The Browns began their mandatory full-squad minicamp today. Here are some highlights from practice and subsequent interviews:
Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden said he’s way more comfortable now than he was when the team started practicing last month.
“I’m leap years farther along right now than I was obviously Day 1, Day 2,” Weeden said. “I think even through rookie minicamp, I think where I’m at right now I look like two totally two different quarterbacks. My footwork [is better]. You can tell I’m processing stuff a little bit faster. I’m not thinking quite as much. That’s the thing about this system, in particular playing quarterback, when you stop thinking so much, when you can just react and go through your reads – one, two, three, to your back – that’s when you start moving the ball down the field and start getting completions and first downs.”
Weeden took the first reps with the first-team offense this afternoon. He spent the majority of practice working with the first unit, though quarterback Colt McCoy took some first-team reps toward the end of practice.
Still, Weeden said he doesn’t feel like “the guy” quite yet.
“Not yet just because nothing’s formal,” Weeden said. “We’re still two months out till we play our first preseason game. No, not yet. I’m still working my tail off just to get better and keep learning. Yeah, I’m getting more comfortable with what we’re doing, but I still have a long ways to go.”
In a couple of sequences during an 11-on-11 drills, Weeden showed his ability to bounce back. A play after his short pass intended for Josh Cribbs was intercepted by free safety Eric Hagg, Weeden completed a deep pass to Mohamed Massaquoi on a deep crossing route.
Weeden later threw a pass that was almost intercepted by linebacker Craig Robertson, and he followed it with a completion of about 50 yards to rookie Travis Benjamin on a fade route. Benjamin beat rookie cornerback Trevin Wade in coverage during the play.
“They always say, ‘wash your hands and move on,’ and that’s kind of the approach I take,” Weeden said. “And that comes from baseball. Guys, I gave up a lot of home runs in baseball, and they’re very similar. You’ve gotta toe the rubber and you’ve gotta take a snap and move on and make the next play. You’re gonna make mistakes. I’m gonna make plenty of those mistakes throughout the year, but it’s how you bounce back the next series.”
Browns linebacker Scott Fujita confirmed he was in the New Orleans Saints’ locker room when former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams gave the infamous pregame speech in which he encouraged his players to target members of the San Francisco 49ers with the intent to injure them.
“I'm not proud of things that were said by Gregg Williams, and at the same time he's a man I respect and loved playing for,” said Fujita, a member of the NFL Players Association’s executive committee. “So there's definitely a conflict with all that, but again, it's about the culture change, and with my position with the union, I am certainly a part of that change.”
Fujita, though, would not get into specifics when asked about his role in the release of the audiotape. In a 10,000-plus word essay published last week on his website, filmmaker Sean Pamphilon stated that Fujita played a key role in releasing the recording. Pamphilon also wrote that Fujita said he planned to retire after last season.
“I'm here and I'm focused on the here and now and I'm playing this season,” Fujita said. “I'm actually in great shape, too, and I feel good about that.
“A lot of things are personal matters and I’m just going to leave it at that. Sean Pamphilon is a very good filmmaker who absolutely wants to affect positive change when it comes to health and safety in this game, and I absolutely respect that.”
The NFL suspended Fujita, who played for the Saints from 2006-09, for the first three games of the upcoming season for his alleged role in the bounty scandal. But Fujita has repeatedly denied the league’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.
“It’s certainly disappointing, but this is a part of the process,” Fujita said of Burbank’s ruling, which the union will appeal. “You’ve just got to be patient and respect that process and just keep hoping for a positive outcome.”
Fujita said he has no regrets about his past.
“I don’t have any regrets for anything I’ve ever done,” Fujita said. “You look back and you say things in meetings occasionally. Again, the pre-game hype speech and bravado, it’s all kind of funny the next day and you laugh about it. Again, I don’t regret anything. It’s a part of the growth as a man and a football player. Again, I’d like to keep this about football as much as possible and eliminate those distractions because if you let all that come in and take away from your focus, then you lose perspective. So, for me, it’s all about now, it’s about this moment and this season, and I’ve got to focus.”
Ready to rock and roll
Browns kicker Phil Dawson has skipped organized team activities this offseason, but he attended minicamp today.
Dawson, who signed his tender as the team’s franchise player in March, didn’t look rusty. His 70-yard field goal attempt fell about 2 yards short this afternoon toward the end of practice. He also made a 53-yard attempt.
“I forgot how much being away reenergizes me, so that when I come back it’s ready to rock and roll,” said Dawson, who has spent this offseason with his family in Austin, Texas. “So I’m truly excited to be here and it’s fun to get some live reps, see where I’m at and that kind of thing. Today was fun.”
The Browns have franchised Dawson in each of the last two years. He’s still hoping for a long-term deal.
“Obviously getting tagged two years in a row doesn’t happen all that often, so I didn’t really know what to think,” Dawson said. “But like I said as time has gone by and I’ve been away from everything, it’s been good.
“I’d like to [finish my career here]. I really would. I’m not thinking about my career being over at this point, but it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to go play somewhere else. We’ll see what happens. Like I’ve told you guys before, I’m not very good at predicting the future, but I’m just gonna go to work like I always do and hope that things get worked out.”
The following is the first-team offense the Browns used today: Weeden (quarterback); rookie Trent Richardson (running back); Owen Marecic (fullback); Greg Little and Massaquoi (wide receivers); Benjamin Watson (tight end); Joe Thomas (left tackle); Jason Pinkston (left guard); Alex Mack (center); Shawn Lauvao (right guard); and rookie Mitchell Schwartz (right tackle).
And here’s the first-team defense from today’s practice: Jabaal Sheard (left end); Ahtyba Rubin and Scott Paxson (tackles); Frostee Rucker (right end); Chris Gocong (weakside linebacker); D’Qwell Jackson (middle linebacker); Fujita (strongside linebacker); Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown (cornerbacks); T.J. Ward (strong safety); and Hagg (free safety).
Defensive lineman Brian Schaefering (recovering from hernia surgery), fullback Eddie Williams (back) and offensive lineman Stanley Daniels (undisclosed) did not practice. All three watched practice from the sidelines.
Of course, defensive tackle Phil Taylor was not at practice because he’s recovering from surgery he had last month to repair his torn left pectoral muscle.
Kicker Jeff Wolfert had an excused absence for personal reasons, a team spokesman said.
Undrafted rookies Jeff Shugarts, an offensive lineman from Ohio State, and Johnson Bademosi, a defensive back from Stanford, were not at practice because they’re still in school.
Former Browns offensive lineman Hank Fraley watched practice. … Benjamin had at least two dropped passes. … Cornerback Dimitri Patterson picked off McCoy in a drill pitting three defensive backs and two receivers against each other. … Cornerback Buster Skrine broke up a deep pass from Weeden to Benjamin.