BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Patience is a virtue that Isaiah Crowell is familiar with, having gone undrafted out of Alabama State three years ago.
The powerful running back is relying on it again as he enters his final season under contract with the Browns.
“I feel like God controls everything, so I’m just trying to be patient,” Crowell said Saturday at training camp. “I know my time is coming. I am just being patient, going to stay working and keep working hard, and trying to be the best I can be.”
Many positions — including starting quarterback — remain in flux for Cleveland, but there is no uncertainty in the backfield.
Crowell is entrenched atop the depth chart after rushing for a career-high 952 yards and seven touchdowns last season. The 5-foot-11, 225-pounder also made a personal-best 40 receptions and gained 1,271 yards from scrimmage during the Browns’ franchise-worst 1-15 campaign.
“Crow is a guy who isn’t scared to run through the smoke and just hit the hole hard,” Cleveland center J.C. Tretter said. “If you give him a little crevice of space, he’s going to take advantage of it. Offensive linemen love blocking for a guy like that.”
Crowell signed a one-year, $2.75 million tender on Feb. 28, believing it would expedite negotiations on a long-term pact. When they didn’t materialize, the 24 year old hired noted agent Drew Rosenhaus to conduct future talks.
Whether Crowell hits the market as an unrestricted free agent or chooses the Browns, he is in line for a significant pay raise. He earned $1.54 million over his first three NFL seasons — and repaid the franchise by scoring 20 touchdowns and gaining 2,265 yards on the ground.
“Each year, I’ve had to prove myself how good of a player I am, but I’m used to it,” said Crowell, who has never missed a game as a professional.
“I feel like it’s a constant battle, but it’s not a big deal. I know what type of player I am, what caliber of player I am.”
The soft-spoken Georgia native added that he believes he ranks among the league’s elite running backs. Crowell mentioned himself, Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman, Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell, and Arizona’s David Johnson as the cream of the crop.
Freeman made headlines earlier in the week by signing a five-year, $41.3 million contract to stay with the Falcons, including $22 million in guaranteed money.
“Yeah, you do go and think about it,” Crowell said. “I feel like he changed the (pay scale) for all the running backs that are out here right now that deserve to get paid. I feel like it’s a great deal for him.”
Freeman, Bell and Johnson all rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2016, and each has been named to a Pro Bowl.
Crowell has yet to accomplish either feat, nor has he helped Cleveland finish with a winning record. He plans on changing both this fall.
“I put myself up there at the top with them because I feel like I can get out there and get the job done in any way,” Crowell said. “All I can do is just work hard and really try to help my team get some wins.”
QB Brock Osweiler, who started Cleveland’s preseason opener Thursday against New Orleans, worked with the first-team offense. Cody Kessler played with the backups, while rookie DeShone Kizer took the third reps, but was on the field with many starters. “It’s too early to name a quarterback,” coach Hue Jackson said testily. “The only difference today is we’re back in training camp mode.” . DE Nate Orchard spent his first two NFL seasons at LB before being moved by new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
“Hands down, he’s the best human being I’ve ever been around and the most interesting man,” Orchard said. “Everyone gravitates toward him. It’s just like having another pops around, but in a different way.”