BEREA, Ohio — There’s a lot of excitement in the city of Cleveland right now with what’s going on — especially with the Cavaliers — and the Browns hope they can get in on the action. The Browns have a new regime in place and drafted Johnny Manziel in May.
LeBron James returned to the Cavaliers in July and reports Thursday that a trade to bring All-Star Kevin Love to the Cavaliers was all but done.
James was in Berea taking in the Browns practice Thursday with his sons and the Browns players noticed James, as well. There was a buzz from the time James arrived on the field until he left after practice was over. Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas thinks the Cavaliers excitement might help the Browns.
"It’s been really exciting," Thomas said. "The Browns are making the right moves and bringing LeBron back takes the Cavs to the top of the NBA," Thomas said. "For Cleveland fans, I don’t think anything could have gone any better the last three months."
Donte Whitner spent time talking with James as he was getting a scheduled day of rest.
"It’s pretty cool," Whitner said. "All eyes should be on Cleveland this year. Now we have to go out there and make people want to watch us. The Cavs go out there and handle their business and we handle ours, make people understand Cleveland is pretty much back."
Mike Pettine was asked if he felt the synergy from one professional sports team in a city could carry over to another.
"I do. I do," Pettine said. "It’s hard to explain when it happens. It kind of gets fed through the fans when the city gets revved up, I think you can have momentum from season to season."
Thomas agreed with Pettine’s assessment.
"You have to have a good team first and foremost, so that’s going to be our main goal. " Thomas said. "If you get the fan base excited–Indians fans are the same fans that come to Browns games– the atmosphere and momentum can help when you play at home spill over and everything you want to do with the franchise you bring a little bit of optimism and that can make a little bit of a difference."
Whitner, who like James, also grew up in northeast Ohio and returned to Cleveland as an unrestricted free agent. He hopes the Browns can turn things around and compete for a championship, like the Cavs appear to be on their way to doing.
"Let’s hope so," Whitner said. "Hope so. But it’s a lot of hard work that comes with that. I believe we have all the pieces, like every other team in the National Football League believes they have the pieces. It’s about staying healthy, not making mental errors, not making mistakes, going out there and playing fundamental football, playing physical. Let the chips fall where they may. But if we do all those things, that’s what the good teams in the National Football League are doing."
Rough Day for Hoyer: QB Brian Hoyer had back-to-back interceptions in goal line drills. The first was by LB Zac Diles, followed by DB Joe Haden.
In 7-on-7, QB Johnny Manziel hit WR Josh Gordon for a score on a slant. Hoyer hit WR Miles Austin for a touchdown on a curl route and then made a nice throw to Gordon in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
Ruled Out: TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder) is the only player that has been ruled out of the first preseason game. Cameron was on the sidelines with trainers along with DL Billy Winn, WR Nate Burleson, CB Justin Gilbert, OL Alex Parsons and LB Darius Eubanks.
Pettine said that the trainers will evaluate Gilbert and the others and determine who will and who won’t play against the Lions.
"Gilbert’s a little bit nicked," he said. "Once we get the final evaluation from (trainer) Joe (Sheehan) we’ll see who can go and who can’t."
LeBron’s Impact: The media covering the Browns converged on LeBron James as he left the field with his sons but he didn’t want to overshadow the Browns.
"See you all tomorrow," James said referring to the ‘Welcome Home LeBron’ night at InfoCision Stadium taking place in Akron on Friday night.
"I think its awesome having him out here," Joe Thomas said. "Having him back in Cleveland is awesome to have the best player in our generation. I hope he comes out here a lot."
Pettine said that James had been planning on coming to training camp all along.
"It was something that he had reached out (to us)," Pettine said. "He had been out of town for awhile and when he got back in town he wanted to come out to practice. We’ve been looking forward to it."
Pettine was impressed with James’ football acumen.
"You could tell he’s into it," he said. "He loves football and is a big Browns fan. He says he’ll be at the games when it’s warm and when it’s cold he’ll be watching from his basement."
RB Terrance West was excited to see James.
"It got the players excited," West said. "Of course. He has a big impact on everybody, football players and basketball players and he has a big impact on Cleveland. A lot of people are excited."
DB Donte Whitner said James told him he could be a wide receiver in the NFL.
"I don’t think he could take a hit," Whitner said.
Whitner was asked if he thought James could help QB Johnny Manziel as he develops in handling with being in the spotlight.
"Most definitely," Whitner said. "LeBron has been dealing with it his entire life — high school ’til now. He’ll be a good mentor for Johnny and help him deal with some of the stuff off the field. I think it’s probably been going on already. Johnny these last couple days has been looking good in practice. You can really see that confidence, that Johnny Football confidence. He really knows where to go with the football. He’s taken command of the offense. Hats off to him."
Father of Year: Pettine said he made his daughter Megan’s day by getting her a picture taken with Lebron James.
"I do know that I’m going to be father of the year for getting a picture for my daughter with LeBron," Pettine said. "She could care less about a picture with me."
Pettine spent time with Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown on Wednesday and NBA star LeBron James on Thursday. He was asked if he dreamed that would occur when he was hired as Brown’s head coach.
"When I got hired somebody brought that up to me that opportunity could happen," he said. "Those are two things off the bucket list."
Pettine Talks Battles: Pettine said he’s looking forward to seeing the competition at the running back position between RB Ben Tate and rookie RB Terrance West. He also mentioned the right guard battle between OL John Greco and OL Garrett Gilkey. He said he was anxious to see left guard Joel Bitonio, as well and the wide receivers. Greco said he has lost about 25 pounds in his regimen to prepare for the zone read blocking scheme used by Kyle Shanahan.
Battle of the Orange Jersey: Pettine finished practice with a battle of extra points among the linemen with the offense winning the orange jerseys. DL Armonty Bryant was up first and he made his attempt, followed by OL Garrett Gilkey, who did so, as well. DL Desmond Bryant missed his high and to the left, while OL Joe Thomas put his through. DL Phil Taylor missed his attempt to give the offense the win.
"The linemen, they do a lot of the chirping over the orange shirts so we wanted them to find a way to settle it," Pettine said. "Des (Bryant) set a record for hang time on an extra point. Don’t think we’ll find a replacement in that group."
Pettine referred to the World Cup for the kickoff.
"They were to pick three guys and send them up World Cup style."
Iron Chef: Michael Symon, known as the ‘Iron Chef’ was at practice.
Next Up: The Browns will travel to Detroit to open the preseason against the Lions at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and will return to the practice field Monday at 9:30 a.m.-12:10 p.m.