Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 5/30/12
BEREA -- The Cleveland Browns drafted a running back and a quarterback in April, but they did not take a wide receiver until the 4th round. Whether that happened by accident, the vagaries of the draft or luck does not matter to Greg Little. He said the receivers noticed. It definitely sends a message that the guys we have as receivers are who theyre confident with going into any game situation, Little said Wednesday after the Browns offseason workout. That message was understood in our room. We have to take that and make them look like the good guys. As in they best produce. Because last season the group did not produce, and in the offseason it was kicked around a bit. The team addressed the situation from the quarterback end by drafting Brandon Weeden. Now its up to the group. And Little has done his part -- at least as much as any one player can do during offseason practices. He reported to the teams OTAs (as they are so snappily called) 11 pounds lighter than he played in 2012. At 219, Little said he feels like hes in the best shape since he left college, and that hes shiftier and swifter. Ive seen him look a lot quicker, a lot more sudden, coach Pat Shurmur said. I think to this point hes caught the ball at a more consistent rate. He just looks like a different guy to me, a guy thats been through it once. To his credit, hes done a really nice job of getting his body in the right kind of shape he needs to be in to be a receiver in this league. Little said he looked more like a tight end or running back his rookie season. He and Shurmur both felt he needed to be leaner. His weight gain was caused, he said, by his turning into a Tasmanian Devil in the weight room his final year at North Carolina -- when he served a suspension for NCAA violations. I was in the gym so much that I gained so much weight, he said. Not from sitting around, but from always wanting to pump iron, not running around as much. Just gaining muscle weight. When I went into the Combine I was so jacked. they were like, You got to get out of the weight room. The lockout followed the draft, so Little missed his senior year and an offseasons work leading up to the start of training camp. He first met his teammates and coaches within days of the lockout ending, so he never had a chance to acclimate himself to the team or his surroundings. He got hit with a double-whammy, so to speak, Shurmur said. Which perhaps explains as much as anything why Little struggled as a rookie. He did lead the Browns with 61 receptions, but had 121 passes thrown to him and dropped 14 -- which tied for second in the league. Little had moments where he looked good, but other moments when he didnt -- like when he dropped five passes in a loss in Cincinnati. Little, who never hides from a question, understands why he was criticized. When (Shurmur and I) watched some of the games (on tape), I was like, Why did I do that? Little said. I was like terrible. He referred to things like how he ran routes, or how his body position or movement led to a drop. In his exit interview, Shurmur told Little he needed to get into receivers shape. Little focused on nutrition and cut out junk food. He said last season when Chris Gocongs wife made cupcakes he would eat seven or 10 of them. He also refined his weight program, where he adjusted from lifting to gain bulk to lifting to make himself more efficient. I think he did reshape his body in some ways, Shurmur said. Littles next step comes in practice, where he has to work on doing the most important thing a receiver does. You work on the fundamentals of catching the football, Shurmur said. We try to avoid saying when the ball is dropped, Hey, catch the ball. Its about focusing on a small point. Its about your eyes and fingers and catching the tip and all those things. We have an increased number of drills that we do. I think you find in coaching and teaching that youll get what you emphasize, and weve emphasized it a great deal. Hes embraced working at it. Were hopeful itll show up. Hope is the Browns touchstone at this point, especially with the receivers. A much-maligned group returns intact. The hope is that the changes each individual makes will be a positive -- starting with the offseason -- and taken together the entire group will grow. Little clearly grasps the necessity.
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