Patterson was the only Browns player who did not practice Monday. He said he still doesn’t have a timetable for his return from a high ankle sprain and torn ligament, but he has started running as part of his rehabilitation. Patterson, the team’s top nickel cornerback, has missed the past four games.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.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.