By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Notes, quotes and observations from Browns training camp Day 13 …
* Rex to the rescue?: Don’t dismiss the relevance of the signing of veteran quarterback Rex Grossman by the Browns. Soon to be 34 years old, Grossman’s shelf life as a regular NFL starting quarterback expired soon after his Super Bowl season with the Chicago Bears in 2006. For the past five years, Grossman has soaked up the Kyle Shanahan offensive system first in Houston and then in Washington. His addition – long anticipated but held up because of some infatuation with now-released Tyler Thigpen – is primarily to help Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel make bigger strides in grasping the ultra-complicated offense installed by Shanahan. Neither QB has been able to post a touchdown in the team scrimmage and first preseason game in Detroit, and the offense has regularly been pummeled on the practice field by the defense. So don’t think that Grossman will be exclusively Manziel’s personal tutor. “I don’t think so,” coach Mike Pettine said. “I think he’ll help the whole room, not just Johnny. This will be his sixth year. Just the stuff that he’s gone through, a lot of the plays, as well as he knows the system.” Grossman has appeared in only 18 games in five years with Shanahan’s teams, going 6-10 in 16 starts. So there are reasons beyond his playing that keeps Grossman close at hand by Shanahan. Some might leap to the conclusion that Grossman’s arrival may deem Hoyer expendable through trade (Houston?) if the coaches decide to give the starting job to Manziel. “Absolutely not,” Pettine said, firmly.
* More on Rex: Grossman said he agreed to terms with the Browns as he was working out for the Dolphins this week. (The Dolphins signed Brady Quinn instead.) He downplayed the prospect of helping Shanahan as a tutor to the QBs struggling to get the offense into the end zone. “I just want to help this team win, no matter if it’s going out there playing, or helping, or just being somebody they can rely on to go in and play,” he said. “I just want to contribute to the Browns winning games. I’m just going to go compete and see where I’m at. If anybody has any questions or I feel the need to help out, then I will. I haven’t shied from that in the past.” Coincidentally, Grossman arrives just prior to the Browns’ preseason visit to Washington on Monday night. He and Shanahan worked with the Redskins the previous four seasons. “I probably could (play),” Grossman said. “I would like to. I was with the Redskins four years. It would be fun to play in that game. But I’m not sure if I will, or not. We’ll see.”
* Pettine’s QB plans: Pettine would not name a starting quarterback for the Redskins’ game and indicated that Hoyer, in a bit of a surprise, would get the nod. “Johnny’s going to get reps with the ‘ones,’” Pettine said. “To me, the factor of starting a game is a little overblown because we’re going to try to balance the reps with the ones. Brian came in (to this practice week) ahead. And it’s a little overrated as to who trots out there first.” Pettine said he and his coaches would bat around how to divide reps on Thursday’s off day. “We’re all going to have an opinion. I don’t think it’s going be earth-shattering. The bottom line coming out of the game is that they both should get close to equal reps with the ones no matter who starts.”
* ‘Johnny Delivers’: That was the headline of the press release distributed by the league-owned NFL Network heralding the news that the Browns-Lions game on Saturday shattered the viewership record for any preseason game ever on the network. The game, promoted as Manziel’s NFL debut, drew 2.82 million viewers to NFL Network, besting the previous record of 2.07 million for a Steelers-Saints game in 2007. I asked Pettine if he thought it was his coaching debut or Manziel’s playing debut that drew the big numbers. “My first game,” he said. “No. It’s not a surprise to hear that. I think the phenomenon still surprises all of us. We want attention on this team because we’re a good football team and we’re winning games. It’s nice to have media attention here, but we want to get to the point where it’s for the right reasons.”
* A surviving dinosaur: The only change in Pettine’s second preseason depth chart, which was released on Tuesday, was that MarQueis Gray was switched from fullback to tight end. That left big Ray Agnew, a 5-10, 247-pound blocking bulldozer, as the team’s only listed fullback. Gray could continue to swing to both positions, but for now, the change represents a vote of confidence for Agnew, an undrafted rookie from Southern Illinois. “There’s a toughness element that he brings,” Pettine said. “He’s not afraid to stick his face in there against our guys on defense. And his ability to run the ball on short yardage, been solid out of the backfield catching the ball. It’s all going to come down to the roster decisions at the end.”
* Brownie bits: Cornerback Justin Gilbert (groin) was back in pads and should rejoin team drills on Wednesday. If all goes well, Gilbert will get his first preseason action against Washington … Receiver Nate Burleson (hamstring) is still not able to practice … Asked how the young receivers were doing, Pettine shouted out Taylor Gabriel, Willie Sneed and Charles Johnson. They’re hoping somebody emerges from that back end.
|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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