Browns rookie minicamp notebook: Robbie Rouse dreams of emulating another short running back with ties to Norv Turner

By Nate Ulrich
and Marla Ridenour
Beacon Journal sports writers

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Fresno State running back Robbie Rouse runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

BEREA: At 5-foot-6 and 190 pounds, former Fresno State University running back Robbie Rouse is among the shortest players to ever sign with the Browns.

But Rouse is comfortable with his height, and he can point to evidence that suggests new offensive coordinator Norv Turner doesn’t mind it, either.

A San Diego native, Rouse is familiar with Turner’s six-year tenure as coach of the Chargers, including the four seasons he spent guiding running back Darren Sproles. Like Rouse, Sproles is listed at 5-6 and 190 pounds.

“That’s why it’s great to have coach Turner here as well,” Rouse said Saturday after the second practice of rookie minicamp. “I grew up watching Darren, LaDainian Tomlinson and c oach Turner. So to have a chance to be coached by him is great.”

Rouse arrived at rookie minicamp on a tryout basis but earned a contract. He’s one of 19 undrafted free agents the Browns have signed this year.

“It was a great feeling,” Rouse said. “It’s like all the hard worked paid off. It’s a dream as a child to be a professional football player, and now it’s here. I’m grateful for this.”

With running backs Trent Richardson, Montario Hardesty, Chris Ogbonnaya and Dion Lewis on the roster, Rouse and Jamaine Cook, another undrafted free agent who signed with the Browns, are long shots to make the 53-man roster at the end of the preseason. Still, Rouse is determined to put up a fight.

“I always play with a chip on my shoulder because I’m a smaller back,” said Rouse, who tried out with the Minnesota Vikings and passed on an opportunity to do the same with the Dallas Cowboys this weekend because he believed a better opportunity awaited with the Browns. “I can only control what I can control. When I get the opportunity like I do now, I have to take advantage of it.”

Rouse listed quickness, receiving skills and size — defenders have difficulty seeing him behind tall, bulky offensive linemen — as his best assets. Similar attributes have helped Sproles catch 75 passes or more and seven touchdowns for the New Orleans Saints in each of the past two seasons.

“I look up to all of the smaller players that are putting their names out there,” Rouse said. “Not only in football but in basketball as well like [Chicago Bulls guard] Nate Robinson. … [Detroit Lions great] Barry Sanders is my favorite running back of all time, and he wasn’t the biggest running back as well. … I look up to those guys because they opened the door for guys like me.”

Rouse started 26 of the 50 games in which he appeared at Fresno State, finishing as the program’s all-time rushing leader with 4,647 yards to go along with 37 rushing touchdowns, 110 catches and 794 receiving yards. Rouse rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his final three seasons.

More height questions

Cornerback Leon McFadden, a third-round draft pick out of San Diego State, is another player whose height is under scrutiny. Some question whether the 5-9⅝, 193-pound McFadden will be able to adequately fill the Browns’ dire need for a starting cornerback opposite Joe Haden because he could be vulnerable against taller receivers.

“I don’t think my height’s a problem, and I take that as a chip on my shoulder and turn it into a positive and go out there and compete on every down,” McFadden said. … “My size has been [questioned] throughout this whole process, and I’m going out here to prove that I can play amongst the bigger receivers.”

The 5-11, 190-pound Haden has already tried to assist McFadden as he tries to achieve his goal.

“He just gave me words of advice, what to expect,” McFadden said. “I asked him a couple questions about the playbook, and he was able to help me out. He gave me little techniques that he’s used to help me out on the field.”

Familiar territory

Cook attended Browns training camp as a child and graduated from Midpark High School in Middleburg Heights, which is just a few miles from the team’s training facility. Now Cook has a job with the Browns after signing as an undrafted free agent from Youngstown State.

“I definitely grew up a Browns fan,” Cook said. “I played in their backyard a few minutes away. But I don’t want that to be a distraction. I’ve got a goal I want to accomplish, and I want to work.”

He never thought about donning a Browns uniform but is thrilled the opportunity presented itself.

“This is obviously a blessing,” Cook said. “I just love being here. This is my comfort zone because this is where I’m from. It makes things much easier.”

Injury report

Free safety Jamoris Slaughter (rehabilitating from a ruptured left Achilles’ tendon), offensive tackle Chris Faulk (rehabilitating from torn ligaments in his right knee) and defensive tackle Dave Kruger (undisclosed) did not participate in the second practice of rookie minicamp. They did light exercises on the sidelines.

“I’ll definitely be ready by training camp,” said Slaughter, a sixth-round pick from Notre Dame. “I feel like I’m ready right now, but they won’t let me go out and do anything. I’m definitely coming along, almost 100 percent, just need to build up some more power.”

The other 45 players attending rookie minicamp practiced Saturday. The Browns will wrap up their rookie minicamp Sunday, but the final practice is closed to the media.

Banquet details

Turner will be the featured speaker and linebacker D’Qwell Jackson will be on hand to accept the Dino Lucarelli Good Guy Award at the 34th annual Akron Browns Backers banquet May 20 at Tangier restaurant. Browns defensive tackle John Hughes and linebacker Craig Robertson will attend in support of Jackson.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with dinner at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $50. Corporate tables are $1,000, which includes a VIP cocktail party.

For tickets, call Jim Iona at 330-630-2311 or Wally Wieclaw at 330-773-9297.

New regime watches

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam attended the second practice of rookie minicamp despite his family business, Pilot Flying J, being at the center of an ongoing federal investigation into an alleged fraud scheme.

Haslam chatted with CEO Joe Banner on the sidelines. General Manager Mike Lombardi and President Alec Scheiner also watched the action.

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. 
Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla.


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