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Browns Training Camp Day 11: LeBron James' first appearance in NE Ohio since 'the Comeback' enlivens the day

Aug 07, 2014 -- 1:40pm

By Tony Grossi |


Notes, quotes and observations from Browns training camp Day 11 …

* King for a day: LeBron James made an otherwise mundane, end-of-dog days training camp practice one to remember. James made a secret visit to Browns camp as his first public appearance in Northeast Ohio since “the Comeback” to the Cavaliers. It was no coincidence that it came on a day that was pre-scheduled to be


closed to the general public and open only to media and corporate VIP guests. Shortly before 11 a.m., James strode on the field, noticeably thinner than his playing weight of 250 after a concerted nutrition change, along with sons Bryce and LeBron Jr., and a gaggle of friends and associates. At the first break between practice periods, coach Mike Pettine made a beeline to the sidelines to shake hands and chat with James. “He just asked how camp was going,” Pettine said. “You can tell he’s into it, loves football … big Browns fan. He said he’ll be at the games when it’s warm and when it’s cold he’ll be watching in his basement.” Several players exchanged greetings with James, including safety Donte Whitner, quarterback Brian Hoyer and receiver Miles Austin, who formerly played with the Cowboys, James’ childhood favorite NFL team. After practice more players took photos with James, including Joe Haden. Rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert went to the locker room to get a photo with his own cellphone. James shared some words off the field with friend and budding business associate Johnny Manziel. Through a Browns spokesman, James declined to stop and chat with media. Walking off, he said, “See you tomorrow.” That was a reference to a “Welcome home, LeBron” event in Akron’s InfoCision Stadium on Friday.

* Who knew?: So, on consecutive days, Pettine had first-time meetings with Browns all-timer Jim Brown and LeBron James. He didn’t realize the perks that came with being coach of the Browns. “That’s two things off the bucket list,” Pettine said. There was also this observation about James: “He’s taller in person.”

* GLC tidbits: Neither the Browns nor the Lions refer to their ongoing exhibition series anymore as the Great Lakes Classic. Each team does have possession of the trophy (a.k.a., the Barge) originally commissioned by former Browns President Carmen Policy as a prize to the annual winner … Pettine said that Manziel would not receive reps with the No. 1 unit in Detroit. “We’re going to let Brian go (with the first team),” he said. “For this game, we’ll stick to the units that they practiced with.”… Pettine declined to say exactly how long his starters will play. He previously indicated the first and second units would play longer than teams traditionally play them in the first preseason game. “We’ve kept it pretty vague with them. I didn’t want to give them exact counts. I’d rather them be prepared to play more than they think they’re going to play than give them a number and put them over it,” he said.

* What in the name of Lou Groza?: Pettine’s daily end-of-practice challenge competition involved extra point attempts from 20 yards by three members of the offensive and defensive lines. It produced some hysterical moments. Defensive end Armonty Bryant led off with a good kick. Guard Garrett Gilkey, who place-kicked in eighth grade football, followed with a slow-motion, straight-ahead bulls-eye. Defensive end Desmond Bryant then pulled his effort wide left, setting a record for hang time on a PAT. Offensive tackle Joe Thomas, who place-kicked and punted in high school, made good on his kick and celebrated wildly, wholly out of character. With the pressure on, defensive lineman Phil Taylor missed with a low line drive, sealing the offense’s victory. It was only the second time in six competitions the offense emerged victorious, the first coming when assistant coaches outlasted defensive counterparts in a punt-catching contest.

* Brownie bits: Justin Gilbert did not practice and probably will be held out of the Detroit game, Pettine said … Also out will be tight end Jordan Cameron and defensive lineman Billy Winn … Another VIP guest on Thursday was Iron Chef Michael Symon … Players are off on Friday and travel to Detroit.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




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