The action heated up in Berea today, as the Cleveland Browns began hitting on day three of training camp.
The team’s owner, Jimmy Haslam, stole the headlines today, speaking to reporters before practice. Today marked the first practice open to the public, due to bad weather on Friday and Saturday.
Since Haslam spoke today, we’ll start off with him, move to head coach Hue Jackson, and then finish with thoughts from the players. Haslam’s transcript is here, Jackson’s presser is here, and the player transcripts can be found here.
Owner Jimmy Haslam
- No matter what owner Jimmy Haslam says, there’s no way around it: The Browns have stunk under his watch, and much of the problem stems from a lack of consistency. Haslam realizes his past errors, but seems to think the club is headed in the right direction.
“Dee (Haslam) and I are really excited about where we are as a franchise. I think we’ve been very open, and we actually told the players this on Thursday afternoon when we talked to the team for a little bit and I’ve said this all to you on numerous occasions. It’s just been a steep learning curve, and like any organization and yours I would suggest is no different, the key is getting the right people in the right place. I think we have done that. We feel really good about the personnel side [...] and feel really good about the coaching staff – obviously, it starts with Hue but also the staff he’s put together. I can tell you and I think you all sense that you’re at practice and around enough to see there is a noticeable difference in our building both in terms of energy level and equally as important in terms of collaboration and how well everyone is working together. We’re excited about it. At the same time, we’re realistic [...] This is a franchise that has not drafted well over the years, and that of course is how you build a good football team. We are cautiously optimistic about the draft we had last year. We have a lot of picks coming up next year and hope to position ourselves. We will have a lot of picks in ’18. The takeaway should be we’re very excited, we’re cautiously optimistic but the same time realistic about where we stand.”
My apologies for the long quote, but Haslam’s statement is important. As Haslam said, don’t expect the Browns to win a Super Bowl this year. This rebuilding project will take at least 3-5 years, which Haslam seems to understand. That’s a good thing.
- For whatever trouble Josh Gordon has caused, Haslam seems happy to have him back. His statements seem to confirm reports that Haslam, among others, pushed Roger Goodell to reinstate Gordon.
“We have a history with Josh. We haven’t seen him in a year and a half, almost two years. He hasn’t played in a long time. I know there was a lot of consternation over his leg injury. I personally think – this is me talking – it’s a blessing. I think Josh needs to come in here, get reoriented, learn his teammates, learn the new coaching staff, learn the plays and get his life settled. We certainly appreciate the NFL allowing him to be in the building during that time period, which I think is crucial. These players need structure, particularly ones that have struggled a little bit with life issues so I think having Josh in the building will be a really good thing for him. Everybody in the organization is going to do everything they can to help Josh be successful, but Josh at the same time ultimately has to make good decisions. If he does, then he’ll be with us a long time, and if he doesn’t, he understands the repercussions.”
- Following previous mishaps, the Haslams will be much more involved going forward. For better or worse, the Haslams will be around much more in Berea.
“Dee and I have now positioned our businesses in Tennessee where we are here a great deal more. The business side will report to the two of us. We’ve kind of divided things up. It’s been educational and good for us. We’ve needed to learn more about that side of the business and I think have. We have no plans to do anything different any time soon.”
- Measuring success during a rebuild is critical, and this regime change is no different. However, Haslam remained vague on the question of what will constitute a successful season.
“Listen, we could win four or five games and feel good about things or we could win eight – I’ve said that every year we’ll all know when we stand here on January 1 if we are improving as a football team. Like I said, we’re going to have a young team. You’ll see a lot of these young guys today. We’re going to have a young team next year because we’ve got another 11 or 12 picks.”
- In talking about Robert Griffin III, Haslam stressed patience. The owner also praised Jackson in the process.
“He’s obviously a tremendous athlete. He’s been a model person since he’s been here, worked hard and he’s early in his career and showed potential to be a big time quarterback. Somebody asked about Hue, there were a lot of reasons we hired Hue, but his expertise is on the offensive side of the football and specifically in developing quarterbacks. You all see where he is in practice most of the time. Where is he? Standing right behind the quarterback, heavily coaching them hands on. Hue can have a very positive impact. I think all of us need to be patient with Robert. He hasn’t played in two years and he’s still only 26-years old.”
