Brodney Pool’s time is now


It’s two years later than most people thought it would happen, but Browns safety Brodney Pool might get his chance to be a full-time starter in 2007.

Pool, now entering his third season, has been working with the No. 1 defense at free safety throughout the practices in the organized team activities, and should still be when the Browns open the regular season on Sept. 9 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pool actually started eight games — or exactly half the season — in 2006, but there needs to be an asterisk attached to that. The Browns were so depleted at cornerback because of injuries that they used the athletic, 6-foot-2, 208-pound Pool, who has good speed and coverage skills to go along with his size, as a hybrid cornerback in four games.

Then when the injury bug spread to the other part of the defensive backfield and starting free safety Brian Russell was lost for the year with an infected elbow, Pool moved there and started for the final four games of the season.

But Russell was allowed to go to the Seattle Seahawks in free agency in the offseason, thus clearing the way for Pool to move in as the permanent starter.
It is where he was expected to be all along.

The Browns were ecstatic at being able to get Pool with the second pick of the second round, at No. 34 overall, in the 2005 NFL Draft. Under new general manager Phil Savage and new head coach Romeo Crennel, the Browns were moving in a new direction, letting both of their starting safeties from the previous three years, Robert Griffith and Earl Little, depart after the 2004 campaign.

The Browns then signed Russell, a restricted free agent from the Minnesota Vikings, and the thought was that he would be paired with Pool in the starting lineup. It seemed to be a good mix — the veteran Russell, who is more than happy to share his knowledge with younger players, acting as a coach on the field in helping Pool

It didn’t work out that way, however. Russell did indeed start in 2005, but his partner was not Pool but rather Chris Crocker, a holdover from the previous year.

Pool played in 13 games that year, appearing mostly in the dime package.

When Crocker was traded to the Atlanta Falcons in the ensuing offseason, it was assumed that Pool, albeit a year late, would join Russell at safety in 2006.

The rise of Sean Jones was legitimate. He took his good play right into the regular season, getting off to a fast start and ending up tied with Daven Holly for the team lead in interceptions with five.

Jones is back for 2007 and could be paired with Pool. Finally, it’s the latter’s time.

“It feels good to be in there,” Pool said after practice the other day. “I’ve prayed about it and thought about it a lot.”

“What people don’t realize is that I was just a young guy when I came here (he opted for the draft after his junior season at Oklahoma),” he said. “I had to be patient. I had a lot to learn. I knew my time would eventually come, and it has.”

He added, “My situation was a lot like that of a young quarterback coming into the league. If they rush you and put you out there before you’re ready, you’ll make a lot of mistakes and mess yourself up. You can ruin yourself.

“But I didn’t have to go through that. I was able to sit on the side and watch. I was able to develop slowly.”

Pool is hardly a finished product. He’s still just 23 — by only several weeks, in fact — and is still getting his feet wet in the pros. He has plenty of room to grow.

But now that growth will be on the field — all the time. Being so much more mature and knowledgeable than he was in 2005 — or even last year, for that matter — he can handle it.