Florham Park, N.J.– Just a little over a year ago, Braylon Edwards was a member of the Cleveland Browns, though he briefly flirted with success, he was stricken with the curse of being on a sports team from Cleveland.
It’s safe to say an awful lot went wrong for Edwards during his time there, but as much as he looks forward to some payback this Sunday he wants to make it clear, Cleveland is in the past for him and his heart belongs to the Jets.
in 2005 the Browns selected Edwards with the third overall pick in the draft after he had an impressive career at the University of Michigan. In 2007 Edwards finally lived up to the potential the Browns organization saw when they drafted him as he earned a spot in the pro-bowl with 80 catches for 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns, but the next year things quickly started to unravel.
Edwards had earned himself a reputation for dropping too many passes throughout his career and though those concerns were overlooked during his pro-bowl season they resurfaced the following season. Add to that the ‘diva,’ label that was placed on him and the fact that Edwards punched a close friend of NBA star LeBron James outside a Cleveland night club, the Browns decided they had enough of the talented wideout.
Quick tangent, imagine if Edwards didn’t go to that club, that night and didn’t get traded and imagine instead of the DUI, it was this year that Edwards punched anyone associated with LeBron. The reaction would be quite different, instead of running Edwards out of town, fans would have been more likely to sculpt a statue of him and or thrown him a parade.
But of course that’s not how the timeline worked out, when Edwards did what he did he was run out of town and the Jets had no problem welcoming him thinking the Browns loss would be their gain and Edwards wouldn’t have it any other way.
When Edwards was asked if he feels different here with the Jets, either as a person or a player he answered, “Yes… I just feel like, (brief pause) I’m happy. I’m in a happier environment. I think the environment is better suited towards winning here (with the Jets). I think everything is different, the way the organization is run here, I just think it’s different. So I’m happier and that’s the part about it when you play football, or you play any sport, it’s just being happy. Waking up in the morning being happy to go to work and being happy to play a game, so that’s the first thing and that thing is huge here, so I’m happy.”
In fact it seems that Edwards became happier the second he got the news he had been traded to the Jets.
“I go up there and he (Mangini) tells me that he traded me to the New York Jets and the biggest thing for me was, I just couldn’t show how excited I was at the time. I just thought that it would be unprofessional to do a dance in his office.” Edwards said, “Because I knew everything about the Jets, I actually had talked to my agent during the preseason. I was watching the Jets, were playing, Baltimore and Mark threw a strike to Clowney for a touchdown and I was telling my agent that Jets team has some talent, they have some ability, I think Sanchez was going to be that guy, plus Kerry (Rhodes) was here, I knew Kerry so I followed the Jets because of him, so I like the Jets, I always thought that it would be a good look, so when he told me that I couldn’t get out fast enough.”
Still as happy as he is to be a Jet he admits this game means a little more than just any other game for him.
“I’m pretty excited. You know, as any former player going against a former team you’re ready to play those guys, you’re ready to make a statement. Especially since it happens to be there in Cleveland, so I’m really excited and I can’t wait to get to Sunday.” Said Edwards.
“I’m not worried about being too amped up. I think Detroit was a good test for that. Being from Detroit, born and raised, I had a lot of people at the game, so that was a good test for going into Cleveland to see how I handle my emotions.” Edwards said, “I did a good job, so I think it will be much of the same. I have good teammates around me will help keep me focused if I lose concentration. I don’t think it will be a problem. I think I’m pretty professional about it and will be ok.”
Edwards readily acknowledges things didn’t pan it like he or the Browns hoped for him in Cleveland, but as far as he’s concerned it was never meant to happen for him in Cleveland, because it was meant to happen for him here with the Jets.
“Looking back, there’s some things that I’m not too happy with, too thrilled with or definitely some things I don’t agree with, but you know that’s life.” Edwards said, “I’ve moved on in that regard and I’m in a better situation now, a situation that myself as well as my family truly enjoys, so everything happens for a reason and I’m past that.”
