BEREA: A year ago during training camp, Browns linebacker Craig Robertson had a pretty simple goal: “Make the team.”
Because of myriad injuries to the linebacking corps and Scott Fujita’s suspension, Robertson received more playing time than expected and did well with what opportunities he was afforded.
It didn’t take long for Robertson to move past just making the team. Following the Browns’ season-opening game against the Philadelphia Eagles, he wanted his goals out in front of him — and he wanted them raised.
“Once I figured out after the first game I can play in this league, I changed my goals and made bigger goals for myself,” Robertson said Friday after the second full-squad practice of training camp. “It was right after the first game. Immediately after.”
Robertson called his Cleveland-based agent, Vince Calo, and asked him to make a “goal board” that he put in front of his mirror so he’d see it every day. On it were eight goals, six based on effort and two on statistics, Robertson aimed to reach. He wouldn’t reveal exactly what those goals were, but he said he accomplished six of them.
New defensive coordinator Ray Horton recently praised Robertson and called him his “ace in the hole.” Robertson said he won’t let the comment change his mindset, but he is more confident than this time a year ago.
“Last year, I had a lot of butterflies,” he said. “The butterflies are gone.”
He surprised many last season by totaling 93 tackles and intercepting two passes despite concerns about his talent and size. Throughout spring practices and the early stages of training camp, he has lined up alongside D’Qwell Jackson at inside linebacker with the first-team defense.
Robertson said he weighs 234 pounds now, and he also mentioned that Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons is 235, so “weight is no issue.” But people still question his size.
“I just ask them if they’ve played football before, if they understand what the game of football is,” he said. “The game of football is not how much you weigh or how strong you are. Any way you can get to the ball and get the guy down, that’s football.”
He might brush off the criticism. But he’ll let it continue to fuel him as long as he’s playing football.
“I still keep my chip [on my shoulder],” he said. “You’ve got to have your chip. You can’t have your chip and just get rid of it. You can’t get comfortable.”
Weeden tuning out
Speaking of raising goals, quarterback Brandon Weeden said the team isn’t thinking about anything going on off the football field or with ownership.
“This team has so much steam going forward,” he said. “We’re worried about the next day. We’re not worried about what anybody else is saying about us. We’re worried about each day getting better. Try to keep the distractions to a minimum. Inside that locker room, those guys are dialed in to getting better as a team, getting better as a family.”
Ready for pads
Today’s practice will be the first time the Browns will be in full pads this year. Coach Rob Chudzinski says the team will hit, but the action will be limited.
“We’re going to hit,” Chudzinski said. “We won’t be tackling to the ground. That doesn’t mean that nobody will be on the ground, but we are not tackling to the ground. We’ll hit. We’ll block. We’ll thud up and wrap up. It’ll be good work for us.”
Chudzinski said he’s most anticipating the chance to see the offensive and defensive lines.
“They have been trying to block each other and trying to get off blocks,” he said. “We are being careful and we are working together to protect each other. That’s the key to what you want to do when you don’t have the pads on. … But you can cut it loose and you can see the physicality.”
Third-round rookie cornerback Leon McFadden ran with the second-team defense again, but he might have a chance to crack the starting lineup once Week 1 comes around. For now, Buster Skrine and Chris Owens are sharing time as the first-team cornerback opposite Joe Haden.
“It’s pressure, but it’s more-so motivation,” McFadden said. “Everybody’s out here competing for that spot, all the corners are. It’s a big competition. ... It’s a lot different from college training camp. Just getting adjusted is the main thing. And making a name for myself out here and going after it every play.”
Wide receiver David Nelson passed a physical Friday and returned to practice. It was his first practice since he tore an anterior cruciate ligament as a member of the Buffalo Bills in last year’s season opener and underwent a subsequent knee surgery.
Nelson participated in individual drills but not team sessions. He declined to speak to the media afterward.
“We’ll continue to evaluate him and hopefully upgrade him as we’re going,” Chudzinski said.
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin joined the world of Twitter on Friday with an initial tweet of “Hello Twitter. Expect no BS from me. Just straight fire!” Chudzinski won’t be following suit. “I’m not a real technology guy,” he said. “I wouldn’t even know how to get started on that. I have a hard enough time with my cellphone. I’ve got enough going on.” ... Rookie free safety Jamoris Slaughter ruptured his left Achilles’ tendon Sept. 15 while playing for Notre Dame, but he has fully participated in each of the first two full-squad practices of training camp. Slaughter, a sixth-round pick, has worked with the second-team defense.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.