BEREA: In an effort to evolve into a fearsome offensive weapon, Greg Little has cut back on cupcakes and, believe it or not, weight lifting.
Little has lost 11 pounds since his rookie season ended in January, and the Browns hope his transformation will lead to a breakout year. The Browns had one of the NFL’s worst offenses and least productive receiving corps last season, so they certainly could use significant improvement from Little, the second-round draft pick who led the team with 61 catches for 709 yards in 2011.
“When I had my exit interview with him in January, I basically told him that he needed to do everything he can in this offseason to make a huge jump for his second year,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Wednesday after his team wrapped up the first practice in its second set of organized team activities. “I think he’s got a good start on that.”
The change in Little’s physique has been obvious in recent practices. He was not out of shape last year by any means, but by modifying his nutrition and workout regimen, he has lost some bulk.
“I’ve seen him look a lot quicker, a lot more sudden, and I think to this point he has caught the ball at a much more consistent rate and he just looks like a different guy to me. ... To his credit, he has done a really nice job of getting his body into the right kind of shape he needs to be in to be a receiver in this league,” Shurmur said.
The 6-foot-2 Little said he spent two months this offseason training at Bommarito Performance Systems in South Florida. He also has resisted sweets, helping him trim down from about 230 pounds to 219.
“Every Thursday, [linebacker] Chris Gocong’s wife would make cupcakes, so I’d eat about seven to 10 and the guys would get on me about that,” Little said. “So that’s one of the things that I definitely cut out.”
After missing his senior season at the University of North Carolina because of an NCAA suspension, Little concedes he became almost too big for his position.
“I was just in the gym so much that I gained so much weight physically, just not from sitting around, but just always wanting to pump iron and not running as much and just gaining muscle weight,” Little said. “That was kind of the thing I went into the combine with, I was just so jacked they were like, ‘You’ve gotta get out of the weight room.’ So I mean that was kind of one of the things that I stepped back from this year and just did more on-the-field things.”
Still, Little realizes he also must improve from a mental standpoint. He tied for second in the league with 12 dropped passes last season, according to STATS LLC.
So even though he is leaner, defenses won’t consider him meaner unless he becomes more reliable, too.
Colt McCoy led the quarterback rotation last week when the Browns started their organized team activities (OTAs). However, rookie Brandon Weeden stepped in as the first-string quarterback Wednesday, taking the first snaps with the projected starters in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 sessions. The only exceptions were during two-minute drills, when McCoy went first, followed by Weeden and Seneca Wallace.
Although the Browns expect Weeden to win the starting job, they’re still not naming him their No. 1 quarterback yet.
“One thing I’d caution you against is looking out there and trying to decide who’s a starter and who’s a backup,” Shurmur said. “I think right now we’re just out there at most positions competing and trying to get better.
“I don’t think you can read into [Weeden taking the first-team reps]. I think last week Colt started all the team drills. This week — or at least today — and it’ll change throughout the week, we let Brandon start the drill. But they all got similar amount of reps with guys that are competing at the skill positions to be starters.”
Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft, echoed Shurmur’s comments.
“I don’t think it means anything,” Weeden said. “It’s a challenge for me to step up to the plate and execute and make plays. Anytime you go from the twos to the ones, you’re not only talking about receivers, you’re talking about offensive linemen, backs. It’s a totally different group of guys.”
Weeden continued to display his strong arm, but he made some poor decisions. In an 11-on-11 drill, Weeden rolled to his right and didn’t put enough zip on a short pass to wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. Free safety Eric Hagg, who continued to work with the first-team defense while Usama Young practiced with the second unit, converged and intercepted the pass. Later in a two-minute team drill, Weeden lobbed a deep pass intended for rookie wide receiver Travis Benjamin into double coverage, and rookie cornerback Trevin Wade picked it off.
McCoy did not have a great day, either. He missed receivers with a few wobbly passes and showed frustration afterward by pounding his fist against his leg and motioning to his teammates.
In four two-minute drills, none of the quarterbacks led the offense to a notable drive. Weeden had two attempts, and the second one ended with a missed 55-yard field goal.
Leroy Kelly Jr., the son of the hall of fame running back who became a star in Cleveland, will try out for the Browns on Monday, a league source confirmed. Kelly, 27, has experience as a safety, running back and returner. He spent three seasons in the Arena Football League and another in the German Football League.
Linebacker Scott Fujita missed practice because he attended a hearing for one of the NFL Players Association’s grievances against the league stemming from the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal, Shurmur said. A ruling could be made in about a week, the NFL Network reported. … Rookie running back Trent Richardson, the third overall pick, and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, the 37th overall selection, worked with the first-team offense. … Defensive lineman Brian Schaefering watched practice from the sidelines because he’s recovering from a surgery he had to repair a sports hernia, Shurmur said. … Fullback Eddie Williams sat out with a stiff back, Shurmur said. … Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson participated in team drills after sitting out last week with a stiff back. … The Browns waived defensive back Mike Allen, an undrafted rookie from James Madison University. … Wide receiver Josh Cribbs and cornerback Joe Haden attended the NBA Draft lottery Wednesday night in New York City with the Cavaliers’ contingent.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at https://ohio.com/browns.