Special Teams players in the NFL are a forgotten and overlooked breed of player, unless they are the one who is returning the kickoff or punt.
Cleveland Browns defensive back/special teamer Ray Ventrone is no exception to this rule, since he is one of 10 other special teams players who block and pave the way for Browns Pro Bowl returner Josh Cribbs.
"Bubba" Ventrone was an undrafted free agent who signed with the New England Patriots in 2005.
After bouncing around between the Patriots and the New York Jets, Ventrone followed Browns head coach Eric Mangini to Cleveland and was signed shortly after getting cut by the Patriots prior to the 2009 regular season.
Ventrone helped pave the way for Cribbs to get into the NFL record books, destroying the all-time kick return touchdown record.
Then in March of 2010, Ventrone agreed to stay with Mangini in Cleveland and signed a three-year contract worth $2.2 million.
After making contact through an undisclosed source, Ventrone was able to take some time out of his busy schedule of preparing himself for the upcoming 2010 season to answer a few questions so that Browns fans can get to know him better.
DW: How do Browns fans rate compared to other teams' fans?
RV: "Browns Fans are very passionate fans. I grew up in Pittsburgh, so I understand how much Cleveland loves their team. I used to be a Steelers fan, KEY PHRASE: USED TO BE!!! It's great to be a part of this organization. My friend TJ from Pittsburgh wants to sit in the Dawg Pound for a game next season."
DW: What does it feel like when lining up with Josh Cribbs on special teams?
RV: "It's great knowing that when you make your block, there's a very good chance we are going to score or give our offense an opportunity to do so. Josh is not only a great player, but a great friend. He took me and some other special teamers down to Miami with him for the Pro Bowl to show his appreciation for our helping him get there."
DW: If there is one word to describe yourself on the football field, what would that word be?
RV: "Tough, Fast, Physical, and Smart. There's 4 words!!"
DW: Now that former Pats tight end Ben Watson is in Cleveland, are you excited about his arrival to the team?
RV: "Ben is a great player and teammate. i'm really excited he is now a Brown!! His daughter is 6 months older than my daughter, Ava (9 months), so we'll have to have some play dates with them around town."
DW: Now that Mike Holmgren is running the team, have you met him yet? If so, how was your meeting with him?
RV: "Yes I have met Coach Holmgren. I met him in the locker room during the first week of the off-season conditioning program. He was very approachable and cool guy to meet. He's a legend in the football world, so being able to meet and be affiliated with someone like that is exciting for me."
DW: With the Browns making many changes at QB this offseason, and the Internet going nuts with NFL mock drafts, who do you have the Browns picking as their future QB in your own personal mock draft?
RV: "I guess I should have asked Coach Holmgren that question, I have no clue!!"
DW: Who was your NFL idol while growing up and why?
RV: "I loved Barry Sanders. he was exciting to watch!!!"
DW: If there is one opponent who you look forward to playing more than any other team, who would that be?
RV: "I enjoy playing the Steelers twice a season now. I played for New England from 2005-2009, so i'm looking forward to them coming to Cleveland this year."
DW: Excluding your teammate, Cribbs, who is the most dangerous returner in the NFL that you've faced?
RV: "Devin Hester, Leon Washington, or Darren Sproles. All three are very good. Cribbs the best, hands down tho!!! That's my boy!"
I would like to thank Ventrone for taking the time to do this interview and I would also like to thank Mike Bartucca of ArmChair Quarterback Authentics for all his support with this interview as well.