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Browns rookie minicamp: news, notes and observations from morning practice

By Nate Ulrich Published: May 11, 2012

The Browns held their first practice of rookie minicamp this morning. They will practice again beginning at 3 p.m. today. Here are some highlights from the first session:

Big blow to defense

At the beginning of practice, Browns coach Pat Shurmur told reporters starting defensive tackle Phil Taylor tore his left pectoral muscle while bench pressing Thursday. He’ll have surgery in the middle of next week, Shurmur said

Shurmur acknowledged Taylor could miss the entire 2012 season, but he said it’s too early to know for sure.

“[Taylor] could be [sidelined for the season], but I don’t know that,” Shurmur said. “It’s too early to say right now in terms of the recovery. Everyone recovers at a different rate. Our guess is that he will be a fast healer, but he will require surgery.”

Taylor tweeted the following this afternoon: “Thanks for all the support. Just a bump in the road. Got [to] work hard and come back.”

With Taylor expected to miss significant time, rookie defensive tackles John Hughes, a third-round pick from Cincinnati, and Billy Winn, a sixth-round selection from Boise State, could receive opportunities to crack the starting lineup.

Hughes played one-technique (lined up between the center and guard) during the first practice. It’s the spot most often filled by starting tackle Ahtyba Rubin. Hughes said he’s comfortable playing one-technique or three-technique (lined up between the guard and tackle), the position most often filled by Taylor.

“I don’t feel like it puts any pressure on me just because I’m my own player,” Hughes said. “I’m gonna come out here and play the best ball I can regardless of what happened. Phil Taylor’s a great player. I hope the best for him. I’m confident, but like I said, it’s coach’s decision. I’m here to play the best ball I can and let everything else sort itself out.”

Winn played mostly three-technique during the first practice. He said he would jump at an opportunity to start.

“I would do anything and everything that they needed me to,” Winn said.

The Browns and Winn have agreed to terms of a four-year contract, a league source told the Beacon Journal today. Hughes reached a deal with the team earlier this week.

Impressive debut

Quarterback Brandon Weeden had zip on his throws and made it look effortless. He threw only a couple of poor passes by my count.

After practice, Weeden said he met Seneca Wallace today, but he hasn’t talked to Colt McCoy. He also made it clear he’s on a mission to win the starting quarterback job.

“Obviously I hope I’m the guy,” said Weeden, a first-round pick from Oklahoma State. “I’m gonna do everything in my power to be that guy.”

Weeden was asked to deliver a message to Browns fans as he starts his tenure with running back Trent Richardson.

“We’re coming [here] with a goal to win games,” Weeden said. “Obviously our first goal is to get to the playoffs and go as far as we can and ultimately before it’s all said and done, win a Super Bowl. That’s my goal as a player. Before I’m done playing, I want to win a Super Bowl.”

Working out kinks

Richardson fumbled a couple of handoffs from Weeden early in the practice. He said he had to adjust to wearing a jersey with two numbers on it because the numbers create a slippery surface. He wore No. 3 in college. Now he’s wearing No. 33.

“It know it was a rough start,” said Richardson, the third overall pick from Alabama. “But as it went on, everything smoothed on out.”

Richardson had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee for a meniscus tear Feb. 3, but he said he felt fine in the first practice.

“I haven’t slowed down yet," he said. "People talk about that minor scope that I had on my knee, and I’ll be like, ‘What knee? What ya’ll talking about? I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ When it comes down to it, I’m ready to go.”

Richardson said he has mentally prepared himself for the expectations being placed upon him as the No. 3 pick.

“These expectations they’ve got for me now, I don’t think it’s high enough for me," he said. "I’m gonna go to the extreme because you never set your expectations at a limit. That’s just me being a man and me just being a competitor and an athlete. I think you should always have your expectations higher. Being the third pick in the first round, having all the success in Alabama, from this point on I’m not gonna speak much about what I did at Alabama ‘cause that’s over. I did that at Alabama, and that’s [my] college career. I’m trying to make a name for myself in the NFL now.”

Challenging adjustment

Wide receiver Travis Benjamin dropped a couple of passes from Weeden. Benjamin, a fourth-round pick from Miami, said he needs to get used to the velocity of Weeden’s passes.

“Working with a new quarterback, that was an adjustment, catching balls from Brandon Weeden,” Benjamin said. “Every quarterback’s got a different style of throwing. He’s got a touch on it and a zip that you’ve gotta brace yourself and get ready for the ball.”

Taking attendance

Thirty-six players participated in the minicamp, including all 11 members of this year’s draft class. Ohio State linebacker Andrew Sweat, who signed with the Browns as an undrafted rookie free agent, was the only player missing. Four players are at minicamp on a tryout basis: Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas, Toledo running back Adonis Thomas, Temple defensive lineman Morkeith Brown and Oregon State tight end Joseph Halahuni.

Fitting in

Fourth-round pick James-Michael Johnson played weakside linebacker, though he said he’s been told that he’ll line up in the middle during the afternoon practice. … Sixth-round pick Emmanuel Acho played middle linebacker. … Seventh-round pick Brad Smelley lined up at fullback the majority of the time, but he also was used at tight end.

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