CLEVELAND -- With Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. being the only players with significant experience carrying and catching the ball out of the backfield on the depth chart following initial roster cuts, the Cleveland Browns needed to add depth at running back, and they did so when rosters were trimmed down before the start of the regular season.
The Browns not only got a running back with NFL experience, but also, one with a pedigree in George Atkinson III, whose father played with the Oakland Raiders for a decade.
“It has definitely been a blessing to have a town to call home and play football in,” Atkinson said after a recent practice. “When you think of the Browns, you think of the legacy of great running backs here -- Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly, guys like that who really set a great foundation for the running back position and this whole organization winning championships here. I’m happy to be here and continue that legacy.”
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Atkinson was an undrafted free agent signing of the Raiders 2014, and played in five games for Oakland during his first season.
Atkinson spent last season on the Raiders’ practice squad and accounted for 191 rushing yards, three touchdowns and six catches for 60 yards during the preseason before being waived by Oakland. Despite not making the team, Atkinson remained confident in his ability to find a new team.
“I wasn’t worried,” Atkinson said. “I know God has a plan. I have put in a lot of work and I put a lot of good things on film. There are a lot of things I still need to work on, but I had faith that my film would show coaches that I could play at this level.”
Along with his playing experience, Atkinson carries with him the lessons learned from his father and is anxious to use that knowledge to help turn around the fortunes of a Browns team coming off of a 3-13 season with 20 losses in their last 23 games
“You can’t make the same mistakes twice, how to carry yourself on and off the field, how to approach this game and know that it is a business,” Atkinson said. “You can move. I can move from any team at any time with how this business works, but I still have to remain humble, hungry and a professional.
“I’m explosive, a slasher, a guy who you put in space. I can make a play. I’m willing to do anything for my teammates and I want to win games.”