Shaffer adjusting to the right side
Kevin Shaffer loved being a lefty.
“He wasn’t jumping up and down,” Romeo Crennel said, when the Browns asked him to be a righty.
Left tackles are the big cheeses among offensive linemen. The good ones are to pigskin what Emeril is to pork tenderloin.
The Browns were convinced Shaffer could be a good one when they offered him $36 million to jump from Atlanta in free agency.
Shaffer seemed sincere about becoming a great one, even after an up and down 2006. He talked in terms of the NFL left tackle market going through the roof. He said he was happy as a Brown but might have cheated himself out of bigger money if he broke through.
His argument made sense after the Browns committed $49.5 million to the new left guard, Eric Steinbach.
Fans, coaches and management weren’t as high on Shaffer as he is on himself. When the Browns spent a No. 3 overall draft pick on Wisconsin left tackle Joe Thomas, it was obvious Shaffer would have to move to another position -- or another team.
Trading Shaffer would have been a problem because of the contract. Keeping him turns out to be a solution.
When veteran right tackle Ryan Tucker was nailed with a four-game, steriod-related suspension, Thomas became the starting left tackle. Shaffer moved to right tackle.
“It is what it is,” Shaffer says now. “I can be unhappy about it. I can be happy. That doesn’t matter, because that’s just the way it is.
“So how am I gonna go out there? Am I gonna try my best and be positive about it? Or am I gonna just blame everyone and be upset or whatever?
“I made my decision to just be positive and see how it goes.”
Crennel said Shaffer got beat inside once in Saturday’s preseason opener against the Chiefs, but overall has done “pretty well” since moving right.
“You’re not concerned about him handling the physical part,” Crennel said of the 6-foot-5, 320-pound veteran of 69 NFL games. “You are concerned about the footwork.’’
Rightfully so, Shaffer said.
“I had the jitters (against Kansas City),” the 27-year-old Pennsylvanian said. “I was nervous just because my pass sets aren’t totally comfortable.
“The run blocking is about the same. Pass blocking is completely opposite. The balance is opposite. I’ve got to get used to that.
“It’s muscle memory, trying to train the brain to do something different.”
His first practice as a right tackle, Shaffer said, “was like starting back at Day One.”
“I’m still not 100 percent comfortable there yet,” he said. “But the progress in just one week was amazing, so ...”
Shaffer was on the field only in the first half Saturday, but that was as busy as playing in some games last year.
The Browns milked 219 yards out of 41 plays through two quarters. In an entire game against the Bengals last November, they gained 203 yards on 47 plays.
“We were definitely tired,” Shaffer said. “But that’s fine. It helps us get in game shape a little earlier than we thought.”
In addition to learning a new position, Shaffer is adjusting to a new line coach. Last year, it was Jeff Davidson, the strong, silent type. This year, it’s Steve Marshall, a 51-year-old chatterbox.
“Marshall is always going, always trying to coach us up,” Shaffer said. “I don’t know where he gets all his energy. Maybe it’s the coffee, or whatever, but he’s just a maniac.”
Likewise, Shaffer is working for a new coordinator, Rob Chudzinski, who is more vocal on the field than either of last year’s coordinators, Mo Carthon and later Davidson.
“He knows what he’s doing,” Shaffer said of Chudzinski. “It’s going a lot better than expected.”
Mammoth fourth-year pro Kelly Butler is trying to challenge Shaffer for the right tackle job. Shaffer, though, is more athletic and has seen much more pro game action.
Barring injuries, it will be a big surprise if he doesn’t open the season at right tackle against Pittsburgh.
“I think we convinced him moving over is best for the team,” Crennel said. “I think he’ll take pride in the job he does there.”
Reach Canton Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org