BEREA: Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden is staying home much more this offseason and studying the new playbook with help from his wife, Melanie, as part of a quest to retain his starting job.
“No going out to eat,” Weeden said. “If we do, it’s Chipotle.”
And grabbing meals on the go isn’t the only way Weeden is saving more time for football.
“I haven’t played golf for so long,” he said.
Now Weeden, 29, is hoping the sacrifices pay off. As expected, he took the reps with the first-team offense this week during organized team activities.
But he isn’t taking anything for granted.
Not only did the Browns sign Jason Campbell, 31, in March to push Weeden, but they also added former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Brian Hoyer to the mix Thursday, agreeing to a two-year contract with the North Olmsted native and graduate of St. Ignatius High School, a league source confirmed for the Beacon Journal, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team has yet to announce the deal.
Hoyer, 27, is expected to compete for a backup role with his hometown team. His impending signing means third-string quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, 25, could be on his way out of Cleveland.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Hoyer has been in the NFL for four seasons but has just one career start on his resume. In his lone start, he completed 19-of-34 passes (55.9 percent) for 225 yards and one touchdown with an interception in the Cardinals’ 27-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 17 last season.
In 2009, Hoyer signed with the New England Patriots as an undrafted rookie from Michigan State and served as Tom Brady’s backup for three seasons. After the Patriots cut him last year, he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers and was eventually released Dec. 8. The Cardinals claimed Hoyer off waivers and signed him to a second-round tender as a restricted free agent in March before releasing him this week.
Since the end of last season, there has been rampant speculation about the Browns’ quarterback situation. They didn’t draft anybody to bolster the position despite rumblings about West Virginia’s Geno Smith and other quarterbacks being potential targets. Hoyer and Patriots backup Ryan Mallett have been linked to the Browns for months partly because new General Manager Mike Lombardi praised them in his former role as an analyst for NFL Network. Lombardi is also still close with Patriots coach Bill Belichick from their days together in Cleveland and considers his opinion of players invaluable.
Weeden, though, insists he hasn’t let any of the noise distract him.
“I don’t listen to it,” Weeden said. “No one has come up to me and said anything. I don’t listen to it, and it’s not really my concern. I’m here now and my concern now is going and watching the film today and getting better. If I worried about all that other stuff there is no way I could function.”
So Weeden has continued to plug away, and he wants new coach Rob Chudzinski and his staff to notice the commitment he has made this offseason.
“I hope they see not only what I’m doing out here, but the way I’m handling myself and working and spending time studying and doing all of those things,” said Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft. “This means a lot to me. This is my job. I take it seriously. I want to be the guy. I want to build off of last year. I think we’re going to be a better football team in a lot of ways, and I want to be a part of it and prove to them that I am that guy to make this team better.”
Weeden knows nothing is guaranteed, though he’s carrying himself as if he’ll be the starter.
“I’m approaching it that way,” he said. “I’m approaching it that I’m going to take the next step and be that guy. And if I were to do it any other way, I would be doing a disservice to myself and also this team.”
The 6-3, 220-pound Weeden experienced some highs and lows Thursday during a two-hour practice in shorts, jerseys and helmets, and he conceded he performed better the previous two days. It was the third OTA session this week but the first one open to the media.
Weeden threw an intermediate pass that wide receiver Josh Gordon batted with one hand before safety Eric Hagg intercepted it, a deep ball intended for receiver Travis Benjamin that safety Tashaun Gipson intercepted and several others that cornerback Joe Haden broke up. On the other hand, Weeden threw a deep touchdown pass between the coverage of safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Chris Owens and hit new wide receiver Davone Bess in stride, and he fired a sharp pass into the hands of tight end Jordan Cameron, who cut away from the sideline to beat the coverage of Gipson.
Campbell made some nice plays, too, and he did not throw an interception. Working with the second-team offense, he connected with wide receiver Josh Cooper for a long touchdown behind blown coverage and hit tight end Brad Smelley for a long gain on a wheel route.
“I just come out and compete every day,” Campbell said. “Honestly, I really haven’t got caught up into that [competition] because I feel like we all are trying to reach a common goal. That’s to win. And if you get caught up in that, then you can’t go out and focus and get better. Ultimately I do want to help as well as compete and give my best. I’m still at a point in my career where I still have a lot of things in me. So we’ll just see how it goes.”
Weeden said Campbell, 6-5 and 230 pounds, is bringing out the best in him.
“Absolutely, yeah, because he’s playing well and he’s doing a lot of good things,” Weeden said. “He’s been in this offense, so he kind of knows a little bit of the ins and outs, so I can kind of ask him questions and we can help each other. But he’s throwing the ball good and he’s pushing me and that’s the way it should be.”
Weeden is convinced he can make significant progress from last season, when he threw 14 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions and posted a passer rating of 72.6 as a rookie. He believes improvement from wide receivers Gordon and Greg Little along with the addition of slot receiver Bess will help him.
Weeden also thinks the downfield, vertical passing game installed by Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner fits him better than ex-Browns coach Pat Shurmur’s West Coast system. He said the new scheme reminds him of the one he thrived in at Oklahoma State because of its route combinations and frequent use of shotgun formations.
“As far as an offense, even though we’re in Day 3 now versus Day 3 last year, I’m way ahead of the curve — just because this offense kind of makes more sense to start with,” Weeden said. “There is a lot more up front as far as formations and stuff. But once you get it, you can hear a play and kind of piece it together by the verbiage.”
Now Weeden must do his part to capitalize, and he knows it. That’s why he’s cramming for the most important test of his career.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ. and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.