Sometimes in a professional career, one can get a fresh start. After riding the roller coaster for more than four years in Cleveland, Braylon Edwards has a tremendous opportunity to reconstruct his image in New York with the Jets.
"I think it's a fresh start and a clean slate," he told reporters late this afternoon, hours after he arrived in New York. "I just really appreciate Coach Ryan and Mr. Johnson for taking another chance on me and believing I can help this team out."
The 6'3", 215-pound Edwards has unquestioned athletic ability. He's got tremendous speed and jumping ability. The former Michigan standout not only set school receiving records with 252 receptions, 3,542 yards and 39 TDs but he also ran track, participating in both sprints and the high jump for the Wolverines. And Edwards, now in his fifth pro season, is a tough player who will throw his body around while running after the catch and blocking.
"I'm a little bit taller than Jerricho [Cotchery] — don't tell him I said that," Edwards said. "I'm a big guy, a physical wideout. Thomas Jones is a great running back and I believe I can get on those defensive backs on the outside for him and get to those safeties so he can have those big runs."
Throughout the first quarter of this season, Edwards saw a lot of bracket coverage as he caught 10 passes for 139 yards during the Browns' 0-4 start. But he averaged 15.9 yards a reception in '08 and 16.1 yards a grab in '07 as he set career highs with 80 receptions, 1,289 yards and 16 TDs.
"I work hard, I come to play every day, I'm a good teammate and I go out and do everything I'm supposed to do on the field. I pick up offenses and I study," he said. "At the end of the day, I'm just really trying to be a guy, I'm just trying to help this team out. They're going in the (forward) direction already even before I got here. If I can help that direction any, that would be great. I thank them taking a chance on me and it will pay off in the long run because I know what I'm capable of and I know what I can do."
But there have been lingering questions about Edwards' character. He allegedly struck a person outside a nightclub last weekend and it's an incident that both the Cleveland Police Department and the National Football League are investigating.
The full biography also reveals a person who in 2007 donated $1 million to the Cleveland Municipal School District to create a college scholarship opportunity for 100 eighth-grade students named Advance 1000. And the former Wolverine donated $500,000 in '06 to create a scholarship endowment at Michigan for the football player who wears the No. 1 jersey — the largest endowment pledged to UM by a pro athlete.
"It does tick you off," he said of his current negative label. "My mom and I have this conversation all the time. She gets more angry than I do about it and I do feel like I want to create, not a new image but I'm trying to just brush it up in order to be that good guy you speak of."
Edwards, whose father, Stanley, also played football at Michigan and then served in the NFL with both the Houston Oilers and the Detroit Lions, was not a stranger to many in the Jets' locker room. He is close with Kerry Rhodes, played collegiately with David "Hitman" Harris and grew up in Detroit like Bart Scott. In fact, the fellas got on him a little bit about his suit pants looking a little high.
"I feel like there's already some type of camaraderie as it relates to me and those players," he said. "I think it will be easier to meet and get along with other players and be transitioning as opposed to going somewhere where I don't know anybody."
Before the sun fell here in Florham Park, N.J., Edwards knew it was time to get down to business. He called New York "a great city with a great sports tradition" and everyone knows New Yorkers love nothing more than a comeback story.
"It's been very exciting. I'm extremely happy to be here. I can't really make that aware enough, how happy I am to be here," he said. "Now I can talk to you guys, take a look around the building, and then try to get with the coaches and Mark [Sanchez] right away so we can get that offense down.
"Now that I'm here and I'm a Jet, the cute part is over with. Now I have to go out and produce starting tomorrow in practice."