BEREA – Billy Cundiff is embracing replacing Phil Dawson as Browns kicker.
“It’s a good thing,” Cundiff said today. “The bar is set high.”
Cundiff won a tryout Tuesday and signed a one-year contract. His first practice with the team was this afternoon. The season starts Sunday against Miami.
Dawson left for San Francisco in March in free agency after 14 years. He had become a fan favorite for his reliability and personality. He is the franchise leader with 305 field goals and an 84 percent conversion rate, second with 1,271 points and third with 215 games.
Cundiff, 33, knows Dawson after filling in for five games in 2009 when Dawson had a calf injury. Cundiff said they traded texts Tuesday night.
“He’s a great guy,” Cundiff said. “There’s obviously a lot to learn from what he’s done.”
Cundiff was with the Jets during training camp and went 3-for-3 on field goals in the preseason. The strong showing left him confident he would find another job.
It didn’t take long.
He kicked against 23-year-old Giorgio Tavecchio in a competition Tuesday at Browns headquarters and was told he won the job. The Browns cut veteran Shayne Graham and rookie Brandon Bogotay on Saturday and went a couple of days without a kicker.
“I’m very comfortable,” coach Rob Chudzinski said. “I have the utmost trust in Billy.”
In 106 regular-season games, Cundiff is 139-for-184 (75.5 percent) on field goals with one blocked and 217-for-218 on extra points.
** Rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo practiced again today in a limited role. He went through agility drills with the outside linebackers but didn’t have any contact during the half-hour open to reporters. He sat out a punt drill and didn’t hit the blocking sled or the tackling dummy.
“We’ll wait and see,” Chudzinski said when asked about Mingo’s availability for the opener.
Mingo returned to practice Monday for the first time since suffering a bruised lung Aug. 15 against Detroit.
** Chudzinski ruled out right guard Shawn Lauvao for Sunday and said he’d be evaluated again next week. Lauvao had arthroscopic ankle surgery Aug. 9.
He was the only player on the active roster who didn’t practice.
** Chudzinski downplayed the importance of the opener, despite the Browns’ 1-13 record in them since returning in 1999. The lone win came in 2004 against Baltimore when Chudzinski was tight ends coach under Butch Davis.
“Every game in this league is important,” Chudzinski said. “We approach this game just like we do every other game. It will be the most important game we play this week.”
Twelve of the 13 losses have come at home, and the Browns will host Miami at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Cornerback Joe Haden is 0-2 in openers, not counting last year’s 17-16 loss to Philadelphia which he missed while serving a four-game suspension. He believes an opening win is the best way to signal that these aren’t the same old Cleveland Browns.
“It’s the way to start off the season right,” he said. “The first game is always the biggest one, just to get a good feeling to start off the season.
“It’s not a must-win, but just to get it changed around like really stuff is really happening if we start winning the first game of the season.”
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