Browns linebacker was unknown a year ago

CLEVELAND – It took Craig Robertson all of one tackle last season before he knew he belonged in the NFL.

That’s all the proof he needed to call his agent with a special request.

“Immediately after the first game I called my agent and told him to make me a goal board,” Robertson said. “I still have it today.”

Robertson wouldn’t reveal his list of goals, but he did say he accomplished six of the eight. They were written down on a paper and attached to a board that he kept by a mirror in his residence.

The goal board has changed in the last 12 months now that Robertson appears to be a lock to start at inside linebacker in coordinator Ray Horton’s 3-4 defense. He no longer has to worry about hoping to make the roster.

The comfort of knowing he belongs hasn’t changed Robertson’s approach to training camp. He still carries a chip on his shoulder for not being drafted or signed as a rookie free agent out of North Texas State.

“I don’t treat it differently,” he said of knowing his status as a starter. “I still work hard at practice. I still have the same mentality. I wake up and go to sleep thinking like it was last year.”

Horton likes everything he’s seen of Robertson to date. Earlier this week he referred to Robertson as his ace in the hole.

“He loves all of us,” Robertson said. “We’re all aces in the hole. We have great linebackers. It’s not just one guy.”

What Robertson has that makes Horton smile the most is outstanding sideline-to-sideline speed. The coordinator preaches the message of wanting big guys (linemen and linebackers) who can run and little guys (defensive backs) who can tackle.

Robertson appears to be a good fit on the inside next to D’Qwell Jackson. Horton’s attack mentality and one-gap scheme is perfect for a player like Robertson.

“More than like it, I love it,” Robertson said of Horton’s system. “Being able to run around. You have the freedom to be just you. You’re not confined to being just a textbook player. He makes calls to the strengths he has on the field. We have guys that can run and blitz, so we’re going to run and blitz.”

Robertson was one of the rookie hits of camp last year after signing to the Browns’ practice squad for the last two weeks of the 2011 season. He was added to the offseason 80-man roster in January of 2012.

Appearing in all 16 games last season as part of the nickel package, Robertson registered 93 tackles. He intercepted one pass and recovered two fumbles.

The switch to the 3-4 defense increased the need for quality linebackers. Paul Kruger was signed to fill one spot on the outside, and sixth overall pick Barkevious Mingo is competing for time on the opposite side with Jabaal Sheard.

It appeared that Robertson and James-Michael Johnson would contend for one of the inside spots, but that competition might never develop.

“Nobody controls anything,” Robertson said. “I’m going to have a chip on my shoulder like I had last year. I’ll leave it at that.”

One question that seems to be asked of each of the linebackers concerns the lack of ideal weight. Robertson has no problems with his 234 weight.

“For what we’re doing, you don’t need to be huge,” he said. “We’re blitzing and we’re covering. You don’t need to be 250 pounds and cover. Then you’re not covering anybody.”

Robertson seems to have it all figured out.