Bess' struggles go beyond one game

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
3:42
PM ET
Davone Bess did not back down from accountability for a bad day in Kansas City.

“Just got to make the necessary plays, man,” Bess said today of his three-drop, one-fumble day in the Browns loss to the Chiefs. “That’s what it comes down to. Focus. Being a professional. Being accountable and bailing my teammates out.”

Bess knew that his dropped passes hurt the Browns, but he knew that his fumble on a punt return was especially damaging.

The Browns trailed by three in the fourth quarter when Bess fielded a short punt on the run at midfield. He caught it, but when he went to run, the ball wriggled free. He thought he was headed to a big return, but Kansas City recovered, which cost the Browns excellent field position that would have given them a chance to at least tie the game.

It also cost the Browns three minutes in game time, 35-to-40 yards in field position and two timeouts they used when the Chiefs had the ball. Bess said he thought he had caught the ball cleanly.

“It’s just discipline,” he said. “I got to look the ball all the way in.”

Bess was fielding the punt because regular returner Travis Benjamin had left the game with a knee injury. It turns out that Benjamin tore the ACL in his right knee and Bess now will be the team’s primary returner.

“Travis is a big playmaker,” Bess said. “It’s unfortunate for the injury, but … I got to step up. That’s as simple as it gets. There’s nothing to boast about, to talk about, to be down about. It’s just go get it.”

Losing Benjamin means losing a significant weapon. He had returns of 79 and 57 yards against Buffalo, one that scored a touchdown, the other that set up a TD. Benjamin also was a threat to break a return anytime he fielded a punt.

Bess has averaged 10 yards on his 121 career punt returns, but he did not field the most important punt he caught in Kansas City.

“Those plays right there can be game-changing plays,” Bess said. “Momentum, especially in that situation. It was just an opportunity I saw and I swung.”

Bess is one of the more respected players in the locker room. He has worked his way out of one of Oakland’s tougher neighborhoods, and overcome spending 15 months in a juvenile detention center after being implicated when friends put stolen goods in his car (he said he didn’t know what was in his friends’ bags).

His Bess Route Foundation is one of the NFL’s more respected charitable organizations.

“I’ve been through a lot tougher things in my life,” he said “A lot. It’s just another bump in the road.”

But he's also had a tough start to his Browns career. The ESPN Stats and Information reports Bess has six dropped passes, which ties St. Louis' Tavon Austin and Kansas City's Jamaal Charles for most in the NFL.

Bess has never had more than six drops in a season in his career (six in 2009) and the past two seasons combined he had two drops.

But he's dropped the first pass thrown to him in each of the last three games.

"A lot of that is in my control and it’ll get fixed," Bess said. "Just gotta keep working."

 

Pat McManamon

ESPN Cleveland Browns reporter

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