The Browns made Austin Hooper the highest-paid tight end in the NFL during free agency and drafted Harrison Bryant in the fourth round. It prompted former first-rounder David Njoku, uncertain of his role, to request a trade.
Njoku since has declared he’s “all Cleveland,” and the Browns have big plans for multiple tight ends.
Hooper, 25, played four seasons in Atlanta, making him the veteran of the group. He vows to mentor the other tight ends, calling out Raiders tight end Jason Witten in the process.
It is unclear whether Hooper knows Witten or why he said what he said about the former Cowboys tight end. It may go back a few years to perception created by Martellus Bennett, who, after four years playing behind Witten in Dallas, told ESPN, “I hated Jason Witten. I appreciated his game, but I always hated him.”
“My style, I’ve never really been a rah-rah guy at all,’’ Hooper said, via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. “I just kind of like to lead by example, and if people have questions, I will answer them. I am an open book. I don’t try to hoard information. I don’t like doing the whole Jason Witten deal where it is me versus everyone else in the tight end room. I think it is more like we are all in this together. David, Harrison, Stephen [Carlson], Pharaoh [Brown], Nate [Wieting], we are all in this together.
“I look at it as just like a big family in our room. We all have one common goal, and that is to win our reps. However someone does it a certain way, that resonates with someone else’s learning process better. I think just like any other workplace, it’s better when it is collaborative and not combative. That’s what I try to bring to the room and let everybody know that, yeah, I’m one of the older guys in this room, but don’t feel like I’m not approachable. I’m and open book. I want to see people do well.”
UPDATE 7:27 P.M. ET: Hooper tweeted he was being sarcastic in his remark about Witten.