BEREA—The Browns prize acquisition of free agency took his first reps on the practice field wearing the orange and brown this week.
After practice, Paul Kruger admitted that he feels the pressure as being the marquee acquisition in free agency for the Browns.
However, he welcomes it.
“Absolutely,” he said. “It puts a ton of pressure on you (but I accept it).”
Kruger was signed on the first day of free agency, March 12, to a five-year contract worth more than $40 million.
The Browns are hoping Kruger can provide the pass rush from the outside as the team switches from 4-3 to the 3-4. He is expected to be lined up as the left outside linebacker.
Meanwhile, the team’s leading pass rusher the past two seasons is learning a new position. Jabaal Sheard is being switched from defensive end to outside linebacker. He lined up opposite Kruger as the starter on the right side.
“I embrace (the switch to linebacker),” Sheard said. “I think I’m athletic enough and I wanted to be back there.”
Sheard said when he was preparing to be drafted he visited with the Patriots, Steelers and a number of 3-4 teams that were looking at him as an outside linebacker. He said he’s not worried about the transition.
Neither is Rob Chudzinski.
"He has picked things up very well,” Chudzinski said. “Interestingly, I know there were a number of 3-4 teams that looked at him when he was coming out of college that were really interested in him. He has picked it up well and I've been impressed with him from a mental stand point and what he has been able to bring out to the field."
Chudzinski says if a player can play, he can play regardless the system.
“They’re learning a new system, but at the end of the day if they’re a good player, they will be able to play well. Right now, they’re just learning new terminology.”
Sheard played very well as a pass rusher with 15.5 sacks in his first two seasons. He has led the Browns in each of his first two seasons in sacks with 8.5 as a rookie and 7 in 2012. However, the switch to linebacker means he will be asked to cover receivers at times.
“The biggest thing is recognizing who my man is,” Sheard said. “I think I’ll be good at dropping back (in coverage).”
Kruger is impressed with what he’s seen of Sheard thus far and thinks he will make the transition.
“He’s an athletic guy,” Kruger said. “He’s going to be fine. He looks like he didn’t skip a beat (in making the switch).”
D’Qwell Jackson has no doubts that Sheard will be fine.
“Jabaal’s doing a tremendous job,” Jackson said. “It’s an adjustment at first, but it’s a long time until we play.
“(Sheard’s) bright and he will pick it up quickly.”
Kruger is coming off a career year where he helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl with nine sacks on the season. He also added 4.5 sacks in the post-season, including two in the Super Bowl.
Kruger played his first four seasons with the Ravens after being a second-round pick (57th overall).
Kruger said the differences between the Ravens team he played on last year was much different from the current Browns, but he’s impressed with what he sees developing with the Browns.
“In Baltimore, we had a ton of vets,” he said. “We had a lot of confidence and experience, but the vibe around (Berea) is off the charts.”
Kruger said he feels the Browns defense is learning a lot already in minicamp.
“I was surprised how much we were on the same page,” Kruger said. “It seems very fluid. The basics are important and we’re focusing on the fundamentals.”
Although the Ravens play the 3-4, Kruger is very exciting to play under defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
“It’s a big difference, but there are similarities,” Kruger said. “It seems pretty aggressive and an attacking defense.”
With several prominent pass rushers available at the top of the draft, it will be interesting to see if the Browns feel they have enough firepower with Kruger and Sheard along with free agent acquisition Quentin Groves as the team moves forward.
Chud Mum on Geno: There has been some speculation the Browns might use their sixth overall pick to take West Virginia QB Geno Smith.
Chudzinski was asked about him.
"We've had the chance to work out a number of guys and all have gone well,” Chudzinski said. “I'm not going to get too much into detail on those. I know that we're going to talk later on this week about some of the draft things."
The Browns have reportedly worked out Matt Scott from Arizona, Ryan Nassib from Syracuse, Matt Barkley from USC, in addition to Smith. They also are expected to work out Florida State’s E.J. Manuel in the near future.
For Starters: Craig Robertson lined up opposite D’Qwell Jackson at ILB. Meanwhile, Tashaun Gipson was at free safety and Buster Skrine was the cornerback opposite Joe Haden. Kruger lined up at left outside linebacker while Sheard was on the right side.
Pinkston, Nelson Out: As expected, OL Jason Pinkston (blood clot) and WR David Nelson (ACL) did not participate in the second day of minicamp practice.
Schedule Out: The NFL is expected to announce the 2013 schedule on Thursday night at 8 p.m. In addition to playing the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals at home and away, the other home games will be against the Bills, Bears, Lions, Jaguars and Dolphins.
Meanwhile, the Browns will play the Packers, Chiefs, Vikings, Patriots, Jets on the road, in addition to the AFC North opponents.
The Browns will play at least one prime time game. Last year, they played the Ravens in Baltimore in a Thursday Night game.
No Talk with K2 about returning: Chudzinski said he has kept in contact with former Browns TE Kellen Winslow, but has not talked about him joining the Browns.
“I’ve kept in touch with Kellen, but have not talked to him about coming back here.”