By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
New Browns running back Ben Tate comes to town with fresh legs and a desire to prove he can be among the league’s elite at his position.
Sitting behind Arian Foster in Houston, and because of injuries over his four-year career, Tate, 25, has never been a workhorse back. Now he expects to get that chance.
“I feel now that I’m given this opportunity, I can be considered one of the top backs in the league,” Tate said on a conference call on Saturday. I feel I can be top 10, top 8, top 5 running back. I feel like my play will speak for itself next year. Everybody will have their own opinion and after I play everyone will agree to what I said.”
Tate signed a contract for two years, reportedly for up to $7 million, after spending three days in Cleveland meeting coaches and interacting with Browns fans through his Twitter account.
The economical contract reflects concern about Tate’s durability – he missed 16 games his rookie season with a broken ankle, four in 2012 with hamstring and foot problems, and two last season after playing several games with four cracked ribs.
The team-friendly deals also reflects on the poor market running backs currently find themselves in as teams throw money at quarterbacks, receivers and linemen.
“I think in the grand scheme of things they know it’s important,” Tate said. They know how those teams won games in the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Right now, I feel they think they can get away with not giving us running backs our real worth.
“They’re not paying running backs what they’re really worth because maybe they just think they don’t need that one guy, they can just plug in anybody and let them do it. I think some teams are finding out that’s not true. If you’re going to be a real contender, you do need that guy.”
Tate said he had other visits lined up and the Browns were aware of two other teams that were interested in him. He said he stretched his visit over three days to get a deal done with the Browns because he felt it was his best opportunity.
“I feel with the pieces already here, the offenseive line and their plans for free agency and the draft, this was going to be the best opportunity for me to succeed and help turn this thing around and take it to another level,” Tate said.
Tate’s one-cut-and-go running style fits the offensive system of new coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who was previously mentored under ex-Texans coach Gary Kubiak in Houston.
“He does things a little different from Coach Kubiak,” Tate said. “His offense has a few tweaks to it. It’s a good scheme. I like it because they find the running backs are important. They hand you the ball, they throw you the ball. He likes to use them and I felt that gave me an advantage.”
What kind of runner are the Browns getting?
“I run hard, I feel I’m explosive, I feel I can make guys miss and get to the open field,” Tate said. “I feel if it’s third-and-1 and I have to go 1-on-1 with a linebacker, I can do that as well. I feel I can do everything there is to do. I can catch the ball out of the backfield. I’m a three-down back. I’d say I’m a complete back.”
|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 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hastage #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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