In quite possibly one of the biggest games for the Cleveland Browns in a couple of seasons, the Browns take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Cincinnati tonight in this week’s prime time Thursday Night Football game at 8:25 P.M. There is one player for whom the game is especially meaningful, and that is Browns WR Andrew Hawkins. Hawkins’ early career included a stint in the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes, being runner up on Michael Irving’s “4th and Long”, and a failed off-season stint with the St. Louis Rams. Then the Bengals came knocking. Hawkins spent the first three seasons of his NFL career in Cincinnati, where he had 86 catches for 995 yards and 4 TDs. This past off-season, Hawkins signed an offer sheet with the Cleveland Browns for 4 years and nearly $14 million, which the Bengals refused to match. Hawkins has played well for the 5-3 Browns so far, recording 39 catches for 504 yards and a score. He has proven to be the team’s most reliable receiver, often targeted on crucial third and short situations. The fourth year undrafted WR from the University of Toledo knows that emotions will be running high for him as he returns to where it all started Thursday night. Says Hawkins, “It will be emotional”.
Hawkins is developing into a Cleveland fan favorite. You can periodically see fans donning his #16 jersey on game day. As for myself, every time I watch with my friends, after a big catch we all agree “he has been a huge signing.” The Browns, lacking their best receiver, who led the NFL last season for the first 10 games, has found a temporary patch to solve the problem in the 5’7″ Hawkins. Hawkins has also been a hot Fantasy Football commodity the past few weeks, being owned by over 52% of ESPN leagues. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis knows just what kind of player Hawkins is, “We know Andrew and how much heart and what a quality person and player he is, he’s leading them in receiving, and I don’t have to look at the program and see what number he is when I see him run. He’s doing the dirty work for them. He’s cutting off linemen on the backside. He’s doing all the things we know Hawk can do.” The only thing that could hinder this homecoming would be whether Hawkins is a game time decision for tonight’s contest after injuring his knee/thigh last week against Tampa Bay. Though this could be an emotional game for Hawkins, he understands that his eyes need to be on the prize, “The number one goal is to win the football game, it does mean something extra. The Bengals gave me my first chance in the NFL, when no one else would… the history I have with them; you couldn’t write a better story.”
Mike Pettine, when asked about if he will go tonight, “knowing him, if we leave it up to him, he’ll go, [I] just know the type of player that he is.”
Expect #16 to suit up tonight against his former team.
Ian Tumey (@CST_IanT)