BEREA: Call it a short audition for Vince Young, a former Heisman Trophy runner-up and first-round draft choice, and Tyler Thigpen, a seventh-round selection.
At least one of the two quarterbacks will likely be offered a contract coming out of this week’s voluntary veteran minicamp, Browns coach Mike Pettine said Tuesday afternoon after the team’s first practice.
“Vince is somebody that I’ve always had a lot of respect for, being on the other sideline at times, and when he walks in the building, he’s got a presence,” Pettine said. “You forget how tall he is and then he walks past you in the hallway.”
Pettine and Browns General Manager Ray Farmer both noted that Young, who led Texas to a BCS National Championship over USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl, showed that he could win games as a starter in the league, compiling a 31-19 record.
But he’s been out of the league since 2011, when he served as a backup for Michael Vick with the Philadelphia Eagles. That doesn’t matter to Young.
“The fire is lit always,” he said. “One thing a lot of people don’t know, I love this game so much.”
He’s not bashful when asked what he can still do in the league.
“A lot,” Young said before pointing out that he’s kept in shape, which he attributes to yoga and pilates. He’s also kept up with the NFL, including the growth of Browns receiver Josh Gordon, whose mother taught Young in elementary school.
“We looked up to him. He was one of the best guys out of the city in Houston,” Gordon said. ... “He’s still got it.”
With his play, Gordon earned Young’s respect.
“I had the opportunity to see him, in Houston, train when he was coming out in the draft. I just know what type of person he is and how humble and hungry he is,” Young said. “To see him get the opportunity to go to the Pro Bowl this year, that’s major.”
To get his second chance, Young will have to beat out Thigpen, who came to the Browns via his connection with Farmer when he worked for the Kansas City Chiefs. Thigpen was on the Chiefs’ roster from 2007-09.
“I didn’t come here just to be an arm,” Thigpen said. “I definitely came here to earn a job. At the end of the day, that’s what I’m out here to do is to earn a job and get out here and help these guys or push these guys or whatever it may be with my role on the team.”
A former rookie of the year, Young will get another opportunity to show what he still has despite past personal struggles.
“I don’t really want to talk about the past,” he said. “I’m just happy to have the opportunity playing for a historic team, a respectful team.”
Free-agent acquisition Paul McQuistan, who has played every position on the offensive line except center, worked out at left guard.
McQuistan won a Super Bowl ring with the Seattle Seahawks in February and his flexibility proved attractive to the Browns.
“The reason he’s here I think is his versatility,” Pettine said. “I think center is the only spot that he hasn’t played. But he’s an experienced NFL lineman that’s played both guard spots, both tackle spots. I think that’s his strength is his versatility.”
McQuistan just wants to play.
“I don’t think I put much weight on where I am lining up each week,” he said. “It’s just whatever they want and whatever they feel they need to do, just go out and do it to the best of my ability.”
Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said that McQuistan, who was with the Browns in 2010, brings other advantages.
“He’s going to be a huge benefit for us because he’s played in this system before, so bringing that experience to us is huge,” Thomas said. “Obviously when you’re coming off a Super Bowl championship like that he’s going to have a little wisdom as to how they did it in Seattle to take them to the top.”
Staying put for now
In late March at the NFL owners meetings, Pettine said right tackle Mitchell Schwartz could be asked to move to guard depending on the outcome of the draft, but he’s staying at tackle during this minicamp.
“I haven’t worked out at guard at all, and they haven’t mentioned it to me,” Schwartz said. ... “O-line coaches always preach best five on the field regardless of position, so if it needs to happen, of course, I would do it. But, obviously, I’m more comfortable at tackle.”
Pettine seems to think Schwartz can give the Browns what they need at right tackle.
“Mitchell’s a guy that we were happy with what he put on tape last year,” Pettine said. “We’ll potentially address it in the draft, but I don’t really see tackle right now as a position of need.”
Starting defensive end Desmond Bryant was the only player who wasn’t in the field house Tuesday during the 30 minutes of practice open to reporters. A team spokesman said Bryant, who had a cardiac ablation Dec. 6 at the Cleveland Clinic to fix an irregular heartbeat that ended his first season with the Browns after 12 games, has been participating in the offseason workout program.
Pettine said that Bryant was excused from practice for a personal reason that was not related to his health.
Wide receivers Travis Benjamin (torn anterior cruciate ligament last season) and Charles Johnson (torn ACL last season), inside linebackers Brandon Magee (torn pectoral muscle last season) and Tank Carder (unknown) and defensive back Brandon Hughes (unknown) worked out on the side with trainers but didn’t practice.
Pettine said Benjamin will be held out until training camp begins in late July.
“There’s a chance that he could be ready to go for that last camp [in June], but I think we’re going to err on the side of caution there and go ahead and give him the full summer to get back to full strength,” Pettine said.
The following players were injured last season but practiced: quarterback Brian Hoyer (torn ACL in knee last season), running back Dion Lewis (fractured leg), outside linebacker Quentin Groves (ankle), guard Chris Faulk (knee) and safety Josh Aubrey (ankle).
Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron declined to discuss his contract situation. The Browns have had two contract-extension offers rejected by Cameron, ESPNCleveland.com reported. “I’ll let business people handle that agent stuff,” said Cameron, whose contract is scheduled to expire next March. “I can’t talk about it. I really can’t say anything about it. I have to play hard and focus on this right now. … Gordon believes he can surpass the production he had last season as an All-Pro receiver. “I think you can always top it,” Gordon said. “There’s no peak to potential to what you’ve done before or what you can do.” … Linebacker Zac Diles joined quarterbacks Young and Thigpen as players participating in minicamp this week on a tryout basis. A veteran of seven NFL seasons, Diles spent the past two years with the Tennessee Titans. ... Running back Ben Tate is happy the Browns signed Chris Pressley, a traditional fullback, to block for him. “I feel a fullback is definitely needed,” Tate said. “People forget about how important a fullback is. I feel a good fullback is always important.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Browns beat writer Nate Ulrich contributed to this report.