Leg up: Browns K Parkey battling rookie draft pick for job
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Kicker Cody Parkey thought he had shown the Browns he could handle anything during a topsy-turvy 2016 season.
Through the highs, lows, makes and misses, he was steady.
And then draft day arrived.
After missing three field goals in his debut last season, Parkey, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie for Philadelphia in 2014 only to be waived two years later, rebounded and converted 20 of 22 attempts. His personal comeback was lost in the mess of the Browns’ horrendous 1-15 season.
When it ended, Parkey was confident the Browns believed in him, and the 27-year-old assumed his job was secure — at least for another season.
That all changed when the team selected Arizona State All-American Zane Gonzalez, the most prolific kicker in college history, in the seventh round of this year’s NFL draft.
“I was kind of taken aback,” Parkey said Monday. “But I was reassured that it was going to be an open competition. And it just kind of makes me want to work harder, just to prove people wrong about me.”
Quarterback isn’t the only tight competition in Browns camp.
The kicking battle between Parkey and Gonzalez has evolved into one of the tightest this summer, with each squib and shank analyzed and graded.
Parkey has been more consistent, but coach Hue Jackson indicated that the starting job remains up for grabs.
“I think it is kind of close,” he said. “I am not going to say which way it is.”
Parkey said Gonzalez, the first kicker drafted by the Browns since 1989, has made him better.
“Competition breeds success,” he said. “But at the end of the day I’m competing against myself. I’m not trying to beat Zane that day. I’m trying to beat myself.”
A year ago, Parkey wasn’t even on the Browns’ radar.
He was with the Eagles last summer, fighting for a job after a serious groin injury prematurely ended his 2015 season. Parkey was released in September and was looking for a tryout when Browns called him with an emergency.
Kicker Patrick Murray had sustained a season-ending knee injury in practice, and the Browns needed him for their Sept. 25 game in Miami.
Parkey rushed to Florida, only worked with holder Britton Colquitt and Charley Hughlett in warmups and proceeded to miss three field goals, including a potential game-winner from 46 yards at the end of regulation.
The Browns lost in overtime, and it would have been easy for them to move on. Instead, they gave Parkey another chance.
“They gave me another game, which was honestly awesome,” he said. “They believed in me. I didn’t have a good first game. There is no way to sugarcoat that. But I think the definition of a good kicker is how you respond because you are going to miss a kick here and there.”
Parkey was hard on himself, but was finally able to shake the Miami meltdown.
“You just gotta go out there and hit your ball and trust that you’re here for a reason,” he said. “You’re one of 32 guys in the world that’s able to do this. I’ve been to a Pro Bowl. I’ve done it all, so I just have to remind myself: ”‘I’m good enough to be in this league.’”
Gonzalez feels the same way. The career FBS leader with 96 field goals and 494 points, he was honored as the Lou Groza Award winner as the nation’s top kicker last year.
He didn’t understand the award’s significance until he arrived at team headquarters, located at 76 Lou Groza Blvd. and named for the Browns Hall of Famer.
“It’s a pretty special feeling,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t really realize it was that big a deal until I got here the first time and I saw Lou Groza right on the front door. It’s just awesome to look back and know that I did win that award and now I’m here.”
NOTES: Rookie safety Jabrill Peppers had a strong practice with a few pass breakups, an interception and massive hit on WR Rannell Hall. Jackson said Peppers has steadily improved during camp and displayed the same versatility he showed at Michigan. “He’s shown you he can play everywhere,” Jackson said. ... Jackson respects the rights of players who have protested during the national anthem, and he hopes his team will continue to honor the flag. “I would hope that we don’t have those issues,” he said. “I understand there is a lot going on in the world. I like to just keep it here. Hopefully, that won’t happen.”