CLEVELAND: Although Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden felt sick, he didn’t allow a hoarse voice to prevent him from delivering his message.
Not only did Weeden refrain from canceling his appearance Monday at the Cleveland Auto Show despite an illness, but he also reported to the I-X Center earlier than expected. Before signing footballs and trinkets for fans alongside former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar, Weeden faced the media and said he’s “absolutely” confident he’ll win the starting quarterback job, no matter who is acquired to compete with him this offseason.
“I completely expect to be the starter,” Weeden said during his first interview with local reporters since the hiring of Browns coach Rob Chudzinski. “That’s my mindset going in. I’m confident in my ability to be the guy, to lead this football team.”
During an interview Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine, Browns CEO Joe Banner said the organization wants to give Weeden the best chance to succeed, but he must prove himself worthy of retaining his role as the starter.
“We see potential that we’re going to try to work with it and see what it’s going to develop into,” Banner said. “Some of that is just going to come from how bad he wants it. So I think we’ll know a lot more than we know now shortly.”
Chudzinski believes he and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner can help Weeden improve as he learns their downfield, vertical passing attack. But Chudzinski said Friday it’s all going to come down to how much Weeden will “commit to it.”
Weeden, 29, defended his work ethic and said he doesn’t know why Banner or Chudzinski would question it.
“I don’t have any idea,” said Weeden, a former minor-league baseball player who went on to become a star quarterback at Oklahoma State University. “I worked tirelessly every single night [last season], late throughout the night, week in and week out, so I can’t really, I’m not sure really where they’re going. I don’t know the context of the question. If they said there was something there, but I worked my tail off last year. I busted my butt every single night and tried to get ready to play on Sundays.”
The Browns are exploring ways to bring in competition for Weeden whether it’s through a trade, free agency or the draft. Weeden said he welcomes it.
“That’s the way it should be,” said Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft. “I think that’s the way I’m going to approach it anyway. I’m going to challenge myself. I know what to expect. I’m not going to my first camp anymore. I kind of know how it all works as far as just the daily schedule, how everything works. So now it’s all ball.
“I can dial it in and really get focused on what we’re trying to do. I’m going to have to learn a whole new offense. There’s no time to sit back and relax. It’s full steam ahead once I get my hands on a playbook. I’m ready to get challenged. They’ve already said they’re going to challenge me, and as a player, that’s what I want.”
Weeden said he hasn’t obtained Chudzinski and Turner’s playbook and hasn’t had much contact with the new coaching staff because of league rules. He said he’ll be at the Browns’ headquarters April 1 for the start of the team’s offseason conditioning program.
In the meantime, Weeden said he has been working out and seeking advice from people who have played for Turner, including former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman and Kosar. Weeden is looking forward to taking many more shotgun snaps and throwing many more deep passes than he did last season in ex-Browns coach Pat Shurmur’s West Coast offense.
“[Chudzinski and Turner] do a lot of stuff to fit the skill sets of the guys they have around them, and I think my skill set is throwing the football down the field and giving our receivers a chance to make plays vertically,” Weeden said. “So I’m excited about that.”
Weeden started all 15 games in which he appeared last season and completed 297-of-517 passes (57.4 percent) for 3,385 yards and 14 touchdowns with 17 interceptions. His passer rating of 72.6 was fourth worst in the NFL. He completed 14-of-57 passes that traveled 20 yards or more in the air (four were dropped) and led the league with 21 passes batted down, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
Kosar, though, believes the new offense suits Weeden better than Shurmur’s system and thinks it’ll show.
“I’m not trying to [say] anything negative about the past or the system they used last year because that system has been phenomenal over the years,” Kosar said. “They’ve won a lot of games and had a lot of success. It’s just not what I could have been good at, and I don’t think it’s what Brandon is meant to do.
“His arm is something all us quarterbacks would love to have. It’s a powerful arm. Down-the-field throwing is something I obsessively believe in. I think the game is going back to that. It’s the best offense for him, and I think he knows that. It’s going to give him and the team the best chance to be successful.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.