BEREA: Evan Moore missed the first five full-squad practices of training camp before strapping on the pads Thursday morning. But he’s not worried about getting lost in the shuffle amid a crowded stable of tight ends.
Benjamin Watson is the undisputed starting tight end, coach Pat Shurmur said. Still, the competition at the position is alive and well because Moore and Jordan Cameron, who’s on the verge of entering his second NFL season, figure to compete for playing time.
Cameron received a significant amount of reps in Moore’s absence and took advantage by impressing the coaching staff. Alex Smith and Dan Gronkowski, meanwhile, are fighting to make the team.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Moore said. “It’s good to have multiple good players at one position. I think sometimes that can be blown into like, ‘Oh, well who’s going to play?’ Everyone’s going to contribute. It’s a good thing. Ben’s doing really well. Jordan’s been making some plays. Gronk’s making plays and Alex. And that’s a good thing. I’m looking forward to jumping in with them.”
Like Moore, starting defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin practiced for the first time since camp started. Both of them were limited and prohibited from working in team drills until they go through three practices, per league rules.
Moore declined to reveal the nature of his injury, though he indicated he suffered it in July while training.
“If we had to play tomorrow, I’d be fine,” Moore said. “This is the first week of training camp. I’m not minimizing what this means, but what we’re trying to do is get ready for our first game against the [Philadelphia] Eagles [on Sept. 9]. So hopefully I’ll be ready in three days, and you’ve got to hit the ground running and keep going.”
Rubin suffered a minor pelvic tear and had surgery to repair it, the Plain Dealer reported last week. With Phil Taylor, the Browns’ other starting defensive tackle sidelined at least until late October with a torn pectoral muscle, Shurmur said Rubin must continue to be a force.
“I think it’s very important for him to have another great year,” Shurmur said of Rubin, who ran sprints by himself during special-teams drills on Thursday. “I felt like he established himself as one of the guys we want around here for a long time. I don’t see any reason why he won’t, and we’re counting on that. That way, until Phil gets back, see what we have with other players. My guess is we’ll be pleasantly surprised [with] the guys that are going to play in there.”
Scott Paxson has been working in Taylor’s spot with the first-team defense since camp started. Brian Schaefering and rookies John Hughes and Billy Winn are also vying to fill in for Taylor, and a rotation could be used, Shurmur said.
Rookie running back Trent Richardson participated in 11-on-11 drills early in practice, but then he left the action, stretched his legs and watched from the sidelines with a play sheet in hand.
Shurmur, though, said Richardson was just dealing with a headache.
“He had a headache today, so he was just dealing with that,” Shurmur said. “He was out here the whole time. He started out practice, competed through just about when we started team drills and then backed him off a little bit. He’s fine.”
Richardson, the third overall pick in this year’s draft, participated in the team’s afternoon walk-through session and appeared to be OK.
In his absence, backup running backs Brandon Jackson and Montario Hardesty each worked with the first-team offense. Both players have performed well in camp after dealing with injuries last year.
Jackson missed the entire season with torn ligaments in his big toe, and Hardesty did not play in six games as he dealt with a torn muscle in his right calf. Now they’re in a competition to become Richardson’s primary backup. Chris Ogbonnaya is also in the mix.
“I’ve never really had a competition like this before,” Jackson said. “You’ve got Trent Richardson No. 3 three [draft pick], me and Montario are both second-rounders, and then you’ve got Chris Ogbonnaya. He’s good too.
“We have all of us out here competing on a daily basis. So you can’t slack up, especially in the meeting room. We have fun and go over our plays. We do what we’re supposed to. But out here, we compete, we have fun, and it’s a great challenge.”
Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi said he has accepted the challenge issued by Browns President Mike Holmgren to have a breakout year. It’s still way too early to know whether Massaquoi will do it, but he has been solid through the first six full-squad practices of camp, a reason he believes the receiving corps will be better as a whole.
“First and foremost, for me, I just wanted to have a good year this year, which included taking care of my body, coming in healthy, being able to finish a whole camp so that I can just transition into the season,” Massaquoi said. … “We’re pushing each other. It’s a lot more competitive. Guys are working a lot harder. I think camp is probably as crisp as I’ve seen it since I’ve been here.”
The Browns said 2,091 fans attended practice Thursday. They’re averaging 2,869 fans per practice through the first five sessions that have been open to the public.
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 at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.