June 28, 2016

Mostly cloudy

NFL notes: Shazier, Archer show kindness

BEREA — The Pittsburgh Steelers’ nine draft picks made themselves right at home Friday on the Browns’ practice fields.

Fittingly, two in-state products were the most boisterous of the bunch.

Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier and Kent State running back Dri Archer appeared to enjoy themselves as much as the students they were coaching at the Play 60 Youth Football Clinic.

“I’ve had so many people tell me, ‘You were my favorite player until you went to the Steelers,’ which is kind of crazy,” a laughing Shazier said. “I’m like, ‘You’re gonna sell me out now? For that? Come on, man, I’m still the same guy you loved at Ohio State.’”

The 6-foot-1, 237-pounder led the Big Ten with 115 tackles last season, prompting Pittsburgh to select him with the No. 15 overall selection in the NFL Draft. Though Shazier played high school football in Florida, he said he considers the Buckeye State his second home.

“The only reason I went to Ohio State was to prepare for the cold, so I wound up in the perfect position in the NFL,” he deadpanned.

“I really would have loved to stay in Ohio, but I’m happy where I am. The Steelers represent tradition and greatness, and I’m in the same region and in the same (AFC North) division as the Browns and Bengals, so it’s all good.”

Archer also was pleased to be picked by Pittsburgh, which used its third-round selection to grab one of the Mid-American Conference’s most exciting players in recent years.

Though the 5-8, 173-pound speedster scored 24 rushing touchdowns for the Golden Flashes, the Steelers plan on using him at myriad positions.

“I’ve been lining up at wide receiver, in the backfield, next to the tight end, behind the quarterback, playing special teams — a whole lot of places,” said Archer, who was selected No. 97 overall. “It’s definitely good for me because the more I can do, the better chance I have of helping the team right away.”

Archer also grew up in Florida, but welcomed the chance to catch up with his friends in Northeast Ohio during the four-day NFL Rookie Symposium, which was hosted by the Bertram Hotel in Aurora. He added he already has circled Sept. 7 on his calendar, when Pittsburgh opens the regular season by hosting Cleveland.

“It’s right down the road from Kent, so all my family and friends will be able to come watch me when they want to, which is great,” Archer said. “Everything is going great. The Steelers are a great organization and this is a great division. I’m blessed to be a part of it.”

Brownie bits

Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert — the eighth overall pick — is one just four unsigned players from the 2014 NFL Draft. Gilbert and Titans tackle Taylor Lewan (No. 11) are the only first-rounders not under contract.“They’re still working on it,” Gilbert said.

l Nevada tackle Joel Bitonio missed Cleveland’s mandatory minicamp in early June because of a sprained ankle, but said he would be ready for the start of training camp July 26. The second-round selection was injured June 3 during an organized team activity.

l Linebacker Christian Kirksey and running back Terrance West — both third-round choices — jokingly introduced themselves as Johnny Manziel to the children in their workout groups.

The real “Johnny Football” stood to their side, chuckling as several young campers appeared to be genuinely confused about his identity.

l ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III was not amused by Manziel’s money phone photos, and told the charismatic quarterback to “tone it down.”

Manziel emphatically denied Mortensen’s claim, saying no one in the organization has scolded him for his social media presence.

Three for all

Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles believes the Browns might have drafted him in the first round, but Jacksonville snapped him up at No. 3. Cleveland tabbed Manziel 19 picks later.“I definitely made a connection with the coaches here, so I thought that was a strong possibility,” said Bortles, who stands a legitimate 6-5 in bare feet. “We had a good visit, but I was as surprised as anyone else with the way things turned out. I definitely wasn’t expecting a call from Jacksonville at No. 3.”

While Manziel-mania is gripping Ohio, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell insist veteran Chad Henne will be their starter.

Ironically, Caldwell was quite outspoken before the draft, calling Manziel the most NFL-ready rookie QB.

“Dave and Gus have done a great job calming the environment around me,” Bortles said. “It’s definitely special to be able to grow up and play college football in the same area, then go to an NFL team that’s nearby.

“Things have worked out really well for me, and I’m very grateful for it.”

Romeo, not Juliet

South Carolina linebacker Jadeveon Clowney was regarded as the likely top pick heading into the 2013 NCAA season. The Texans believed the hype and took him No. 1 overall, even though he required surgery for a sports hernia.Clowney spent part of the morning sitting on a park bench away from the practice fields, still recovering from the early June procedure.

“I just wanted to play in the NFL,” the 6-6, 249-pounder said. “Going No. 1 really didn’t matter to me.”

Clowney cut off reporters’ questions about his health, but willingly spoke about Houston defensive coordinator and former Browns coach Romeo Crennel.

“Romeo is a smart guy,” he said. “He knows literally everything about football. I’ve learned a lot from him already.”

Quote of the day

“(Seahawks tight end) Luke Willson said he was just like us last year at the symposium, kind of zoning out and half-listening to the speeches. He came back to tell us that everything that was talked about wound up happening to him as a rookie, so it was important to pay attention.” — Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

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