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Frye returns, talks about NFL career; rocky tenure in Cleveland

Mark Hazelwood • Jan 17, 2011 at 2:44 AM

During his tenure as starting quarterback in Cleveland, Charlie Frye was pulled aside by former Browns QB Bernie Kosar, who told the Willard graduate to "just survive."

"Bernie tried to help, but he saw what I saw," Frye said. "I remember thinking, 'What's he trying to say?' Until I looked back on it and realize he was trying to tell my career to survive.

"Because there are so many quarterbacks that go through there (Cleveland), and when they leave there, it's over. I've been on two teams since then, so I'm still surviving."

Frye spent the past week back in Willard for a ceremony on Friday to retire his No. 3 football jersey he wore for the Crimson Flashes from 1997-99.

Beforehand, Frye reflected on his tenure with the Browns, where he started 19 of 33 games from 2005-07 before his abrupt benching and trade after a disastrous 34-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2007 season opener.

"Everyone is always looking for the next story," Frye said. "The Browns had just signed Romeo (Crennel) as coach. They had just drafted me in the third round, a local kid from Ohio. It was a chance to create a buzz around there, sell some tickets, sell some jerseys.

"My time in Cleveland, I believe I was the highest sold jersey in those three years. So they did what they were supposed to do."

Hoping for more local lightning in a bottle like Kosar, who grew up in Youngstown as a huge Browns fan before leading the team to three AFC championship games in the 80s, Frye's rise from Willard and Akron to Cleveland never took off.

The Browns were 6-13 with Frye as starting quarterback, as he threw 14 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in front of a patchwork offensive line.

Want to read more on the local athlete in the NFL? Pick up a copy of Monday's Register to get Frye's thought on the league's hardest hitters, and his thoughts on the potential lockout.

Frye's local status and being in the spotlight as quarterback saw him take heat from the media and fans, but the Browns have been a revolving door at just about every position, with just two winning seasons since returning to the NFL in 1999.

The Browns have started a staggering 16 different quarterbacks since 1999, and Frye's six wins as a starter are actually third-most in that span.

"We weren't ready... The team wasn't ready for where they wanted us to go," Frye said. "That's what I saw. I went to Seattle and saw Matt Hasselbeck take his team two games from the Super Bowl. And it was such a different team from the last guy on the roster to the first guy.

"We weren't ready, and they (Cleveland) are still rebuilding and just hired a new coach again last week. So nothing's changed, except they have a great leader there now in Coach (Mike) Holmgren."

Frye added the Browns were unable to hide their deficiencies playing the Baltimore Ravens and Steelers twice a year, along with several other top-flight teams.

"Until you find the right mesh, it's too hard," he said. "And to try and put it on one person is just ridiculous. It's a true team sport, and obviously the quarterback has to orchestrate it all, but we weren't ready and you can't hide that.

"You have to go out and play every Sunday against the best in the world, and you can't hide from that. I don't regret any of it, no way. It is what it is, and you have to deal with the cards your dealt. I'm still going."

After spending the better part of two seasons in Seattle, Frye signed with the Raiders in 2009 and eventually replaced one of the biggest busts in NFL history, quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2007 draft.

One of Frye's three starts to end the 2009 season for Oakland came back in Cleveland, where he threw for 333 yards on 26-of-45 passes and three interceptions. He was sacked four times in a 23-9 loss to the Browns.

This past season never got underway for the 2000 Willard graduate, however, as a wrist injury in the second preseason game landed Frye on injured reserve after season-ending surgery on a torn tendon.

"This was the hardest year of my career, no doubt," Frye said. "Coach (Tom) Cable called me after my surgery and said they were going to put me on injured reserve. That was a very hard conversation because you spend six months getting ready for the season, and to be told you can't play is hard.

"It wasn't that hard until they said I could start throwing, but I knew I couldn't be active. That's why I'm starting my offseason when I leave here on Tuesday. I'm going to start a month early just so I can get some extra throws."

Frye signed a 1-year, $1.226 million contract with Oakland for the 2010 season and expects to be back in 2011.

"With what I've done there and some of the things they've said to me, I see myself being a Raider next season," he said. "I think I would have played somewhere for them and influenced the Raiders this year if I would have suited up. That's just the drive in me."

Frye also plans to stay in the NFL until he's told he's no longer wanted.

"They always say to play as long as you can, because when it's done, it's done," he said. "It's not like I can go back in five years and say 'Let's try this again'. Your body only lasts so long, so as long as my body is up to it I'm going to keep playing."

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