BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Kenny Britt was signed by the Browns to be a playmaker and a leader for their young wide receivers.
One game into the regular season, his starting spot is in jeopardy.
Britt dropped an on-target, downfield throw from DeShone Kizer in the fourth quarter Sunday, stalling a critical drive in Cleveland’s 21-18 home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Browns coach Hue Jackson called the drop “inexcusable” and will not guarantee that the eight-year veteran will start in Week 2 at Baltimore, putting Britt on edge as the team returned to practice.
“I’m not talking about it, you guys are talking about it,” Britt said Wednesday. “It’s been behind me. I’ve been in this league for nine years. You don’t get there for no reason.
“Even Hall of Famers drop balls. It’s a drop. You’ve seen it. It was a drop.”
Cleveland signed Britt to a four-year, $32.5 million contract on March 9, giving him $17 million in guaranteed money. He set career highs with 68 receptions and 1,002 receiving yards last season with the Los Angeles Rams.
The 6-foot-3, 223-pounder struggled with dropped passes during training camp and the preseason, then had a single catch for 13 yards in the opener.
Kizer only targeted Britt three times, but one was a perfect throw between the hash marks with 11:30 left that caromed off both of his hands, eliciting a collective groan from the stands.
“I think it was magnified because it was an important part of the game,” Britt said. “We needed all the plays, especially being down a couple of points, at that point.
“I’ve got one drop this year. Things happen.”
Rookie quarterback Kizer was quick to defend the only proven pass-catcher on the team, joking that Britt has been in the NFL since he was a grade-schooler in Toledo, Ohio.
With 310 receptions, Britt has 229 more than the Browns’ other wide receivers combined (2016 first-round pick Corey Coleman, Ricardo Louis, Sammie Coates, Kasen Williams and Reggie Davis).
“Kenny doesn’t have to say anything to me; I know who he is and he knows who I am,” Kizer said. “That ball is going to be right back in that same spot the next time … and he is going to catch it. It will be a big ‘Hooray’ and everyone is going to forget the one that he dropped against Pittsburgh, honestly.”
Coleman made a team-high five catches and scored a touchdown against Pittsburgh, while Louis had Cleveland’s longest gain on a 29-yard throw from Kizer. Louis was a fourth-round selection last year and is the top candidate to move into the lineup.
Yet, given the investment the Browns have made in Britt, along with his experience with the Rams and Titans, he remains their best option at the position.
“I don’t expect anything, you earn that (starting) spot,” Britt said. “I’ve earned everything I’ve gotten in my life.”
NOTES: Starting RG Kevin Zeitler did not practice after undergoing a medical procedure on his right thumb. His hand and lower arm are in a cast, but he is expected to return to practice late in the week. “I think he’ll be ready to go for Baltimore,” Jackson said. … Avid sports fan Jackson is closely following the Cleveland Indians’ 21-game winning streak. “They have great management, they have done a great job acquiring other players, they are what it’s all about,” the coach said. “This city is rocking now, there’s no question. We have the Cavs. We have the Indians. Come on Browns, let’s go.”
More AP NFL: and