Edwards continued saying, “It wasn’t so much personally, at the end of the day that’s just giving them more material to talk about. At the end of the day we’re here to play the Browns, you know, my personal war with Cleveland that’s secondary and right now the bigger picture is to go in there and getting the win and doing the things we need to do, on offense, to get better and myself included.”
If that isn’t enough to convince you Cleveland is nothing more than a distant thought in his rear-view mirror, Edwards insists he terminated everything about that relationship in his head the moment he left.
“No (he hasn’t stayed in touch with any of his Browns teammates), when I left Cleveland, I left Cleveland. I ran into some of those guys in the offseason. It’s good to see those guys in the offense, you know, there’s no hard feelings, but when I left Cleveland I just kind of left it altogether.” Edwards said.
Question after question about the Browns, Edwards kept trying to sell the room on the fact that while he admits his return is a story worth briefly talking about, it’s a mere footnote in the bigger scheme of things.
“We can sit up here and talk about me and my relationship with Cleveland, but that’s better suited for a book.” Edwards joked, “There’s definitely a lot of things, there will be more things that I’ll put in writing and put out there and we can sit here and talk about all the ins-and-outs, from top to bottom and all my feelings on that situation, but like I said this really isn’t about me and my personal relationship with the Cleveland Browns and their organization. This is more so about the Jets going in there and trying to get win number seven, that’s really what I’m here for.”
When a reporter asked him about his reputation for dropping passes and if that was something that motivated him even more, considering he only has one drop on the year, that was something he was willing to talk about.
“That is something I’ll comment on, I feel like that’s a bold rap. Anyway, I felt like that was some B.S. I did have one year in which I didn’t catch all the passes that came to me. I’ll be the first one to admit it, 2008, wasn’t my best year and that was it, you know I got a bad rap based off one year and I don’t think it was fair and it stuck with me and it is what it is so I didn’t like that rap and there’s nothing I can do in the past, you know I can’t go back in the past and change that.” Edwards said, “All I can do is what I’m doing now, which is, you said one (asking the reporter)? So that’s all I can do now, I mean I did play with six or seven different quarterbacks while I was there, but you know that’s neither here nor there.”
Right now Edwards is focused on Cleveland, not his own personal return to exact revenge for a personal vendetta, but to earn a win for his present team and he hopes that this eventually becomes his permanent home.
“I put a lot of emphasis on just doing everything possible, to stay here. After last season and after given a chance to have another season here, like you said one season (left on his contract), I wanted to do everything I could to ensure this team that I’m a guy that wants to be around that doesn’t mind doing whatever. I came for the offseason program, the whole time, which is new for me. I was here mini-camp, training camp. I haven’t complained, I haven’t said anything.” Edwards said, “With the exception of the one situation (the DUI), I haven’t been a distraction, although that was pretty distracting. But outside of that one situation I haven’t been a distraction, they’ve asked me to block d-linemen, I’ve done that. Whatever they’ve asked me to do, I’ve tried to do it, to the best of my ability because I do care, you know, I care for this organization and I like the way things are handled here, from the top up. From the trainers, to the equipment managers, to Tannenbaum to, Woody to, everybody here. Everybody here does a good job and they make it where you as a player want to be here.”
If Edwards continues to produce and walk the straight line that he is talking, and really there’s no reason to think he won’t as he has gotten somewhat of a bad rap, no one is condoning the DUI, but from a strictly football related standpoint he has done everything the Jets have asked and has been a model teammate, then his wish just might get granted this offseason.
Still on Sunday Edwards will have to face the angry and bitter Cleveland fans (not anger and bitter about just him, but about everything and it’s hard to blame them) so how does he expect to be treated by the ‘Dawg-pound,’ when he returns on Sunday?
“The fans? Yeah I think the boos will be serious. I don’t think there will be that many cheers. I think everyone will be against me, but that’s football, that’s life.” Said Edwards.
That’s alright with him though, because he knows if he is making plays causing Browns fans to boo, then that means Jets fans around the world will be celebrating and that’s his ultimate goal.