Browns coach Pat Shurmur met with reporters this morning after the team held a walk-through session. The team will practice at 1 p.m. today. Here are some of the highlights from Shurmur’s news conference:
Scott Fujita focused
Linebacker Scott Fujita has become enveloped by the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal this offseason, but Browns coach Pat Shurmur doesn’t believe Fujita is letting the distractions affect his work.
“My interaction with Scott has been good,” Shurmur said. “He’s about his business, and I don’t see that being a distraction. I think we as people, we all have things happening in the background to our jobs. So as professionals, we learn how to deal with that so that it doesn’t affect what we do.”
Fujita, who played for the Saints from 2006-09, has been suspended three games for his alleged role in the scandal, but he has repeatedly denied the NFL’s accusations that he contributed money to a pool that paid players for intentionally trying to injure opponents. Fujita has reserved the right to appeal his suspension pending the outcome of the NFL Players Association’s grievances against the league. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank rejected one of the union’s grievances on Monday, ruling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has the authority to discipline Fujita and others for the alleged conduct.
Shurmur explained why the Browns have supported Fujita throughout the scandal and why they consider Fujita an important part of the organization.
“Scott’s a veteran player on our team,” Shurmur said. “He’s an outstanding player in this league. He’s dealing with what he’s dealing with, and it’s a league issue. We support, of course, the league and what it does. And when Scott’s back [from his suspension], he’ll play.”
Phil Dawson surfaces
Shurmur said the entire team, including kicker Phil Dawson, is in attendance today for the start of the Browns’ mandatory minicamp. Dawson, who signed his tender as the Browns’ franchise player in March, has skipped recent organized team activities.
Shurmur said a couple of players won’t practice today because of injuries, though he wouldn’t name them.
Shurmur said there’s not much of a difference between OTAs and mandatory minicamp.
“To me, it’s just another day playing in the yard,” Shurmur said. “Minicamps, OTAs, the way you practice is the same. We’re wearing the same equipment. The only difference is we put a walk-through in before [practice].”
Counting on wide receivers
Shurmur believes the receiving corps will improve because he expects several young players to develop. Mohamed Massaquoi is one of them.
“I think he’s had a great offseason,” Shurmur said. I’m very pleased with where he is. I think he came in healthy this offseason, and he’s taking advantage of the reps he’s got, and he’s made plays out here. So I think that’s money in the bank for him as he gets ready for training camp and the season.”
Vision for running backs
Rookie Trent Richardson, Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson make for a crowded stable of running backs, but Shurmur said “they’ll all play” this season.
Shurmur said he’s encouraged by the way Hardesty and Jackson have performed in recent practices. Both players are coming off injuries.
“I think they’ve looked good,” Shurmur said. “Knock on wood right now, I think that group is healthy and they’re running around fast. You can see there’s some carryover in learning from the guys that were here a year ago, and Trent’s doing a good job of picking things up. So they’ve looked fast. They’re getting their reps and because the lines are a little bit longer, the reps they’re in there for they’ve looked crisp.”
Shurmur has high expectations for left guard Jason Pinkston has he enters his second NFL season.
“He’s very focused,” Shurmur said. “He’s very detailed about his preparation. He also prior to the offseason program phase of things did a nice job of getting himself in better shape than he was last year. I just see a guy that knows a little bit more about what he’s doing, and I think that’ll help him be better next fall.”
No surprises yet
Shurmur couldn’t pinpoint anything new he has learned about rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden.
“I think we’re seeing what we saw prior to drafting him,” Shurmur said. “He’s doing a good job of learning what we do and how we call plays, progressions and what we ask him to do. I think he’s done a good job.”
A new free safety?
Shurmur explained what the coaching staff likes about Eric Hagg, who has practiced as the first-team free safety throughout OTAs. Hagg came back from a knee injury last year and played strong safety as a rookie.
“We liked what we saw prior to him being injured in camp last year,” Shurmur said. “I think he’s got very good instincts. I think he can do all the things that we’re talking about in terms of covering, playing parts of the field and then, of course, tackling. So that’s why we think he’ll be a good player.”
On the comeback trail
Shurmur said strong safety T.J. Ward is poised to bounce back after a foot injury ended his 2011 season early.
“He’s looking good,” Shurmur said. “He’s running around and playing fast. He looks like he’s back healthy to where he was before his injury and so [the coaching staff will] just keep working on [helping] him getting better.”