BEREA, Ohio -- When the Cleveland Browns selected offensive lineman Cameron Erving with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, they believed his versatility and experience at multiple positions in the trenches would help clear holes for running backs and protect the quarterback.
By switching Erving through multiple positions at the same time, the rookie never had an opportunity to fully learn and settle into one spot and get benched late in the season. However, with a new coaching staff and an opening at center, Erving is settling into a new role along the offensive line.
“I'm center right now, so that's what I'm focusing (on),” Erving said. “It feels good, yes. Clear mind and it gives me a better focus.
“Being at one position for an extended period of time, you have time to correct what you didn't do the right way the game before in the next game at the same position, as opposed to playing left guard and the next time you play is at right guard. You had kind of figured out what you're doing at left guard, now you're playing over here. Different mindset, new problems, new issues, quick solutions. It's different, but I try not to dwell on those things. It's in the past and I'm moving forward now in my career.”
Although admitting it is easier to focus by playing just one position, Erving felt bouncing around and struggling as a rookie helped him grow.
“We can say it hurt me, but at the end of the day, it was the hand I was dealt,” Erving said. “I'm an NFL player. I'm a professional. It's my job to adapt to whatever position I'm put in. I'm not going to sit here and say, 'Yes, I was put in bad situations,' but it wasn't the greatest circumstances. But at the end of the day, I don't blame the coaches, I don't blame anybody. I blame myself for whatever happened to me, good or bad.
“(It was) a really good learning experience for me. I was put in situations where I was very unsure, but it helped me learn and helped me get to a point where I could practice things a little bit faster.
“I always use stuff like that as motivation. I felt like most of my problems came from technical, not as much physical. Of course, everyone wants to be stronger. I can't say I didn't take heed of those things and I heard them. I definitely had that in back of my mind the whole offseason that I was training.”
Erving spent the offseason “just lifting, working with the offensive line coach where I was training, just getting better technically, fundamentally” while going through a conditioning program. And by changing up his workouts and dropping eight percent body fat, he is ready to set his career on a better path, one the Browns are hoping results in his replacing three-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, who opted out of his contract with Cleveland and signed with the Atlanta Falcons in the first few hours of the new league year.
“I've always worked hard,” Erving said. “Coming in to replace Alex, good luck with him in Atlanta, you can't replace a guy like that. You can only come in and create your own identity and that's what I plan on doing.
“I've always been a hard-nosed player, I've always liked playing hard and physical. I'm going to continue to bring that to the table, but I have to be more under control, better technique. I just want to be a nasty player. That's what I've always wanted to be and that's how I've always played. I've always played hard. No matter what the outcome may have been on that play, you can't say I wasn't playing hard.”