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Confessions of a Browns beat writer

By Nate Ulrich Published: July 15, 2011

Once in a while, I'll use this blog to get some things off my chest. This is my fourth confession:

  • Back to reality: This blog has been static for a while, so please allow me to explain. For the past two weeks, I've been on vacation for my wedding and a subsequent honeymoon in the Bahamas. I won't bore you with all the details the way my wife would want me to, but I will say the first couple weeks of July 2011 were unforgettable. Anyway, I'm officially back on the clock today, apparently just in time for what could be the final stages of labor negotiations between NFL owners and players. In other words, I'm relieved the lockout didn't end while I was on island adventures and feeding the sharks pictured to the right. (Many thanks to fellow Beacon Journal sports writers Jason Lloyd and Marla Ridenour for standing by in case a deal was struck and free agency started while I was gone.) That would have been a true born-to-lose scenario. You see, the wedding was originally set for Oct. 8, 2011. But after I was hired to cover the Browns in May of last year, my wife (then fiancee) and I moved the date up to July 2, 2011, so the wedding and honeymoon wouldn't conflict with football season. At the time of our decision, the move made perfect sense because early July is usually downtime for the Browns and the rest of the NFL. Of course, the labor dispute changed nearly everything during this wacky offseason, and I feared my altered wedding schedule would backfire as a result.

  • Workouts worthwhile?: Although the lockout didn't end during my hiatus, I did miss something. Earlier this week, several Browns players followed through with their plans to hold full-squad workouts in Austin, Texas. I plan to talk to McCoy about the most recent edition of "Camp Colt" on Saturday morning, when he hosts a youth football camp at Strongsville High School. McCoy promoted the upcoming youth camp Thursday during an interview on WKNR's (850-AM) "The Really Big Show." When McCoy was asked to identify his biggest concern about the upcoming season, he hesitated before eventually saying he's concerned about whether the Browns will have enough time with their coaches to properly install their new systems once the lockout ends. Later in the day, former Browns offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley, who hosts WKNR's "X's and O's with the Pros" with another former NFL player, Je'Rod Cherry, analyzed McCoy's answer. Bentley said he thought McCoy inadvertently admitted that "Camp Colt" has been a waste of time. There are at least two schools of thought on the players-only workouts held during the lockout. Some think they are useless and even dangerous because of injury risks. Others think they build camaraderie and are productive. Here's how I view it: There's obviously no way McCoy and Co. have mastered the West Coast offense during the lockout, but they should have at least succeeded in scratching its surface because ... 1. McCoy has coach Pat Shurmur's playbook; 2. Veteran quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, who's familiar with the West Coast offense and its terminology, have participated in some of the players-only workouts; 3. McCoy and the wide receivers have studied film of last season's St. Louis Rams, whose offense was controlled by Shurmur, and have tried to mimic their receivers' routes. On the other hand, the risk of injury is a concern -- as usual -- and football practices without pads are always far less effective, especially for linemen, than ones that feature live hitting. So, to summarize, I don't believe "Camp Colt" is going to magically help the Browns compensate for all the lost time with their coaches, but I don't think it's a total waste, either. I think it's somewhere in between. Tell me what you think of "Camp Colt."

  • Catching up: My cell phone, meaning my Internet access, Twitter, etc., didn't work in the Bahamas. I was lost without it. Nevertheless, here are some of the stories I've read to find out what I missed while I was away: About 30 players participated in the most recent installment of "Camp Colt." ... Browns running back Montario Hardesty says he'll be ready for training camp after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee during the 2010 preseason. ... Tight end Benjamin Watson discusses the challenges the Browns face because of the lockout. ... Bill Hampton Jr., a former vice president of operations for the Browns, died Wednesday. He was 51. ... The details of the upcoming motorcycle rally with Browns President Mike Holmgren have been released. ... An Ohio appeals court says the Browns can't stop Bentley's lawsuit over a staph infection.


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