The Browns opened training camp to the public today. Here are some highlights:
Browns owner Randy Lerner walked onto the practice field this morning and watched the first session of training camp open to the public as he chatted with President Mike Holmgren, General Manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur.
Lerner is in the process of selling the Browns to Jimmy Haslam for $920 million, Forbes reported, citing a source. Lerner’s father, Al, who died in 2002, purchased the team in 1998 for $530 million. Lerner had been looking to sell the team for between $1 billion and $1.1 billion, according to the report.
Haslam is a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and president and CEO of truck-stop chain Pilot Flying J.
The paperwork for the sale has not been delivered to the NFL offices yet, but Haslam is by far the furthest along in the process of any prospective buyers, according to the report.
Lerner said hello to a few reporters this morning, but he did not stop to discuss the pending sale. Lerner released a statement Friday explaining he’s in negotiations with Haslam and “both sides have agreed to keep that dialogue and its details private.”
Pro Football Talk, citing a source, reported today that the sale is on the “fast track” and that the deal could be approved in August.
Browns President Mike Holmgren spoke to reporters Friday and said Lerner is selling controlling interest in the team with the stipulation the franchise will remain in Cleveland. Holmgren is scheduled to speak to media again this afternoon.
Shurmur was asked whether Lerner has assured him since news broke about the sale of the team.
“No, I think he was out here watching practice," Shurmur said. "We haven’t talked about really anything beyond being informed of what’s gonna happen. So now it’s a process. So he was out here watching practice, and there was really nothing more to it than that.”
The Browns placed defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor and fullback Eddie Williams on the active/physically unable to perform list. They also placed tight end Evan Moore on the active/non-football injury list.
Taylor suffered a torn pectoral muscle in May. Shurmur declined to disclose the injuries of Rubin, Williams and Moore.
Rubin had surgery last month to repair a slight pelvic tear, the Plain Dealer reported. Shurmur declined to confirm the report, but he said Rubin “is gonna be back here real soon. It’ll be a couple days.”
Rubin looked good today while running sprints on the side of the practice field. With Rubin and Taylor out, Brian Schaefering and Scott Paxson filled their spots while working with the first-team defense.
Shurmur said Moore also should return soon.
“He’ll be back quickly,” Shurmur said. “It was just part of what he was doing training. It’s gonna take him a couple more days.”
Wide receiver Carlton Mitchell and rookie cornerback Trevin Wade sat out with leg injuries, Shurmur said.
Rookie Mitchell Schwartz practiced at right tackle with the first-team offense after veteran Oniel Cousins filled that role on Friday.
“He’s coming along well,” Shurmur said of Schwartz. “We anticipate and expect that he’s gonna be our starter there. He’s getting plenty of reps. I’ve kind of made an evaluation of him. He’s very smart. He knows what to do and now as we get into the grind of this thing and he puts the pads on, that’s the next kind of area where we’ll evaluate his progress. To this point, he hasn’t disappointed us.”
Linebacker Scott Fujita insists he’s still confident his three-game suspension stemming from the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal will be overturned. The NFL Players Association has sued the NFL on behalf of Fujita in an attempt force the league to rescind the suspension.
When asked if he feels like there’s a good chance he’ll be able to play in the first three games, Fujita said, “Yeah, I feel good.”
Shurmur has a much different view on Fujita’s suspension. Although Fujita has been practicing with the first-team defense, Shurmur said the Browns have already been working on their contingency plan.
“We know that’s gonna happen – we’re gonna lose Scott for the first three games,” Shurmur said. “We know that. So we’ve already decided on a plan, and although it may not be obvious, the way we’re rotating the linebackers in there, that’s getting done already.”
Josh Cribbs said his role is changing, and he wants to make the most of it in the final year of his contract.
“I’ve got to show up,” Cribbs said. “My role is changing. They want more production out of special teams, so I’ll give it to them. Less role in the offense maybe, but I’ve just gotta do my part on special teams and nobody will know the difference.
“I have no problem going to the Pro Bowl for covering kicks or punts or returning. I’ll still be effective when I get in the offense. I’ll still move the ball, but we need to create an impact on special teams. We didn’t really have that last year, and I’m gonna make sure that we get that back.”
Quarterback Brandon Weeden, who continued to take the snaps with the first-team offense, had a rough day. The defense dominated seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills throughout practice.
In 11-on-11, Weeden rolled to his left and attempted a deep pass to tight end Benjamin Watson, even though strong safety T.J. Ward had gained position. Ward could have intercepted the pass, but it went off his hands.
Second-year cornerback James Dockery was among the defenders who stood out. He broke up at least three passes.
Cornerback Joe Haden appeared to be bothered by a foot or ankle injury during practice, but he continued to work through it. He said he was the victim of friendly fire from wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi during a drill that pitted defensive backs against receivers.
“Mohamed stepped on my big toe,” Haden said with a laugh. “I’m gonna be cool though. Mohamed stepped on my toe during one-on-ones at the beginning. It was just bothering me a little bit, but it’s cool. It was just throbbing.”
Fans brave storms
The Browns delayed the opening of the gates to fans for about 45 minutes because of inclement weather, though the rain held off for the most part, and the entire practice was held outside. According to the Browns, 2,937 fans attended the first practice open to the public.
“I’ve always been impressed by our fans,” Shurmur said. “They braved the weather. We had to back off the opening of the gates – so hopefully nobody was fighting out there – because of the weather. I was out here early this morning and was concerned we’d have to go inside. I hate to go inside. I really do. The best place to practice was out here, and I knew this was one of those days that if we did go inside, it would have impacted a bunch of people trying to watch their team. I really appreciate the passion that this town has for our club. That’s why I’m feeling this thing that when we get it turned, it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”