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The newest baddest Brown on special teams earns a longer look at cornerback

Nov 20, 2012 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi


The Morning Kickoff …

The name’s the thing: Some young players try to make a name for themselves. Johnson Bademosi doesn’t have to worry about that. He has the name. BAD-e-mosi. Is there a better one for a defensive football player?

Bad has been good for a while. Before Michael Jackson released Bad in 1987, James Brown was Super Bad.

Bad is slang for cool. Bad is slang for very tough.

Bad is a natural nickname for Bademosi.

“I guess there were a couple nicknames floating around, ‘Bad’ and some others,” Bademosi said Monday. “There’ve been so many.”

Bademosi burst on the Browns’ scene in training camp as an undrafted free agent from Stanford. As roster cuts approached, General Manager Tom Heckert one day casually dropped the name of Bademosi as “a special teams phenom.” Unsuspecting scribes scrambled to the media guide to look him up.

Sure enough, Bademosi made the team.

Ten games in, he leads the Browns in special teams tackles, which is not easy to do on a team with Josh Cribbs. As one of two “gunners,” Bademosi usually is the first man down on Browns’ punts.

“He brings a good energy. He has real good speed. He’s tough, he’s physical, a good young player,” said veteran special teams core player Ray Ventrone.

In the fourth quarter on Sunday in Dallas, Bademosi was pressed into his natural position of cornerback, at which he started for three seasons at Stanford University. It was his first NFL game at cornerback.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo attempted 50 passes in the 23-20 overtime victory over the Browns. Only four Browns defensive players managed to get a hand on a Romo pass. Bademosi was one of them. He broke up a pass for Dez Bryant on third down on Dallas’ first possession of overtime.

Bademosi is a sturdy 6-0 and 200 pounds with long arms. After he fared decently in his first 20 snaps at cornerback in the NFL, credited with three tackles and the one pass defense, the obvious question was, “Where have you been, Johnson Bademosi?”

Uninvited and undrafted: At Stanford, where he earned a degree in history, Bademosi started 23 games in three years on teams that went 31-8 and made a national imact thanks to quarterback Andrew Luck and coach Jim Harbaugh and successor David Shaw. Yet Bademosi was not invited to the NFL combine and not drafted.

“At this point, I’m past all that,” he said Monday of the snubs. “I know if somebody else doesn’t have confidence in my ability, I’m not in control of that. I’m completely confident in my ability as a cornerback, as a defensive back, as a football player. And every day I’m going to show it.

“To be honest, I play with a chip on my shoulder because I didn’t get drafted and all that stuff, and that does drive me. But I have complete confidence in my ability and I’m going to go out there and earn any respect I’m getting every opportunity I get.”

Bademosi received his opportunity Sunday because Joe Haden was out with an oblique muscle strain, Dimitri Patterson was out with a high ankle sprain, and Buster Skrine had to leave the game with a concussion.

The Browns are expected to get back Haden and possibly Patterson for the practice week leading to the Pittsburgh game Sunday in Cleveland Browns Stadium. But should Bademosi be regarded as a legitimate cornerback going forward and not just a special teamer as a result of his surprising debut in Dallas?

“He played corner against the Dallas Cowboys yesterday, so yeah, he has a future,” coach Pat Shurmur said Monday. “He has really impressed me since he’s been here. He plays a lot on special teams. Like guys that initially become role players or special teams players, we’re developing him to play in scrimmage snaps. He has done a good job of developing there and will continue to do so.”

Not just a special teamer: At Gonzaga High School in Silver Spring, Md., Bademosi played football in the fall and rugby in the spring, because the coaches were the same. He was regarded as one of the top high school rugby players in the country and played for the United States U-17 and U-18 national teams. The rough-and-tumble style of rugby helped apprentice him for his NFL entry-level position as a “gunner” on punt coverage.

“It’s a fight,” Bademosi said. “At times they’re going to put two guys on you. When they put two guys on you, the referee kind of says it’s a freebie. They can do whatever to you -- hold you, grab you by the collar. I’ve had hands in my face and they’re not going to call it, so you have to do everything possible to make a play.”

He attributes his special teams play to “coaching … I’ve been surrounded by great coaches from college to here. I attribute it all to coaching.” But he says he’s “totally comfortable” with playing cornerback and said his short stint covering Bryant Sunday was “as natural as breathing at this point.”

Here's what Heckert said about Bademosi in an email response: "The kid was raved about at Stanford because of his work ethic and attitude. He was a high school rugby player so that goes with his toughness. He is big, fast and tough and we thought he would be a very good press DC but would also have a chance as a safety. During this draft we were really trying to find a gunner on teams so we thought this kid would have a shot to help there. I’m not saying we knew he would be this good!"

Maybe those of us who have brushed off Bademosi as merely a special teamer should say, “My bad.” Given the team’s season-long problems at cornerback, why not give him more playing time there?

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 tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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