Friday, August 02, 2002

Bulked-up White impresses early in Browns camp

The Associated Press

        CLEVELAND — Running back Jamel White wanted to have a larger presence in the Cleveland Browns' backfield this season. So he gained 10 pounds.

        A bulked-up White — 5-foot-9 and a muscular 218 pounds — showed up at training camp last week and proceeded to have the most impressive first week of any running back there.

        One day White's standing up 6-5 linebacker Jamir Miller and muscling him to the ground on a block. On another day, he turns a play going nowhere into a run outside for 22 yards.

        “He's certainly more powerful,” coach Butch Davis said. “The block he threw on Jamir Miller was not by accident. He exploded into him, knocked him on his butt. That kid's fighting to earn a spot and a significant piece of playing time with the way he's having a good camp.”

        White still lines up with the backups during practice, while top draft pick William Green and James Jackson split time with the No. 1 offense.

        In the two-minute offense, White is the starter — officially cast as the third-down back.

        Nicknamed “Track Meet” by teammates for his speed, White had to battle just to make the roster in his first two seasons with the Browns.

        “Coming from South Dakota, a Division II school, not getting drafted, you always feel you've got something to prove,” White said.

        That hasn't changed at this year's camp even though White had 131 rushing yards against the Packers last Dec. 23 — the most by a Browns running back since Kevin Mack in 1987 — plus nine receptions for 85 yards.

        It seemed like White's big game at Green Bay was tossed aside as a fluky jaunt in the snow because the Browns lost 30-7. He couldn't even enjoy it a day later in the team review session.

        “For me, it's hard to enjoy when you're not winning,” White said. “I mean, I didn't watch it and say, 'Look at me run.' One player can have a lot of good games by himself and we'd still be a losing team. Where does that get you?”

        That attitude and White's work ethic — he can bench press more than 400 pounds — keeps him in Davis' plans.

        “He understands that he's one of those guys where it's always going to be a battle and he's going to be fighting for every single opportunity he gets,” Davis said.

        White recently sought out more playing time by volunteering to do more on special teams.

        “Last year, he wasn't much of a factor on special teams and so we're working with him on some punt coverage units. He's trying to make himself more valuable and stronger,” Davis said.

        White is looking forward to the role. And his beefed up frame won't hurt when running down punt returners.

        “Anytime I play, I like it,” White said.


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