BEREA — Garrett Gilbert was participating in a walk-through practice with the Orlando Apollos in April when coach Steve Spurrier told his players the Alliance of American Football had ceased operations.
"Coach Spurrier just blew the whistle and called everyone up," Gilbert said Tuesday after the 11th practice of Browns training camp. "Pretty matter of fact, [Spurrier said], 'Well, it looks like the league’s folded, guys, so we’ll reconvene back at the hotel in an hour.' And that was sort of the end of it."
The Browns rescued Gilbert from the AAF's wreckage by signing him to be their No. 3 quarterback on April 5. Whether they'll keep a QB on the 53-man roster behind starter Baker Mayfield and backup Drew Stanton remains to be seen, though coach Freddie Kitchens is in favor of the idea.
"I was in Arizona when we carried two quarterbacks, and we lost one and then we lost one in the game — the most nightmarish situation that you can have," Kitchens said. "Two weeks in a row, we signed a quarterback on Wednesday or Tuesday and played with him on Sunday. I don't want to be in that situation."
Has Gilbert done enough to show the Browns he would be a worthy No. 3?
"I like Garrett on what he has done up to this point," Kitchens said. "We have not even started playing preseason yet. I don't know about the final [roster]. I don't want to crown him just yet."
In other words, Gilbert should expect plenty of audition time in Thursday night's preseason opener against Washington at FirstEnergy Stadium.
"Obviously, preseason football is very important for guys like me," he said.
Gilbert is no stranger to the NFL's exhibition games. He has appeared in 13 of them since the St. Louis Rams drafted him in the sixth round (No. 214 overall) in 2014. After playing at the University of Texas and Southern Methodist University, he had stints with the New England Patriots, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers. He appeared in the 2018 finale with the Panthers, his lone regular-season NFL game, and went 2-of-3 passing for 40 yards.
When the AAF shut down, Gilbert was its leader with 2,152 passing yards. He completed 157-of-205 attempts and threw for 13 touchdowns.
He said the Browns were part of a small group of NFL teams that pursued him in the spring, but he jumped at the chance to join them.
The presence of Mayfield influenced his decision. They both hail from Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas. Gilbert was a senior when Mayfield was in eighth grade. Gilbert's younger brother was in Mayfield's wedding last month. Gilbert was an usher.
"It’s great to have a familiar face in the [quarterback meeting] room," Gilbert said, "and being able to come back and be in the same room with [Mayfield] on a daily basis was certainly enticing.
"Even when he would come over to the house to hang out with my little brother, you could tell Baker was going to be a quarterback. He’d stick his nose in there with the big kids, and he was always a competitor. I certainly wouldn’t say I’m surprised [by his success]."
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read his Browns coverage at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByNateUlrich and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.