By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Notes, quotes and observations on Browns training camp Day 4 …
* Now that’s more like it: Prior to the second practice in full pads, coach Mike Pettine challenged his defense to be more physical. “He said the pads weren’t loud enough, so we need to be more physical and start acting like a championship defense,” said linebacker Craig Robertson. “We want to set a standard and the first day was below standard,” said safety Donte Whitner. And so, the pops were louder – led off by a hit by rookie Chris Kirksey in the first inside run drill – the intensity picked up, the offense didn’t cower, resulting in three player skirmishes, one escalating to a battle royale involving about 20 players. Ultimately, the defense won the day again. Resoundingly. In 7 on 7 and team drills, it had four interceptions (Jordan Poyer, Justin Gilbert, Josh Aubrey and Tashaun Gipson) and when coach Mike Pettine set up a competition at the end of practice, the defense snuffed out the offense from making 20 yards in the best of five plays. The defense won three of the first four plays and celebrated on the field as Pettine called practice short of the scheduled 12:10 end time for the fourth day in a row.
* Orange jerseys are back: The defense earned the right to wear orange jerseys at the next practice on Thursday (following a mandatory off day). Don’t confuse the orange shirts with the new uniforms kept top secret until the ceremonial unveiling in April of 2015. The jerseys signify which unit captured the daily competition at the end of practice. The idea, brought by Pettine from his days under Rex Ryan with the Jets, is designed to hone the mentality of “finishing” a game. “That could’ve been a day where the offense dominated all day and the defense won at the end when it counted,” Pettine said. “We want to train our guys that it doesn’t matter what goes on over the course of a game, we’ve got to make sure we can finish. I think that’s important to realize, that it still comes down to playing at the end.” He doesn’t need to remind everyone, of course. The Browns blew second-half leads in six of their 11 losses last year.
* Fight for the right: Tempers first erupted during a 9 on 9 inside run drill when Ben Tate got frustrated with defenders poking and jostling for the ball well after the whistle. Tate tossed the ball at big Ahtyba Rubin and all heck broke loose. After that skirmish was snuffed out, a larger one ensued as a result of pushing and general orneriness. Ultimately about 20 players had to be unpiled. “It started a couple plays before when one of the other running backs (Dion Lewis) got thrown to the ground (by linebacker Eric Martin),” said Tate. “That’s unnecessary. Next play somebody did something else. Then when I got in, there were some guys beating their chests. I said, well, hold up. That’s not what’s going on. It’s good for us, too. We do have a good defense, but we can’t let anyone bully us.” Later, in a team drill, Lewis again got tossed to the ground and fisticuffs flew between defensive end Armonty Bryant and offensive tackle Martin Wallace. Pettine has preached against being “confrontational,” but he was not overly displeased with the events after all involved escaped without injury. He called it “the price of doing business” when you’re trying to encourage toughness and physical play. “You hate to see it,” he said. “But it’s also teammates defending teammates. I like the fact everybody jumped in, but that can’t be a habit on game day. We’re not going to be clearing benches.” The fact that Pettine is encouraging defensive players to keep prying at the ball as a means of developing a turnover mentality is going to assure more of these, I believe.
* Johnny Who?: It took only four days for Pettine to go through an entire daily briefing without a single question about Johnny Manziel. Nothing on Brian Hoyer, either.
* Taking a look: The Browns signed receiver Marlon Moore, Pettine said, because it needed another body in the rotation at this period of training camp. Josh Gordon will leave the team Friday to appeal a possible league suspension, and Pettine does not want to over-tax veterans who have had trouble in recent years staying on the practice field, such as Miles Austin (30), Nate Burleson (32) and Anthony Armstrong (31). Also, Pettine wants to keep Travis Benjamin and Charles Johnson, each recovering from ACL surgeries, on a pitch count and give them periodic days off. “He’s played some quality minutes in the NFL. We felt to bring him in and help with depth,” Pettine said. Moore, In four NFL seasons with the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers, Moore, 6-0 and 190 pounds, has 19 receptions for 306 yards and two touchdowns. The Browns brought in Moore knowing he will have to serve a one-game suspension to start the season – if he makes the team. A source said that Moore’s suspension was for a violation of the personal conduct policy.
Time out: Wednesday is a full off day for players – no practice, no meetings. In the new CBA agreed to in 2011, players receive an off day every fifth day of camp. There is no curfew on Tuesday night. Pettine said players must report back by 10:30 Wednesday night. Pettine previously said that he would have periods of live tackling at Thursday’s practice.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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