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CAMP SIGHTS: Browns' Quinn shows poise, maturity

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Alex Marvez

Alex Marvez is a Senior NFL Writer for FOXSports.com. He has covered the NFL for the past 18 seasons as a beat writer and is the former president of the Pro Football Writers of America. He also is a frequent host on Sirius XM NFL Radio.

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BEREA, Ohio

As Brady Quinn broke the practice huddle, Bruce Springsteen's Glory Days began blaring over the speaker system at Cleveland Browns training camp. He should hope it isn't an omen.
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The quarterback's most recent glory days came a few years ago at Notre Dame. Despite all the hoopla and commercial endorsements trumpeting his NFL arrival, Quinn hasn't fulfilled expectations as the No. 22 overall pick in the 2007 draft. Quinn isn't even assured of starting in 2009, having to battle Derek Anderson for the spot this preseason. But rather than let time slip away and leave him with nothing except youthful nostalgia like Springsteen sang about, Quinn is trying to recapture the magic that made him such a promising pro prospect. Quinn's offseason training focused on bettering his footwork, balance and quickness. He invited two of the team's young wide receivers (rookie Brian Robiskie and Lance Leggett) to work out with him in South Florida. Quinn also immersed himself in trying to learn the system being installed by new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Such assiduousness is exactly what first-year Browns coach Eric Mangini hoped would happen when declaring an open competition at quarterback rather than naming Quinn the de facto starter because of his lofty draft status. "He's been outstanding in terms of the attributes you look for in a quarterback," Mangini said from inside his office at Browns headquarters. "His work ethic, the way he tries to bring the team together ... You like all those things about him." The competition between Quinn and Anderson still seems neck-and-neck after a Sunday intrasquad scrimmage at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Quinn opened with a 51-yard touchdown pass and completed 11 of 19 throws for 121 yards with an interception. Anderson's numbers weren't as impressive (12-of-21 for 107 yards with an interception) but he did run for a score. The scrimmage was just one factor Mangini will weigh before naming a permanent starter. Mangini wants someone who commands the huddle, recognizes incoming blitzes and has the savvy to audible if needed after reading the defense. Through two weeks of camp, Mangini said the Quinn/Anderson competition was so close that frontrunner status will sometimes "fluctuate from period to period as to who's having the better day." Mangini said he's in no hurry to name a starter, but plans to stick with that quarterback indefinitely once the decision is made. "Somebody is going to pull ahead," Mangini said. "I'm looking for the player who can run the offense the best, not just athleticism." Quinn got his first Browns start midway through last season in place of Anderson, who was benched after failing to duplicate his same success from Cleveland's 10-6 campaign in 2007. Although the Browns lost a close game against Denver, Quinn was impressive in a 239-yard, two-touchdown debut. Quinn then led Cleveland (4-12) to its last victory of the season over Buffalo before fracturing his finger the following week against Houston and landing on injured reserve. The 2008 Browns were one of the NFL's worst offensive teams, not scoring a touchdown in the final six games that Quinn missed. It's fair to wonder how much better Cleveland will be this season without standout skill-position players besides wide receiver Braylon Edwards. Tight end Kellen Winslow was traded to Tampa Bay, Joe Jurevicius was released and fellow wideout Donte' Stallworth was indefinitely suspended following his guilty plea to DUI manslaughter. But Quinn should benefit from playing in a Charlie Weis-flavored offense with similarities to the one that helped him set 36 school records at Notre Dame. Quinn said he has become a more patient passer, allowing plays to develop rather than trying to force throws. There is personal maturity as well. A self-described "hermit at times," he is no longer constantly hanging out with teammates like in college and high school. Quinn now finds joy in solo late-night workouts and film study as well as spending downtime with his one-year-old boxer Boss. Quinn also has gotten involved in promoting pet adoption. "He's grown a whole lot from when he first got here," Browns running back Jamal Lewis said. "He's motivated. He's from Ohio. He wanted to play here. You just hope the best for him and that he can accomplish all he wants out of his career." Quinn is driven by the fact he's regarded as something of a hometown hero, having played high school football in the Columbus suburb of Dublin roughly two hours away. Quinn takes his community standing so seriously that he inks autographs for dozens of children every day after training camp practice even when he's not scheduled by team officials to sign. Watching him mingle with kids, it's hard to choose who gets more out of such sessions. The 24-year-old Quinn couldn't stop chuckling when leaving the field recently after one overly-excited youngster blurted, "I'm your favorite player!" rather than the other way around. "It's been tough not playing but it's been a blessing being here because there's so much support," Quinn said. "We've got the greatest fans and being able to have your family come up and see you every week is awesome." Quinn's approach toward football and life also gives "glory days" an entirely different meaning than Springsteen did. "I fall back on my faith at all times," said Quinn, a devout Catholic. "Through the adversity and ups and downs, I thank God for the position I'm in. I'm blessed to be here on this team." The only thing Quinn needs now is Mangini's blessing to start.
Tagged: Browns, Buccaneers, Jamal Lewis, Kellen Winslow, Braylon Edwards, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Brian Robiskie

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