Kirksey earns honor as he continues to be difference maker

Chris Kirskey has made his mark for the Browns in training camp and preseason.

Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports

BEREA, Ohio — He definitely looks like a keeper.

Third-round draft choice Chris Kirksey has been one of the few bright spots thus far on the Browns defense. Kirksey led the Browns in tackles against the Rams, including a tackle for a loss.

However, Kirksey made the biggest defensive play of the game when he intercepted a pass from Austin Davis and returned it 23 yards to the Rams 13 to set up the Browns second touchdown.

"Jim O’Neil, our defensive coordinator, called a great play," Kirksey said in describing the play. "And I just backed up in my zone and the quarterback tried to throw it over my head and I just made a play on the ball."

Kirksey (6-2, 235) was voted on Tuesday as the winner of the Maurice Bassett Award, which is voted on by members of the local media as the most outstanding rookie in training camp. Bassett played for the Browns from 1954-56 and the award began in 1985.

Although Kirksey has been termed the "co-starter" with Craig Robertson at inside linebacker, his level of play has been noticeable. He leads the team with 18 tackles, two passes broken up and an interception.

Mike Pettine was asked if he has been the most impressive rookie to date.

"Yeah, I’d put him up there with (Joel) Bitonio though," Pettine said. "He’s been very consistent as well, but yes, we’re very pleased with where Chris is.


"Not to take anything away from Craig, but I think they both played well enough to merit being starters in our different groupings. I think that always ends up being a plus for you on special teams as well because they’re sharing jobs on defense and can play a lot of (special teams coordinator) Chris Tabor."

Veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby praised Kirksey for his work to date.

"Perfect – he’s a great player," Dansby said. "He’s learning. It’s his first year so he’s having fun out there. That’s a good sign."

Kirksey is appreciative of Dansby’s praise.

"He’s been in the league for 11 years so when you get a guy like that to say something good it’s always an honor," he said. "I learn from him every day. I’m always picking at his brain so just to hear him say that is really encouraging. It just makes me want to strive to get better."

Kirksey is excited to be contributing thus far in the Browns defense.

"It feels good whenever you make a big play, especially that changed the momentum of the game," he said. "I know my teammates, Karlos and Craig were kind of done for the day and Craig was just telling me to go out there and have fun and try to make a play. Once I made that play, it was just good to celebrate with my teammates. I’m just looking forward to making plays down the road."


Cameron Back: After missing Monday’s practice as "excused," TE Jordan Cameron was back on the practice field. Pettine wouldn’t disclose what the reason was for him missing practice.

Pettine was asked if everything is back to normal with Cameron.

"That would be a correct statement."

Cameron missed some time with a shoulder injury but didn’t appear as if he was bothered by anything medically as he was taking part in the drills open to the media.

Burleson Progressing: WR Nate Burleson practiced in individual drills on Monday and then took part in team drills on Tuesday.

"We’ll see how he comes out of today," Pettine said.

QB Brian Hoyer said he caught a touchdown pass from him in team drills.

"It was good to have him out there," he said.

Last year, WR David Nelson was in a similar position as Burleson. He was held out of training camp for the most part as he returned from a torn ACL, played in the final preseason game and was released in the final roster cut downs.

Nelson later joined the Jets during the season and had a productive year.

Position Battles: Pettine said that there are still some roster spots up for grabs.

He mentioned wide receiver, inside linebacker for the "last one or two spots." He also mentioned defensive line and safety.

"There’s a few (roster spots)," he said. "That’s why it’s important to compete. There’s more than a few unsettled."

Wide receivers still battling for positions behind Miles Austin, Andrew Hawkins, Travis Benjamin and Burleson are Marlon Moore, Taylor Gabriel, Charles Johnson andWillie Snead.

Linebackers behind Dansby, Kirksey and Robertson are Zac Diles, Tank Carder, Justin Staples, Jamaal Westerman and Eric Martin.

Defensive linemen behind Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, Desmond Bryant, Armonty Bryant, Billy Winn, John Hughes are Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Jacobbi McDaniel and Calvin Barnett.

Safeties behind Donte Whitner and Tashaun Gipson are Jordan Poyer, Jim Leonhard, Josh Aubrey and Johnson Bademosi.

Gordon Trial Postponed: WR Josh Gordon’s trial for DUI has been re-scheduled for Nov. 18 according to his lawyer Trey Fitzhugh. Gordon was stopped for traveling 50 mph in a 35 mph zone on July 5 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Gordon was on the practice field as he continues to wait on an impending suspension from the NFL for substance abuse.

Injury Update: The following Browns did not participate in Tuesday’s practice due to injury: DL Desmond Bryant (wrist), DB Pierre Desir (knee), DB Joe Haden (foot), LB Eric Martin (concussion), DB Buster Skrine (thumb) and DB Isaiah Trufant (knee). – NFI: OL Nick McDonald (wrist).

There were three players on the stationary bikes, all defensive backs in Haden, Trufant and Desir. Skrine and Bryant had surgery last week.

Eubanks, Bowie to IR: The Browns placed OL Michael Bowie and LB Darius Eubanks on injured reserve. Bowie started eight games, seven at right tackle, one at right guard, in 2013 for the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks.

Eubanks was on the Browns practice squad in 2013 before being elevated to the active roster where he played nine games, with one start. He had 15 tackles and three tackles on special teams.

Both players underwent surgery earlier this month to repair shoulder injuries.

The Browns roster is currently at 76 players. All NFL rosters must have a maximum of 75 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday.

New Guys: Cleveland Browns on Monday were awarded OL Karim Barton and OL Donald Hawkins on waivers. Both players were undrafted rookie free agents signed by the Eagles.

Barton (6-3, 313) played at Morgan State, while Hawkins (6-4, 310) played at Texas.

Hawkins was practicing during the period to the media and was wearing No. 69, while Barton was not seen on the field, but will wear No. 63.

Next Up: The Browns will have a closed walk through on Wednesday and then play the Bears in the final preseason game Thursday at 8 p.m.