According to a report by Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cleveland Browns "were one of several teams warned by the league not to have their coaches meet with players or be given playbooks for the offeseason." The news came to light when second-year quarterback Colt McCoy told the Plain Dealer a couple of days ago that he had been in to meet with new head coach Pat Shurmur and that the team planned on giving him an offensive playbook to review during the work stoppage period. Per Grossi, even team president Mike Holmgren had informed the Plain Dealer of their intentions:
Browns President Mike Holmgren said on Wednesday, "It's an interesting time. Organizations have to be very careful on how you do things. You can't do anything you haven't done in the past. The fact Pat Shurmur is new ... Colt and some players have come in. We can give him a playbook, have him study it, but you can't have meetings. You have all this stuff going on, so at the very least you've got to be able to give him [a playbook]."
The league points out that players are not permitted to receive playbooks or meet with coaches until March 15 under the current agreement. The problem with that is that with the lockout approaching before then, the league is basically saying teams will have to wait until the lockout is over to begin preparations for next season, potentially putting teams who are implementing new systems at a disadvantage. The Browns will be implementing a new system on each side of the football, and also have a new special teams coach.
Shurmur denied that he has had any specific "meetings" with players beyond individuals stopping in to greet the head coach and introduce themselves.
If the Browns had intended to provide McCoy a playbook, then I imagine they planned on having one prepared before the lockout. I'd hate to advocate going "against league rules," but isn't this a case where the Browns can give McCoy a playbook and tell him to keep quiet? Grossi relays that the original intention for the rule was actually intended to help players, because the players union did not want coaching staffs "forcing" playbooks upon the team before a certain date. Obviously that isn't the case in Cleveland. I'm not sure what the punishment would be if the team was caught not abiding by this rule again.
In another article by the Plain Dealer, wide receiver Joshua Cribbs, who was at an autograph session with Joe Haden and T.J. Ward prior to a Lake Erie Monsters game Saturday, told reporters he believes there will be a lockout (who doesn't?). Cribbs and Haden didn't seem to mind their being 18 games next season, as long as some other adjustments were made:
"I think it will be an 18-game season,'' Cribbs said. "We just ask that they bend a little bit for us. Keep us healthy. Limit the amount of training camp and things of that nature. If we meet somewhere in the middle, an agreement will be reached.''
Haden said: "Eighteen games, do 18 games. I'm not worried about it.''
Sort of relating to Grossi's story about the playbook, Cribbs acknowledged the disadvantage the Browns will have to work through by not having a playbook for the West Coast Offense on time:
"It's going to be hard with the lockout coming up to not have OTAs and to not be able to grasp the playbook,'' Cribbs said.
Cribbs also talked about his recent Twitter controversy, saying that he learned his lesson and that while he doesn't plan on leaving Cleveland, if he ever did, he'd have to think "twice, three times, and even four times" before trying to get out of Cleveland. Whether that is a sign of fan loyalty or fans being a nuisance in Cleveland, it is a unique stigma that the city seems to have over the years when it comes to fan favorites leaving for bigger markets.