BEREA: Brian Hoyer is not only entrenched in a competition against rookie Johnny Manziel for the Browns’ starting quarterback job, but he’s also constantly battling the coaches and athletic trainers who want him to be cautious with his surgically repaired right knee.
Hoyer is confident about his recovery from the torn anterior cruciate ligament that prematurely ended his season last October, and he’s eager to fully participate in practice with Manziel on his heels. Despite his pleas, Hoyer has not been granted clearance for true 11-on-11 drills, only a dialed-down version in which he operates from the shotgun and defenders let up while pass rushing.
“You never want to see someone else doing your job,” Hoyer said Tuesday after the team’s eighth practice of organized team activities. “That’s the biggest thing for me. I feel I’m ready, and I know a lot of people who come back from this injury talk about the mental aspect. I think I’ve conquered that months ago. So I know [the coaches and medical staff] emphasized it’s the best thing in my interest and for the team, but as the competitor in me, I want to be out there with my guys, calling the plays and running them.
“My argument is OTAs, are they that important? For me, they are. This isn’t my third year in this offense. I’m trying to get out there and read plays that I haven’t ever run before. … I understand what’s at stake. I’m not stupid. I don’t want to get hurt here and not even be in training camp. I also know how much it means to be taking these reps right now.”
Hoyer has consistently practiced with the first-team offense throughout OTAs, although Manziel has toiled with the starters the last two weeks whenever Hoyer sits out 11-on-11 sessions.
Browns coach Mike Pettine said the coaching staff would meet with head athletic trainer Joe Sheehan on Friday or Monday to decide whether Hoyer will be fully cleared for 11-on-11 drills heading into the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp, which will run June 10-12. But the team will likely continue to be conservative and wait until training camp starts in late July to give Hoyer the green light.
“I would say if I had to make the decision today, I’d lean toward just keeping it the way we’ve been doing it and being in what we’ve called ‘Spartan mode,’ where the [defensive] line plays run, takes a couple steps and stops, just to kind of keep bodies from being around [Hoyer’s knee],” Pettine said. “I just think from a risk-reward standpoint, it just still doesn’t make a lot of sense to expose him at this point.”
Hoyer watched Manziel throw three interceptions Tuesday — defensive back Robert Nelson picked him off the rookie in passing drills, and safety Donte Whitner and cornerback Joe Haden did the same during 11-on-11 work. But Manziel also made the play of the day by rolling to his right on a bootleg and connecting with tight end Jordan Cameron for a gain of about 30 yards.
Hoyer wants everyone to know that, even with his knee brace, he can make those types of plays on the move.
“I ran a keeper out here today,” said Hoyer, who was intercepted by safety Jordan Poyer in a team drill. “I have no physical limitations in what I’m doing. I think [the coaches have] emphasized it — the main concern is someone rolling up onto my knee, which my argument to that is, ‘How much is that going to change in a month?’ I’ve always been in offenses that include boots and nakeds and things like that.”
Hoyer stressed it’ll be vital for him to engage in genuine 11-on-11 drills because he needs to master the new offense implemented by coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
“The NFL is a copycat league, so some of the plays I’m running with Kyle when I was in New England we stole from Kyle just to put in our offense,” said Hoyer, who served as the backup to Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady for three seasons. “So there’s a lot of things that have carryover, but there’s certain things Kyle runs that I’ve never run before. So I’ve been begging to get those reps because I want to make the mistakes in OTAs, not when it comes to training camp.”
A North Olmsted native who led the Browns to back-to-back wins last year before he was hurt, Hoyer is a perfectionist by nature. But that trait is amplified in a competition that he’s obsessed with winning.
“It’s always in the back of my mind, and that’s why I push myself as hard as I can to be as ready as I can,” Hoyer said. “I know what’s at stake, and I think [Manziel] does, too. I’ve always felt like this was my team when I took over last year, and I don’t feel any differently now. I push myself to the limit. I study as best as I can and I practice as hard as I can. That’s all I can control.”
Hoyer certainly can’t control the buzz created by Manziel, who generated headlines just for partying poolside in Las Vegas during Memorial Day weekend.
“I was at the pool two weekends ago [with my family], too,” Hoyer said. “So I don’t blame him for that. But I don’t think [the hype surrounding Manziel is] anything other than what we expected. I think everyone knew what we were getting into. It doesn’t affect me. What I can control is my preparation and my play, and that’s how I go about it on a daily basis. All the outside stuff you’ve just got to ignore because when it comes down to it, the best player’s going to play.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.