By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
An epiphany: Greg Little had another drop over the bye week. Well, not that kind of drop. This was a good drop. He dropped his Twitter habit.
Actually, Little hasn’t Tweeted, according to his Twitter account, since Sept. 22. That was shortly after Little infuriated Browns fans by responding to complaints about his pass drops and celebratory Usain Bolt poses with the following Tweet:
Honestly I really don’t care what fans say I really could careless! I ride with the 53 men in the locker room and the coaches that’s it.
It turns out that former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning was among Little’s 26,000-plus Twitter followers. And when Little and Mourning had lunch with a mutual friend during the bye week, Mourning had a message for Little.
Drop the Tweeting thing.
And though Little had already stopped Tweeting, Mourning’s message to him really sunk in. So much so that Little addressed his teammates on Monday morning to relay some of Mourning’s wisdom.
“He had some encouraging words in front of the team,” said Josh Cribbs. “Just everybody do a little bit extra. Everybody took it to heart coming from him. We were surprised. I’m proud of him. I think we needed that. It was refreshing hearing that from a younger player. I feel he’s on the path to getting better and being a top receiver in this league.”
A come to Jesus meeting: Little was in awe of Mourning during their lunch together.
“I didn’t know he was following me as close as he was,” Little said. “You know, I had that thing on Twitter where I was talking to a few fans and that whole debacle, and he just explained to me they were right. They were right. They just care about … people care about two things, your money and winning. That’s kind of the message I took from it.
“Winning is more important than any other thing in sports. That’s just something I enjoyed to hear from him and I really took a great message from him. He said the biggest thing that helped LeBron (James) in his playoff run was the sacrifice he made to stay off Twitter and don’t text people. Don’t Instagram. He said that (James’ NBA championship tour de force) was the best performance he’s seen other than Michael Jordan.”
Through the mutual friend, Mourning was also aware of Little’s ongoing battle with the dropsies.
“He also explained a story that Tiger Woods would putt 5-foot putts 500 times in a row and if he missed one he’d start all over again,” Little said. “That was what he was explaining to me, when I have the drops, doing things so many times so that it’s just muscle memory.”
Little has taken extra time on the JUGS machine catching balls before and after practice. His drops have been reduced, but so has his production. He gave way to rookie Josh Gordon as the Browns’ top threat at wide receiver in Game 5 against the Giants.
Little is second on the team with 27 receptions for 301 yards and two touchdowns. He leads all Browns’ wideouts in catches, but his pace would leave him with 48 for the year – down from his team-high 61 as a rookie.
A cry for help: Little said others have told him his increased focus on the field was due to his decision to stop Tweeting, but it never sunk in like it did listening to Mourning.
“When you hear it from somebody like that, you take it for what it’s worth,” he said.
All of which brings up a salient point. The Browns erred badly in not bringing in a quality veteran to mentor the young receivers on the team. Little’s development on and off the field might have been accelerated with the right veteran helping him along.
“Yeah,” Little affirmed. “I wouldn’t shy away from … having a guy of that magnitude, being a veteran, to have that insight, when you’re going through an adverse situation, to say ‘I’ve been there, I know what you’re going through and this is the way you should go about handling it.’”
Alonzo Mourning taught Little a lesson. And perhaps Browns management, too.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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