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Mandatory Minicamp Begins for Browns

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Mandatory minicamp began Thursday for the Cleveland Browns. One of the so-called "big" stories heading into the first session was the fact that kicker Phil Dawson was returning from his holdout (which really wasn't a holdout since previous sessions were voluntary).

The rain was coming down today, but head coach Eric Mangini did not move practice inside. He saw today as an opportunity to take advantage of the experience players would gain from the many different weather elements  offered in Cleveland, OH. Mangini spoke to the press conference following the practice; here is the cliff notes version with my comments chimed in:

(Opening statement) – "Good morning, how’s everybody doing? Welcome back. Going into this mandatory minicamp, what we are doing over the course of these five practices, is reviewing the information that we’ve put in. This is the next phase of our install, most of which is review at this point. What’s nice about these days is the volume of information over a very small period of time increases dramatically and it’s a lot closer to the way that training camp will go. That gives the rookies, especially, a sense of that, and it also gives the guys that aren’t familiar with the system a good indication of the process during training camp. We are looking for a lot of good work over the course of the weekend."

Thoughts: All of the incremental steps before training camp seem to be flying by; before you know it, I'll be posting nuggets on what happened during Day 1 of training camp.

(Former NFL player joins team) - "The other person that we have here who is going to be helping us out through training camp, is a name that is probably familiar to most of you in the room, is Kimo von Oelhoffen. He did the bulk of his work with the Steelers and then he came over to the Jets. We picked him up as a free agent. I got to know Kimo really well during that process. I think he is an incredible pro. He is a guy that even though he worked in a 3-4 system, he had to transition into more of a true two gap philosophy. That will be really valuable from a teaching perspective for a lot of the guys. As I said, he is one of the best pros I have been around."

Thoughts: So instead of carrying a coach on the 53-man roster (see Ken Dorsey), Mangini is actually giving von Oelhoffen official coaching duties. This is the first I've heard of this, and the move can only be beneficial. I'm sure there are a few Steelers still around that he played with -- perhaps he can give a few of our defensive linemen some pointers on them. Although, I can't say that Orpheus Roye ever helped us in that respect.

(On practicing in the rain) – "I am always excited when we get some rain, cold, wind or snow because you can’t simulate those. As much as you try to talk about playing with your feet underneath you, understanding the surface, dealing with a wet ball, how the difference is from the quarterback-center exchange, to the quarterback’s release, to the way the receivers have to catch it. All of those things are stuff that you can try to explain, but it’s much better if it’s experienced. It’s another distraction that is out there, that you’ve got to work through and be able to come back into focus."

(On being concerned that someone could get hurt in the rain) – "It’s football, it’s rain. You’ve got to work in it; you’ve got to understand it.  I’ve practiced on dry surfaces, I’ve practiced on ideal surfaces and we are always trying to have player’s safety first. Rain is something that we will have to deal. It is something that we will have to be able to work through and I think the more educated that they are on how to do that, the better the chance we have to avoid injuries when it does come up."

(On what it would take to move practice inside) – "Lightning."

Thoughts: It's the right mentality. I wouldn't expect these players to be getting many breaks when the 90+ degree days under the sun arrive in training camp. Nonetheless, I wouldn't expect every rainy day to be held outside under Mangini.

Doerschuk of the Repository reported that while several players fell, there were no apparant injuries. And yet, on a day with perfect conditions, you'll see a LeCharles Bentley go down with a career-ending injury.

(On if Phil Dawson looked rusty and if it is good to have him back) – "He looked good in the field goal drill that we had there at the end. I don’t think he had any misses there. Yeah, it’s good to have everybody back; it’s good to be operating with a full group. It’s always a positive weekend when you can get a lot done and really set the table for training camp."

(On if there are any issues that could linger into training camp with Dawson) – "I’m really happy with the things that Phil did and I’m happy to have him back. I look forward to moving into training camp with a full group."

Thoughts: Dawson doesn't really seem like the type of guy who would actually go through with a holdout. Although his job is pretty much safe due to his tenure with the team, you don't want to be the lone outcast under a new regime.

(On the addition of George Foster) – "He is a guy that when he came up we looked at and felt would add some good competition to the tackle position. He has started a lot of games in the league. He has played a lot of football. Analyzing that, we felt there was value in bringing him in to increase competition and depth."

(On the other offseason OL additions) – "John [St. Clair] is doing a really nice job. He and [Floyd] "Pork chop" [Womack] both have done a really nice job. What I like is the position flexibility, playing tackle, playing guard, right side or left side. I really liked him when I saw him on the free agent tape; I liked the things he did there. As a guy, he is an outstanding person in the locker room, meeting rooms, all of the things I look for from that perspective."

(On if Ryan Tucker will focus more on working at guard or tackle) – "They are all going to continue to rotate through different spots. (Alex) Mack will work some at guard as well. We are constantly trying different combinations and building that flexibility on the o-line, because you are one injury away from having to adjust quite a few spots. Giving those reps now, that work now is important."

Thoughts: The fact that four veterans with starting experience are competing for two spots says a lot; no more having to worry about whether an Isaac Sowells can handle the pressure if he is inserted into a game. The shift is toward bulk as well to improve the ground game. Right now, I'd expect Ryan Tucker to take the right tackle job. He's our third best offensive lineman; put him back at an important position and hope his health stays up.

(On if he is learning more about Jerome Harrison) – "That is definitely one of the things that happens when a guy gets more opportunities. I think Jerome has had an outstanding group of OTAs and camps. His ability to pick up the protections and run routes out of the backfield, he reminds me a lot of Leon (Washington). As Leon got more opportunities, the way that he embraced it, I have been very pleased with him in all aspects, running, catching, protection, and the way he works on the field, the way he works in the class room. He has done a great job."

(On if he can make adjustments with the blitz pickups) – "Yeah. When I say pickups, like today, you saw there was more of a blitz emphasis at the end of practice, so there are certain things based on the front, where the line may have to adjust. When they adjust, the back in turn has to adjust, so it’s based on a core protection, but the look moves how the protection operates. When I say pickups, it’s not necessarily going up and fronting up the guy, it’s more knowing the right spot to get to, knowing if you are part of a sight adjust and that’s really what I mean when I say pickups as opposed to the physical element of blocking the blitzer." 

(On if you won’t be able to see the physical element until the preseason) – "You will uncover that stuff a lot more during training camp, but my experience with a guy very similar in size, was positive in terms of what Leon was able to do in protection. I think if Jerome keeps working the way that he is working, it should be similar."

Thoughts: The praise for Jerome Harrison continues. However, this is much different than the Romeo Crennel praise. If you forgot, if Crennel so much as mentioned "Harrison" and "might see some more plays" in the same area code, I would be jumping through hoops. James Davis could sneak in still, but with all of this work, I think Mangini loves the similarities he sees between Leon Washington and Harrison.

(On the visit with Mike Brown) – "The visit went well. Mike is a guy that I have watched for a long time. With any of these guys that we bring in, sometimes we sign them right away, sometimes it can be during training camp, sometimes we don’t. It is to gather information and be able to put ourselves in a position to make a decision at whatever time we think we’d like to do that."

Thoughts: Mike Brown is a safety, formerly of the Chicago Bears. The option is out there; it doesn't sound like the meeting was a complete waste or anything. For the full transcript of the Mangini press conference, click here.

Here are some links recapping the first day of minicamp: