FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Braylon Edwards is going back to Cleveland and knows Browns fans are excited to see him again.
Not because they like him, of course, or even miss him.
Mostly because they still can’t stand him.
“I think the boos will be serious,” the New York Jets wide receiver said Wednesday. “I don’t think they’ll be cheering. I think everybody will be against me, but so what? That’s life.”
Especially for a guy who might be the most hated former Cleveland athlete not named LeBron James.
“At the end of the day, we’re here to play the Browns,” Edwards said. “My personal war with Cleveland, that’s secondary.”
But, even a few hours after the Jets pulled off a 23-20 overtime victory Sunday in Detroit, Edwards was already thinking about Cleveland.
“And before I take off and forget,” he wrote on his Twitter account, “all you Cleveland browns fans, 17 is coming back and you better bring ya damn popcorn.”
Yep, Cleveland Browns Stadium will surely be rockin’ as soon as Edwards steps on the field.
“I’m prepared for this,” he said. “I think I’ve been very professional when dealing with situations in my career. I don’t think it will bother me at all. It may bother you guys more than it bothers me.”
Edwards began his career with the Browns and spent four-plus tumultuous seasons with them before coach Eric Mangini traded him to New York early last season — a few days after Edwards was accused of punching a friend of James outside a Cleveland nightclub.
“The biggest thing for me is I couldn’t show how excited I was at the time,” Edwards said. “I just thought that it would be unprofessional to do a dance in his office as he’s telling me. … When he told me that, it was just, I couldn’t get out of Berea fast enough.”
And for Browns fans, he couldn’t leave soon enough.
“This is a blue-collar town and he’s a big-time wide receiver,” Browns wideout Joshua Cribbs said. “It got too small for him here in Cleveland and now he’s where he wants to be.”
A first-round pick out of Michigan in 2005, Edwards felt Ohio State fans had it in for him as soon as he joined the Browns. The first question he was asked after being drafted was about being a Wolverine.
It was all downhill from there.
But, Edwards brought a lot of it upon himself with off-field issues, troubles with the law and questions about his commitment to the game.
“He never had any disputes with his teammates,” Cribbs said. “He was a good team guy. He got along in the locker room. He just had problems with the fans.”
Problems the Browns don’t have to deal with anymore.
“I’m always sick of drama,” Browns left tackle Joe Thomas said. “I would rather just go out and play games. Certainly not having that has been nice.”
After busting out in his third season by setting career highs with 80 catches, 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns and making the Pro Bowl, Edwards had a lot expected of him.
Instead, his production slipped — as did passes out of his hands. That, maybe more than anything else, drew the ire of fans.
“I got a bad rap based off one year,” Edwards said, adding that the revolving door that was the Browns’ quarterback situation didn’t help. “I don’t think it was fair and it stuck with me.”
All the way to New York, where he has 25 catches for 453 yards and five scores this season — and has held onto the ball week after week.
“With his hard work he put in in the offseason, his dedication to this team this year, it’s been great,” Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez said.
Edwards is in the last year of his contract with the Jets and says he wants to remain with the franchise, but there’s some doubt whether that will happen. He was arrested on drunken-driving charges in September, suspended for one quarter of a game by the team and could face additional punishment by the NFL once the legal process plays out. His next court date is scheduled for Jan. 11.
“I haven’t complained, I haven’t said anything,” he said. “With the exception of the one situation, I haven’t been a distraction — although that was pretty distracting.”
Edwards acknowledges he’s a little more excited this week about playing in Cleveland, saying it’s a chance to make a statement.
“We could sit up here and talk about me and my relationship with Cleveland, but that’s better-suited for a book,” he said.
Edwards said he doesn’t speak with any of his former teammates unless he runs into them in the offseason.
“There’s no hard feelings,” he insists, “but when I left Cleveland, I left altogether.”
Being in New York for the last 13 months has helped him put Cleveland in the past a little bit, but clearly not completely.
“I feel I’m happy,” Edwards said. “I’m in a happier environment. The environment is better-suited to winning here. I think everything is different. The way the organization is run here is different. I’m happier.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Berea, Ohio, contributed to this story.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.
- Jets’ Edwards Expects ‘Serious’ Boos In Cleveland (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Jets’ Edwards has ‘personal war’ with Cleveland (nypost.com)
- In a sea of subplots, Mangini’s revenge rises to top (cbssports.com)