HC Hue Jackson
- Following the first day of hitting, Jackson said he’s “very happy” with his football team. His opening statement echoed his positive sentiments from the two previous days.
“It was just another day, but we were able to finally kind of run into each other a little bit. That’s what is going to take us to where we need to be. We’ll be smart about it. We don’t want to lose anybody, but at the same time, I think we all recognize and understand the hazards of playing in the National Football League. We’ll be as smart as we can be, but we have to have some very spirited, physical practices as we move forward just to get our football team where I think we need to be and I thought the guys did a great job today.”
- The unique part about Jackson’s camp is the unscripted live periods indicated by a “siren” before the start of the hitting period. So far, so good, says Jackson.
“They’re unscripted. They don’t know when they’re coming. They just can show up at any time. That’s what the siren is for. I thought they responded well, and I thought they were excited about it. I think there was enthusiasm about it and I think they understand the purpose of it now.”
- At one point during practice, one player apparently made contact with the quarterback. Jackson made it very clear that hitting the quarterback will not be tolerated.
“Nobody touches a quarterback. It’s just that simple. We don’t touch our quarterback, ever. The guy apologized. We have to do a good job at quarterback of making sure we take care of ourselves, too, but I don’t want anybody around the quarterback that way.”
- For the third straight day, the Browns flirted with a position change, this time switching Alvin Bailey from left tackle to right tackle. From Jackson’s quote, Bailey might start over Shon Coleman and Austin Pasztor.
“He’s played left tackle and now we have him playing right tackle. He’s athletic. He’s physical. He likes to kind of grind, but again, he’ll be the first to tell you there are some areas he needs to continue to improve and get better. Eventually, when it’s all said and done, we’re going to put the best five guys out there for our football team to give us the best chance to win. He’s one of them right now, but we’ll continue to evaluate that group as we move forward.”
- Other interesting tidbits include: Jackson saying wideout Terrelle Pryor has done an “outstanding job,” defensive back Jamar Taylor is “very talented,” and fullback Malcolm Johnson will enter the concussion protocol after a big hit today. From highlights I saw, Pryor had a nice day of practice, making a few nice catches. Rookie Corey Coleman also hauled in a nice deep ball.
OL Alvin Bailey
- Coming from the Seahawks, Bailey will have some adjustments to make. But the fourth-year tackle is stoked to pave the way for a physical rushing attack.
“That’s the thing, [Jackson] has a plan and you stick to it. We have certain things from timing to routes and blocks and things like that and it’s all planned out. You just have to stick to the plan and stick to the scheme. The run game, we’re really excited about that. We’ve got some great runners and we’re excited up front to be physical and knock some holes in the line for them.”
DL Xavier Cooper
- Defensive line coach Robert Nunn has advised Cooper to avoid “shooting first and aiming second.” Instead, Cooper is working to take a smarter approach, while remaining aggressive off the ball.
“I’ve been known for my get off. Sometimes, I’m so quick to get off the ball and I’m just quick to throw anything. Right now, it’s just getting off the ball, slowing it down, and like I said, that comes with experience and reps. That’s why we’re out here doing right now. We have a short window of time before the season starts. I’m just trying to fine tune my technique and get better so when Sundays come, I’m trusted by the coaches to go out there and that they’re going to put me out there to do what I do.”
DL Carl Nassib
- Of the players who have spoken to the media, Nassib might be the most shy. Reporters asked the rookie 10 questions, and Nassib responded to eight of them with two-line answers. However, the lineman did provide a bit of insight into why the team is trying him at the interior defensive line.
“Versatility. The more versatile you are, the more value you bring to your team. I like the fact that I’m being used inside and outside.”
That’s it for today’s Clips and Quips. The Browns will be back in action tomorrow with practice starting at 3 p.m. in Berea, and we’ll have full coverage here on DBN.