PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Eagles will host the Cleveland Browns on Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field in their third preseason game, and the game will represent a return to the area for former Villanova safety Raymond Ventrone.

Since graduating from Villanova in 2005, Ventrone has emerged as one of the NFL’s top players on special teams.  And while he works at safety on defense, it really is on punts and kickoffs that Ventrone shines.

“I love playing special teams,” he tells KYW Newsradio.  “Last year I was close to making the Pro Bowl for the AFC — I was the alternate (special teams player).  I love special teams — it’s what I do.  And then I love playing safety also.  So if I’m needed to play in the secondary, I’ll be ready and prepared.  I’m working hard at learning the new coverages and things.”

Those new coverages are necessary because the Browns have a new coaching staff with Eagles ties.  The new head coach is Pat Shurmur, who spent a decade on Andy Reid’s staff in Philadelphia.

And the Browns’ defensive coordinator is Dick Jauron, who spent last year as an Eagles assistant.

Ventrone, entering in his 3rd year in Cleveland, talks about the adjustment:

“Defensively, we went from the 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense.  Coach  Jauron has done a really good job of implementing the new system and getting guys acclimated.   Coach Shurmur has done an awesome job with the offense.  We’ve been able to move the ball real well in the first two games,”  he said.

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It’s been a long road for Ventrone to establish himself in the NFL.   He spent time playing in Europe, on practice sqauds, dealing with injuries, and in three different NFL cities.   But he has persevered.  And he is proud that he is still standing as a pro.

“I feel like I’ve definitely grown over the last . . . seven years, it’s going to be now.  I’ve played under a bunch of different coaches and played with a lot of different players.  I was actually talking with a couple of different teammates the other day and saying how we are, like, the ‘older guys’ now.   I can’t believe that I’m 28 years old , I have two kids, and I’m married.   I guess I am one of the older guys on the roster!  And I’m happy about it.”

As for coming back to Philadelphia…

“It is exciting.  I was talking to Villanova’s equipment manager Tom Dumpy and our head coach Andy Talley that I’m coming back into town, I think they are excited that they are going to be able to watch me.  Just looking forward to the opportunity to play back in Philly.   I know a lot of people back there.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to get too many tickets (laughs).  Should be fun to play back in the Linc.”

Reported by Matt Leon, KYW Newsradio 1060

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