Browns player's bold statement about ex-Hawkeye Kirksey

The Associated Press

BEREA, Ohio -- When veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby looks at rookie Christian Kirksey, it's like staring in the mirror.

And what's looking back at him has potential a lot of it.

Christian Kirksey tackles George Winn of the Detroit Lions in the Cleveland Browns' preseason opener.

"He reminds me of me," Dansby said. "He has potential to be one of the best to ever do it if he applies himself."

Kirksey, a Cleveland Browns rookie who starred last season at Iowa, is impressing everyone so far in his first NFL training camp.

And he's doing it by leaning on the veterans around him, like Craig Robertson — whom he is battling for playing time at the weakside position — and Dansby.

The 6-2, 235-pound third-round pick's attitude and work ethic hasn't been lost on Dansby, who is entering his 11th year in the league.

Kirksey's presence at camp hasn't been lost on Browns coach Mike Pettine, either. Pleased with the young linebacker's performance so far — he had three tackles in the Browns' preseason opener — Pettine said earlier in the week that Kirksey would get more time with the first-team defense in practice.

"It makes me feel good that I'm showing improvement and I'm showing my talents, what I'm capable of doing," Kirksey said. "That's what I'm going to continue to do."

And there he was on Wednesday, standing alongside Dansby on a number of plays, before breaking into coverage against both tight ends and even a couple of receivers in team drills.

Kirksey is being praised for his pass coverage and ability to play both the inside and outside linebacker positions, a type of versatility the Browns are already counting on.

"Just having that type of experience in college, it definitely helps to translate over to the NFL," Kirksey said. "I'm kind of in a comfortable role now when it comes to sticking tight ends and sticking running backs."

Kirksey might be best-remembered by Hawkeye fans for his performance in Iowa's 38-17 win at Nebraska in the 2013 regular-season finale. Kirksey was named the nation's defensive player of the week after harassing the Huskers to the tune of 11 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

Though overshadowed by the likes of Johnny Manziel, Kirksey is one of a handful of Browns rookies who could be major contributors early in the season.

"I just came here with one goal in mind, and that's just to play physical," Kirksey said. "Just go out there and play hard."