Veteran Olivier Vernon healthy, ready to lead by example

Sports

BEREA, Ohio (WJW) – Olivier Vernon’s first season in Cleveland did not go as planned.

The Browns acquired the 2018 Pro Bowler in a trade with the New York Giants, hoping he could boost their pass rush, opposite Myles Garrett.

But Vernon missed six games with a knee injury and finished with just 3.5 sacks, his lowest total since his rookie season.

“The whole season last year ended up being unfortunate for everybody. We had high expectations, and it just did not go the way we planned it. That is the NFL for you,” Vernon told local media during a Zoom sessions before practice Monday.

During the offseason, there were reports the Browns could cut Vernon, to clear cap space for Garrett’s new five-year, $125 million contract extension.

But instead, the team’s revamped front office chose to restructure the final year of his contract.

The Browns and Vernon agreed to convert his team-high $15.5 million salary into a one-year deal worth $11 million guaranteed, plus a possible $2 million in incentives.

New Head Coach Kevin Stefanski likes what he has seen from Vernon so far, both on the field and in a leadership role.

“OV is an example of a guy that really dedicated himself this offseason, made sure he showed up in great shape and he did,” Stefanski said. “He is a committed guy, and really excited to be around him. Excited to see him out there.”

Vernon has already noticed a different structure under Stefasnki’s leadership and believes the Browns will be a more mature and disciplined team this season.

“I think that was a learning lesson and learning curve for a lot of guys,” Vernon said. “Hopefully, a lot of guys gathered that information and carry it with them, and hopefully, that reminds them, especially for this upcoming season, just to give more motivation into staying focused, staying disciplined and getting after it.”

The Browns open the 2020 season on the road, against the two-time defending AFC North division champion Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, Sept. 13.

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