BEREA: Jamoris Slaughter believes he’ll be in the thick of a competition to become the Browns’ starting free safety when training camp begins.
It might seem like an unrealistic goal for a sixth-round draft pick coming off a torn Achilles’ tendon, but the Browns don’t have any proven candidates in Slaughter’s way, and he’s determined to bounce back with a vengeance.
“I’ve been working this whole time to get back into playing shape and I think by the time training camp starts, I think I will be in that competition,” said Slaughter, a versatile defensive back from Notre Dame. “I’ve just got a competitor’s mind, and I always want to be first.”
The Browns selected Slaughter on Saturday in the sixth round (No. 175) of the NFL Draft. After the Browns traded picks in the fourth and fifth rounds in exchange for selections in the third and fourth rounds of next year’s draft, they wrapped up the third and final day of the 2012 draft by taking Slaughter, East Central defensive end/outside linebacker Armonty Bryant (seventh round, No. 217) and Chadron State offensive lineman Garrett Gilkey (seventh round, No. 227).
The 6-foot, 195-pound Slaughter missed the final 10 games of his senior season after suffering a ruptured Achilles’ tendon in his left leg Sept. 15 against Michigan State. Slaughter started 10 of the 13 games in which he appeared in 2011 and had 45 tackles, two pass breakups, one interception and a forced fumble before missing the bulk of Notre Dame’s run to the BCS National Championship Game last season.
“It was tough to deal with just for the simple fact that we were coming back to glory, and I kind of felt like I wasn’t a part of it, even though I was,” Slaughter said.
“But deep down, I want to be out on the field every play with my teammates. But it was a humbling process. It taught me a lot about myself and I was able to help my teammates and players mentally through this whole process. I feel like things are going to be OK. In the NFL, I got drafted and people saw what I did in college. So it’s really a blessing.”
Slaughter is confident he’ll conquer the daunting task of rebounding from the injury.
“I’m about 90 percent now,” Slaughter said. “I’m able to do sprinting and cutting. I’ve been doing bag drills and pretty much everything, position drills. So it’s all coming back into line. The main thing for me now is getting my power and explosion back. I’ve been doing that by doing some single-leg weights and workouts and those types of things. It’s coming along well, and I think I should be ready 100 percent by training camp.”
The Browns need someone to seize the starting free-safety spot alongside T.J. Ward. Tashaun Gipson showed promise as an undrafted rookie last season and worked with the first-team defense during voluntary minicamp less than two weeks ago. Eric Hagg, a seventh-round pick in 2011, is also in the mix, but he was benched after starting the first two games at free safety last season.
“We felt good medically from the research that we had done that [Slaughter] will be back to full speed,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “That’s still going to take a little bit of time getting him back into it. But we saw a player who was extremely productive and very versatile, that played on the slot, has been able to cover people man-to-man and also blitzed and played back deep. … We really liked the player that we saw and projecting forward [we think] he would be able to be in the mix and be able to compete.”
Slaughter’s agent had been in contact with the Browns leading up to the draft, so their interest was known. Still, Slaughter assumed he wouldn’t be drafted because of his injury. Now he’s hoping to capitalize on a golden opportunity.
“It was a surprise to me that I did get drafted, and I’m excited to be a Cleveland Brown,” Slaughter said. “I’m just ready to get back out there and get to work.”
Buckeye to Baltimore
Ohio State defensive end and linebacker John Simon was selected in the fourth round (No. 129 overall) by the Baltimore Ravens, which means he’ll be making plenty of trips back to Ohio each year.
Simon was the second Buckeye selected after defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins was taken in the second round (No. 49) by the New York Giants.
“[The Ravens] are just a tough, hard-nosed football team, and I feel that’s how I play the game, and I am just really excited to be part of the organization and look forward to getting to practice,” Simon told reporters in Baltimore during a conference call.
Simon could play on the line in certain situations or stand up as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
“Wherever they want me to play,” he said.
Offensive tackle Reid Fragel, the third and final Buckeye taken in the draft, is staying near home after being selected in the seventh round (No. 240) by the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Big Ten had only 22 players selected in all, its smallest draft class since 1994. Illinois led the way with four players selected.
San Diego State cornerback Leon McFadden, who was taken by the Browns in the third round (No. 68), already had a Browns connection. Brian Sipe is the Aztecs’ quarterback coach, and the former Browns quarterback left McFadden a voicemail Friday night after he heard about the selection.
“I got to it kind of late, so I’m going to call him later this evening at an appropriate time,” McFadden said during a news conference. “But he was pumped up. You could tell by his tone of voice. He’s happy for me.”
Younger Krugers in NFL
Both of new Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger’s younger brothers, Joe and Dave from Utah, are coming to the NFL.
Kruger tweeted Saturday night that Dave, a defensive tackle at Utah, had agreed to a deal with the Browns as an undrafted free agent.
Joe Kruger was drafted in the seventh round (No. 212) by the Philadelphia Eagles. That pick was originally owned by the Browns and acquired by the Eagles in the deal involving safety David Sims.
Undrafted free agents
Browns CEO Joe Banner said the organization agreed to deals with 17 undrafted free agents shortly after the seventh round ended and will announce them later.
However, several of the names leaked Saturday night on Twitter.
Notre Dame center Braxston Cave, Kansas State tight end Travis Tannahill and Delaware defensive back Ricky Tunstall announced their agreements. Arkansas State announced quarterback Ryan Aplin’s deal. Youngstown State running back Jamaine Cook and Stephen F. Austin defensive back Josh Aubrey signed with the Browns, according to the NFL Draft Bible blog.
Wofford linebacker Mike Niam, a graduate of Hudson High School, has been invited to try out for the Browns.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at https://ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.