Cleveland game brings career full circle for Chiefs’ Cam Erving

Whatever Chiefs left guard Cam Erving really feels about returning to Cleveland and facing the organization that drafted him and then traded him away after two seasons, he’s playing it close to the vest.

This week, Erving politely answered questions but didn’t offer any expansive heartfelt soliloquy about his experience in Cleveland versus his time thus far with the Chiefs.

Instead, he preferred to shift the discussion to the current Browns’ defense and — to steal the refrain of Chiefs coach Andy Reid — look forward to the challenge ahead.

Asked about the difference he has noticed in the two organizations since joining the Chiefs last summer via trade, Erving replied, “Consistency man, just in the building from top to bottom. Other than that, we’ve just got to go out here and play another good defense that’s been out here putting up really good numbers and playing really good football.”

Erving heads a Chiefs contingent of former Browns who are returning to Cleveland for the first time as visitors. The group includes starting right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (with the Browns from 2012-15), outside linebacker Nate Orchard (2015-17) and center Austin Reiter (2016-17). Offensive lineman Andrew Wylie spent time on the Browns practice squad last season before being released in December.

“I talked to Cam a little bit. I know he’s excited about going back, and Nate also,” Chiefs linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “I’m pretty sure they’re feeling the way I felt going back to Buffalo last year. I’m excited for them to go back and play against them. They’ve just got to go out there and play good and play hard.”

Schwartz, a three-time second-team All-Pro selection, signed with the Chiefs as a free agent after spending his first four professional seasons as a starter for the Browns. The Chiefs claimed Reiter off waivers in September after the Browns released him. He made his first start with the Chiefs last weekend. Wylie has started the past two games for the Chiefs.

The Browns released Orchard, who was featured along with his wife and children in HBO’s Hard Knocks television series this preseason, at the end of training camp. He has been active for one of three games since signing with the Chiefs on Oct. 9.

“It kind of brings things into full circle, and I mean it’s definitely good to see those guys come in and be able to have another opportunity to play in the NFL like myself,” Erving said of being one of several former Browns returning to Cleveland.

A 6-foot-5, 313-pound lineman out of Florida State, Erving entered the NFL as the 19th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Browns. He played in all 16 games as a rookie (four starts), and he started 13 games in 2016. The Browns used him at center, guard and tackle. His versatility and athleticism made him intriguing at each spot, but he struggled to settle into one position before being traded to the Chiefs in August 2017.

This season, Erving grabbed ahold of the left guard spot and has played all but one snap through eight games. He signed a contract extension through 2020 before the season opener. Despite their injuries at center and right guard, the Chiefs have opted to keep him at left guard on one of the NFL’s most productive offenses.

“It’s been great for me, and I appreciate the coaches and the staff for putting me in situations like this,” Erving said. “It’s definitely a blessing to be able to play in one spot for an extended period of time. I’m just continuing to count my blessings and be appreciative of every opportunity.”

Orchard has gotten more comfortable with the Chiefs’ defensive system over the past few weeks, a similar setup to the one in which he played as a rookie with the Browns. Orchard said he has kept in touch with former teammates but not since the coaching change at the start of the week.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” Orchard said. “I’m excited to go back and be able to see the fellas. I left there on good terms. At the same time, I’m excited to be with this team here, Kansas City, and to continue doing what we’re doing.”

Orchard, an edge rusher who is likely to be active on Sunday with Frank Zombo sidelined by a hamstring injury, said it was tough to get cut by the Browns but figured it was also just the nature of the business. He said he felt that he did everything he could’ve to make their roster.

“It definitely adds some meaning because I get to be on the field in my old hometown in the visiting locker room for the first time,” Orchard said. “It’s going to be one for the books.”

Lynn Worthy

Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Chiefs and NFL for The Star.

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