Cleveland (Cleveland Plain-Dealer) - Sometimes it seems like the Browns lose Jerome Harrison's number.
Last Sunday in Tampa, Fla., was one of those times. Harrison carried the ball nine times for 52 yards against the Buccaneers in a game the Browns never trailed until halfway through the fourth quarter.
That's one of those head-scratchers that keeps Browns fans up at night. But not Harrison.
"I can only control what I can control," he said Thursday. "I'm a player, not the coach. If I was coaching, I'd give myself the ball damn near every play. Because I believe in myself like that."
Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs have had Harrison's number circled since the schedule came out. Harrison scorched the Chiefs in their last home game last year, putting up a phenomenal 286 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 34 attempts. It was the highest rushing total in Browns history and the third-highest all time for an NFL back.
"Yeah, I would say that I'm paying attention to Jerome," Chiefs coach Todd Haley said this week. "We'll definitely have a jersey number 35 out there [on their scout team]. When you have a guy play as well as he did against us, you tend not to forget that for a long, long time. So we'll definitely have a jersey 35 out there."
You would think a historic game like that would change a player's career, win him some playing time on his own team, at least. But that hasn't really happened for Harrison, even though he followed up with rushing totals of 148 yards on 39 attempts and 127 in 33.
We know what happened. In the off-season, the Browns traded for Peyton Hillis and drafted Montario Hardesty. Even after Hardesty went down with a season-ending knee injury in the last preseason game, Harrison found himself sharing time with Hillis in the first game of the new season. Harrison, in fact, was on the bench as the game began.
He admitted he was a little surprised, but he doesn't feel the need to talk to the coaches about his role.
"It's only Week 1, so no," Harrison said. "All I can do is hope things change. If I feel like I need to say something, I will, if it gets to that point. But I'm hoping it never does."
Coach Eric Mangini said this week he expects Harrison and Hillis will continue to share the rushing load.
"I like what both guys can do with the ball in their hands. I like what both guys can do in the passing game," Mangini said.
"I have total confidence in either one, so whoever we have in, if those plays are rolling, I'm happy to continue rolling with them. It's a good situation. I really think that both guys are going to do good things when they are in the game."
The feature rushing role appeared to be reserved for Hardesty during the pre-training camp workouts. But that plan was stalled when Hardesty suffered a bone bruise a week before camp opened. With Hardesty getting ready behind the scenes, Harrison had two fumbles in the second preseason game. Those appeared to give Hillis, who had a consistent camp, the edge heading into the first game.
Hillis scored a touchdown in Tampa but also fumbled twice. So who knows where they go from here. Given his choice, Harrison would like 20 to 30 carries per game.
"Twenty carries allows you to get in a rhythm and get a feel for a defense," he said. "Most big runs come later on after you've got a good feel and figure out what they're doing."
Harrison's breakout game against Kansas City helped ignite the Browns to a four-game winning streak at the end of the season. Now they're 0-1 as the Chiefs come to town and in need of an igniter to their offense again. They are liable to play the Chiefs with starting quarterback Jake Delhomme out with an ankle injury.
Coincidentally, the only player in the NFL who had more rushing yards than Harrison over the last month of the season last year was Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs. Charles finished with 1,120 yards in 10 starts; Harrison had 862 in seven.
And look what the Chiefs did. They went out and signed veteran rusher Thomas Jones as a free agent. When the Chiefs took the field for their first play on offense Monday night against San Diego, Charles was on the bench.