CLEVELAND (AP) – On a spring day in New York several months back, Braylon Edwards awoke for the biggest day of his young life. In a few hours, the NFL draft would fulfill the Michigan star’s boyhood dreams.

It didn’t go quite the way he expected.

After the San Francisco 49ers picked quarterback Alex Smith with the No. 1 overall pick, Edwards, dressed in a gray suit accented with pink pinstripes, fully anticipated being taken second by the Miami Dolphins.

They told him to be ready.

They took Auburn running back Ronnie Brown instead.

“They used me as a pawn,” Edwards said. “They told me one thing and did another. We call that lying.”

Today, Cleveland’s rookie wide receiver gets his first shot at revenge as the Browns (3-6) face the Dolphins (3-6) in a matchup of once-proud franchises rebuilding.

“We are similar teams going through similar struggles,” Browns coach Romeo Crennel said.

One of Cleveland’s biggest problems – and the Browns have more than a few – has been a lack of big offensive plays, a dilemma Edwards feels he could fix if the club would only give him the ball.

Earlier this week, a frustrated Edwards vented, saying it’s time the Browns made better use of his talents. He missed two games with an infection in his arm, but with just 17 catches and one touchdown, it does appear the Browns aren’t going to him nearly enough.

“We worked him in more last week and we’ll work him in more this week. The analogy was made that Braylon was like a jet plane taking off,” said Crennel, raising his arm skyward and using sound effects to emphasize his point. “You just don’t go straight up in the air.”

Edwards’ size and speed are what attracted the Dolphins leading up to April’s draft. Along with Smith and Brown, Edwards was identified by the club as a future star, a can’t-miss player capable of getting the Dolphins turned around quickly.

So when commissioner Paul Tagliabue stepped to the podium to announce Miami’s selection, Edwards expected to hear his name and prepared to slap an orange-and-green baseball cap on his head. He opted for a brown-and-orange one instead. This week, Edwards was asked if he thought he was headed for the South Florida sunshine on draft day.

“Very much so,” he said.

Was he looking forward to that? “Very much so.”

Edwards didn’t identify which member of the Dolphins’ front office promised they would draft him. However, he did say it wasn’t Dolphins coach Nick Saban.

“I don’t know who in this organization did say it,” Saban said. “I never talked to Braylon or his agent. I would apologize to anyone involved for whoever did that.

“What we said was that there were three players – Braylon was one of them – that we were interested in taking with the second pick.

“We really didn’t decide which player that would be until the morning of the draft, actually. He was one of three players we considered. That’s putting him in pretty high status, some pretty tall cotton. I have nothing but respect for Braylon.”

There has always been speculation the Dolphins were trying to force Cleveland into a trade. But Browns general manager Phil Savage didn’t budge, and when Brown was off the board, Edwards was an easy pick for Cleveland.

This might be the perfect week for the Browns to take the harness off Edwards, who had two receptions for 64 yards last week in a loss to Pittsburgh. But he was overthrown by quarterback Trent Dilfer in the first quarter, a play that could have given the Browns a 14-0 lead.

So far, Brown has had a greater impact as a rookie than Edwards. With 675 yards on 140 carries and 23 receptions for 153 yards, Brown has been directly involved in 29 percent of Miami’s 558 offensive plays.

By comparison, Edwards has been in on just 3 percent of Cleveland’s 509 snaps on offense.

“I was drafted here to make plays,” Edwards said. “That’s obvious, any 4-year-old who watches the draft knows that.”

Edwards insists he isn’t using Miami’s perceived snub as added motivation.

“It has gotten to the point where I’ve moved on and I put that out of my head,” Edwards said. “This game isn’t about revenge. It’s just about going out there and doing the best that I can do. I haven’t even thought about that anymore because I’m enjoying my situation in Cleveland so much that it hasn’t even bothered me.”

Given his comments this week, that’s a little hard to believe. Something drove Edwards to finally scream out for the ball this week. Maybe it was the Dolphins, who threw him a curveball on draft day.

“It just so happens the team that did take me plays them this year,” he said. “How ironic is that?”

AP-ES-11-17-05 1733EST


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