Old-School Middle Linebacker Reggie Ragland On Playing His First Browns-Steelers Game – ‘This Is My Type Of Division’

Reggie Ragland is looking forward to his first Browns-Steelers game. (Cleveland Browns)

Reggie Ragland is looking forward to his first Browns-Steelers game. (Cleveland Browns)

Old-school middle linebacker Reggie Ragland on playing his first Browns-Steelers game – ‘This is my type of division’

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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.

Takeaways from Browns practice and interviews …

Reggie Ragland arrived to the Browns just in time to experience a Browns-Steelers game, and he is so happy about that.

“To be honest, I didn’t realize it was that big of a rivalry as Coach [Kevin Stefanski] was saying this morning,” Ragland said before the first practice of the last game of the season. “I played in KC-Oakland, the Giants-Eagles. I’m excited about this one. I know it’s going to be a fun game because they have a chance of making the playoffs. Gonna be a high energetic game. And [Mike] Tomlin’s one of my favorite coaches in the NFL, too. So I can’t wait.

“This is my type of division. And I’ve had fun in it so far.”

Ragland was signed Dec. 4 as a life preserver after the club lost four middle linebackers to injuries – Anthony Walker, Jacob Phillips, Sione Takitaki and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. He played three snaps in his first game against Baltimore, then 33 against New Orleans (leading the defense with 10 tackles) and 24 against Washington.

Ragland sticks out in the middle of the Browns’ defense because of his size, 6-2 and 250+ pounds, and his jersey number, No. 19, which he wore in high school and at Alabama. Ragland is 15 pounds heavier than next-heaviest linebacker on the roster, Takitaki.

“I’m built different. That’s just me. I’ve always been built like this,” Ragland said with a laugh.

I asked Ragland if he considers himself an old-school middle linebacker.

“Yeah. I just love playing football,” he said. “Football is football, to me. I feel like a lot of people make it too complex -- need a smaller guy to cover and all that. Man, you just need somebody that knows how to play football and be in position and know what’s going on. That’s how I feel about all of that.”

The Browns have had trouble stopping the run because they got too light at defensive tackle and at linebacker. Ragland has seen the running game make a resurgence throughout the NFL because of over-emphasis on stopping the passing game.

“Yeah. Linebackers are smaller,” he said. “All these running backs are my size, 240 and 250 almost. That’s why I say there’s always a place for me in this game. You need somebody to thump.”

Ragland gives the Browns some comfort in the middle of the defense to go against Pittsburgh back Najee Harris. The 242-pound Harris posted 111 rushing yards against the Baltimore Ravens in Pittsburgh’s 16-13 win on Sunday. He's the only back to crack 100 against Baltimore this year. Nick Chubb had 91 and 99 yards on the Ravens.

“That’s Little Bro,” Ragland said Harris, a Fellow Alabama alum. “I know what type of runner he is, very physical guy, high energetic, has good feet, good eyes, good out of the backfield. Personally, I love the way he plays the game. He loves talking stuff. I’d love to have somebody like that on my team. He’s gonna bring the energy. He’s gonna bring it to you. You want to play against guys like that.”

Ragland said he’d like to be part of the Browns’ future, but he’ll feel blessed just to keep his career going no matter where it takes him. For him to return, the Browns would have to re-evaluate the makeup of their linebacking corps.

“Those are all things you think about the season,” Stefanski said. “Reggie’s brought a good spirit to the locker room. Nice to have a veteran, a guy who’s been around and seen different things. He’s fit in very well with our locker room.”

Work goes on

Thoughts and prayers to fallen Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin have hung in the minds and hearts of everyone in the NFL. It is no different with the Browns.

Stefanski addressed the tragic accident suffered by Hamlin in Monday night’s Buffalo-Cincinnati game with his players when they reported to work. He expressed to them that the club has many resources to deal with grief and anxiety and advised them to reach out and talk, if needed.

“Our players are all processing it and I think all of us are in different ways,” Stefanski said. “We have people here for them should they need anybody to talk to. Again, tough, tough times for this young man, and we are obviously pulling for him. With that, have to transition to doing our job, and our job this week is playing on the road at a good football team.”

Stefanski has not altered the weekly work schedule. He said no player approached him about needing more time before going back to work.

“I have talked individually to a bunch of guys,” he said. “I of course opened it up to anybody who wants to talk. I think the biggest thing is making sure that there are professionals here. We are blessed to have people here every single day, so we have the resources here.”

Here are a few reactions from players regarding Hamlin.

Running back Nick Chubb: “Team meeting, first thing we brought up was that situation. We are all praying for him. Hoping for the best. It is a tough situation for everyone. It is a lot to process. Now we are all just praying for him.”

Tight end David Njoku:” It has been crazy. Just shows you that we really put our body, mind and soul on the line every single play. I have been praying for his family and him, as well. I am just speechless. All we can do is just pray and do whatever we can do to help. Pray.

“In this game, you always know in the back of your head that this is a very physical sport … this is a very, very aggressive, physical sport and it is tough to really talk about that, especially when you are asking me if it was me. It could be anybody, but it doesn’t really hit until it pretty much happened, like I said. All I can say right now is that I am praying for him and his family, and I hope that he makes it out in one piece.”

Cornerback Greg Newsome: “Obviously, I give my condolences to him and his family. It is heartbreaking. Obviously, I didn’t know him personally, but I can only imagine what his family is going through and his teammates are going through. Keep them close to him. It is definitely a scary, scary sight.”

Brownie bits

Punter Corey Bojorquez was named AFC special teams player of the week for averaging 46.8 yards on four punts, including two dropped inside the 5 and one at the 20 against Washington. Bojorquez is the third Browns special teams player to win the award, following kicker Cade York and punt returner Donovan Peoples-Jones …

Right tackle Jack Conklin (ankle) and cornerback Denzel Ward (shoulder) were the only players not practicing because of injury. Stefanski said he won’t know their game status until later in the week.