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Browns: Kicker battle brewing

BEREA — Browns coach Hue Jackson has been looking forward to practicing against the Buccaneers for several weeks.

BEREA — Browns coach Hue Jackson has been looking forward to practicing against the Buccaneers for several weeks.
Former Tampa Bay kicker Patrick Murray, however, is surprisingly blasé about the four-day business trip.
“It’s another game, that’s it,” he said. “Just another game, another opportunity.”
Cleveland’s players and coaches boarded a Monday afternoon flight to Florida, where they are slated for joint workouts with the Buccaneers today and Wednesday. The teams will wrap up their week with a preseason game Friday at Raymond James Stadium.
For Murray, the stakes — and emotions — couldn’t be higher as he continues his quest to win the Browns’ kicking job from incumbent Travis Coons.
The 5-foot-7, 182-pounder has decisively outperformed Coons during training camp. Murray also made his only field goal and extra point attempts in the preseason, while Coons failed on his lone extra point try.
“Camp has been going great,” said Murray, who signed with Cleveland on June 9. “I’m loving every minute of it. Every day out here, I’ve just tried to put my best foot forward and make the kicks that I’m given. That’s what I’ve done, and I feel good about it.”
Murray spent the entire 2014 season with Tampa Bay, connecting on 20-of-24 field goals (.833) and 31-of-31 extra points. His range was outstanding with a long make of 55 yards, and he ended the year by drilling 13 straight field goals.
The Fordham product would have served as the Buccaneers’ kicker last season, as well, but suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament Aug. 29. Ironically, it occurred in Week 3 of the preseason against the Browns at Raymond James Stadium.
One year (and one reconstructive surgery later), Murray faces a similar situation as he hopes to regain full-time employment in the NFL.
“I feel great right now because I had the best surgeon in the world and I had the best support system around me,” said Murray, who was a first-team All-NCAA FCS selection as a senior in 2012. “I was cleared in the middle of May, so it took about eight months to recover, and I feel incredible.”
Coons, meanwhile, has been trending in a downward direction since last Nov. 30.
On that fateful evening, Baltimore beat Cleveland 33-27 on “Monday Night Football” when Brent Urban blocked Coons’ 51-yard field goal as time expired, allowing Will Hill to return it 64 yards for a touchdown.
Coons had three more field goals blocked over the next four games, finishing the year 28-of-32 (.875) after making an NFL-record 18 straight to begin his career.
“Pretty much all I did all offseason was try to work on getting lift on the ball, which I think I did,” said Coons, whose season long was a 47-yarder. “Sometimes, like the other day in practice, I’ve been getting a little too much lift, where the wind kind of takes it away from me. But that’s another thing that I can work on and get honed in on.”
Coons, who is sturdily built at 6-1 and 200 pounds, understands that time isn’t on his side to reverse course.
Special teams coach Chris Tabor has given both competitors positive feedback and complimented their kickoffs, but Murray has been splitting the uprights on a much more consistent basis.
Since Coons and Murray each have one season of NFL experience, neither can coast on their laurels, making for a very uneasy remainder of the preseason.
“Patrick is doing good things, I’m doing good things,” Coons said. “It’s up to Coach Tabes to decide. I don’t know where we stand. I’m not sure. I’m just out there trying to do what I know how to do and just kick.”
Contact Brian Dulik at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BrianDulik.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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