BEREA — At best, Greg Robinson won himself the starting left tackle job. At worst, he earned the trust of his teammates.
Either way, his emergency start Sunday qualified as a success.
“You never want injuries to happen anyway, but I just wanted to be ready,” Robinson said Monday. “Most importantly, I gave the guys in the room a little bit of confidence with me out there. It turned out well. I feel I can continue to work and better my game.”
Robinson had been limited to a few snaps as an extra lineman through the first eight games but was pressed into full-time service in the 37-21 loss to the Chiefs when undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison was unavailable with an undisclosed illness.
“He played well, didn’t he?” interim coach Gregg Williams said. “It was good to see.”
Harrison said Monday he was feeling better and would be back this week. The question for the coaching staff is whether he’ll return to the starting lineup.
“Those are the discussions that the offense staff will have, and I’ll be a part of that once they go through it,” Williams said. “Every day is a competition. It’s not game-by-game, it’s day-by-day. So every day we’ve got to continue to be better and what we’ll do as a staff and what we’ll do as a team is play the best guy for the best opportunity.”
Harrison was a surprise starter Week 1 then held the job through eight games. Williams said he’s improved “light-years” since he arrived from West Georgia, but he had struggled over his last few games and the volume of hits on quarterback Baker Mayfield increased. Harrison (6-foot-6, 295 pounds) has elite athleticism but was having problems anchoring against the bull rush.
Harrison was in a hurry to get to a meeting Monday but said “for sure” he was disappointed he wasn’t able to play Sunday. He practiced Wednesday and Thursday before missing Friday and the game with the illness.
Robinson (6-5, 330) has the edge in bulk, but not quickness, and held his own Sunday. Mayfield was sacked only twice, after 17 times over the previous four games, and they were the result of miscommunication that allowed a free rusher.
Chiefs pass rusher Dee Ford, who entered with eight sacks, registered only a tackle and no quarterback hits, and Robinson received a pair of unsolicited postgame shout-outs from Mayfield.
“After watching the film I felt like I played well,” said Robinson, who called just playing a “blessing.” “It felt good to just get out there with the boys, taking it to the game field rather than just practicing. It was encouraging and I’m really happy that he spoke well about me.”
Robinson isn’t a run-of-the-mill reserve. He was the No. 2 overall pick of the Rams in 2014 out of Auburn and just turned 26 last month.
He’s failed to live up to expectations and is on his third team in three years — he entered the season with 48 starts in 52 games for his career — but believes there’s plenty of time to rewrite the story of his career.
“Who knows how it can turn out, you know what I’m saying?” he said. “But I have no excuses whatever, my work ethic is never going to change. All I can do is show up.
“I’ve dealt with a few injuries and those type of things, but nothing’s really holding me back except myself.”
Robinson was signed in June, after minicamp and after the Browns became concerned Shon Coleman wasn’t the solution following Joe Thomas’ retirement. But before Robinson could enter the battle for the starting job he suffered a concussion on the second day of training camp and fell behind, especially as he struggled to learn a new system.
“I would like to think it would have (been different), just because it would have been an even playing field,” he said. “Playing from behind is challenging because there are a lot of great athletes in this business. It’s not easy to win a position. You really have to stay on it and put in a lot of hard work.”
Williams was with the Rams in 2014, and Robinson said they have a great relationship and crack jokes.
“I’ve seen him develop as a young guy,” Williams said. “I’ve seen him have his battles, ups and downs, and it’s been good.”
Robinson said he “would hope” their relationship means Williams is in his corner when choosing a starter.
“All I can do is just show up each day and work my butt off,” he said. “If that’s a decision that the coaches will make going forward, I’m really proud of it.”