Metcalf was surprised to learn that Milburn was, however briefly, a Sooner. He claimed not to remember the only Red River Riot in which both of them played. Who won? He asked.
"I think we did," said Milburn, sounding almost apologetic.
It dawned on Metcalf suddenly: "I can't beat this guy! I never beat Oklahoma, never beat Stanford, and [when I was a Brown] we couldn't beat the Broncos!"
"That has nothing to do with me," said Milburn, which is not quite true. Two of Milburn's finest days as a pro have come against Cleveland. When the Browns visited Mile High Stadium last October, number 22 was everywhere, rushing for 38 yards, and catching eight passes for 76 yards and a touchdown.
Metcalf vividly remembered being upstaged by the younger man. "They had you running routes over the middle, with linebackers trying to cover you," he told Milburn enviously. "They use you lit you're supposed to be used."
Left unsaid were the words unlike the way the Browns used me. By trading Metcalf to Atlanta this spring, the Browns ran up the white flag on a six-year experiment. In 1989 they sent four draft picks to the Broncos in order to snag Metcalf with the 13th overall selection. Though he had his brilliant games—a four-touchdown day against the Raiders in 1992, two punt returns for scores against the Pittsburgh Steelers in '93—his years in Cleveland can be summed up thus: The Browns blew the nest egg on a Ferrari, then used it for quick runs to the minimart.
Was Metcalf a running back or a receiver? He played for three different offensive coordinators in Cleveland, and none, it seemed, could decide how best to deploy him. As a rookie he rushed 187 times; two years later, 30; two years after that, 129. By the end of last season Metcalf was an afterthought in the Browns' offense.
"If you want to make somebody the Man, why put him in a smash-mouth offense? Get him into space! Let him dance! But that's Bill," said Metcalf, taking a swipe at Brown coach Bill Belichick "That's that NFC East mentality."
In truth, Belichick, the ex-New York Giant assistant, is strictly a matchup coach, switching offensive systems nearly every week. While this gave the Browns flexibility, it prevented Metcalf from settling into a well-defined role. The mar who longed to get into space and dance was the NFLs most-talented wallflower
"Believe me, we won't have problems getting him the ball," says Falcor coach June Jones. Despite his lack of familiarity with the Falcons' run-and-shoot offense, Metcalf did some things during a May minicamp that had Atlanta's coaches shaking their head; and smiling. "I think he may have beer born to play in this system," says quarterback coach Mouse Davis, an architect of the run-and-shoot, who drew Metcalf's ire during the minicamp by repeatedly calling him "Terry." It is an understandable slip of the tongue-Terry, Eric's father, was an All-Pro running back and return specialist for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1973 to '77. "I think the kid may be better than the old man," says Davis. Others around the NFL disagree. Though Eric has his father's sweet feet, it is said that the son is softer, more willing than Terry was to escape out of bounds.