BEREA, Ohio — In the early part of Saturday’s first practice, Barkevious Mingo went stride-for-stride with a receiver and went up high and intercepted the pass thrown by Connor Shaw in the end zone.
"I’ve been working on (catching passes) and am trying to get better at catching the ball," Mingo said after Saturday’s practice. "I know a lot of the guys would’ve got on me if I would’ve dropped it."
Mingo flashed his athleticism in his rookie season on occasions, but the coaches are hopeful the second-year linebacker is ready to take his game to the next level.
"I was very pleased how he came back," Mike Pettine said. "It was the heaviest he’s ever been. Still, he ran the conditioning tests very well. I think he would’ve passed the tests if he were running with the defensive backs.
"He’s a guy that you could tell, hopefully, the switch has been flipped and all signs are pointing that way and I’m very pleased," he said. "He got into the playbook and showed up ready to work."
Mingo had five sacks in his rookie season, but three came in each of the first three games. After that, his sack totals dropped off.
Mingo’s weight has long been a topic. He’s listed at 6-feet-4-inches tall, 240 pounds, but Pettine confirmed that he came in to camp heavier than he was last year. Pettine was asked what weight Mingo was.
Mingo said he was determined to come into camp in great shape.
"I wanted to come in physically stronger and physically more in shape," Mingo said. "I felt I’ve done that. Now, the thing is to get back in football shape and do it on the field mentally and physically. I want to be better every day and at the end of the day be better than I was when I came in the door."
Pettine likes Mingo’s attitude and his willingness to do what has been asked of him.
"His preparation, his willingness in talking to him about getting his weight up a little bit," he said. "It’s not an easy transition for him. He’s going from just two years ago where he was a defensive end who had his hand down all the time. His role was completely different for what we’re asking of him now. He’s out in space, much more involved in coverage and we’re going to take advantage of his pass coverage ability, but as far as true radical position change, its right up there for him as he’s been asked to do some different things."
Mingo said he feels much more comfortable in his second training camp and hope it translates onto the field.
"I feel great moving around running downfield," he said. "You never forgot the concepts and the speed of the game and that aspect of the game. Last year, I learned a lot of lessons — things you can’t draw on the board — and I feel like I’m using that this year to help me be a better player, in addition to the playbook."
Mingo was very enthusiastic as he spoke after the first practice of training camp.
"I’m just ready to play."
Hoyer Taking Charge: QB Brian Hoyer made it through his first full practice with no problems. He took most of the snaps with the first team and threw the ball well.
"It was good," he said. "It’s good to get back out there and for me, take some snaps under center and get the feel of that and be in the huddle with these guys like we talked yesterday.
"So it’s just good, it’s a good building block for our foundation and now you just have to go back, review the film and make corrections on mistakes and keep learning and move on."
Hoyer came into training camp as the third-string quarterback last season. This year, he feels this is his team.
"I think for me, I can kind of be myself a little bit more," he said. "When you’re not a guy who’s the starter or in the position to be the starter, you don’t want to step on too many toes and vocalize things and be a leader as much. I think now with the position I’m in, I’m not afraid to go up and tell guys, ‘Hey, on this route do this’, because last year’s situation I was really the third, second quarterback and you kind of leave that up to the starter, because you don’t want to throw someone off because you had a conversation with a receiver and the starter didn’t do it.
"Whereas now, I’m in the position to be the starting quarterback so I feel like I’m more freely going about talking to the receivers or talking to the tight ends and getting in there with the line and working on cadence and things like that," he said. "It’s the little things. When you are in there with that first group, you can kind of speak your mind a little more freely."
Hoyer said he doesn’t feel that he is going to put undue pressure on himself in the quarterback competition.
"Yeah, you just play within yourself and take what the defense gives you," he said. "Really, that should be your philosophy regardless if you’re in competition or not. I’m not out there trying to make spectacular plays, magical plays because that’s not what you do in a game. I try to treat every practice like it’s a game. Going against our defense, you never know what you’re going to get and you just try to read it out and take what they give you, because they do have a great scheme and they disguise a lot. So, it actually makes it easier for me not to try to press, because I just kind of go through my progressions and if something’s there I try to take it, if not, then you move on."
Benjamin, Johnson Back: WR Travis Benjamin and WR Charles Johnson both were on the field for the first time since having ACL surgery last season. Pettine had said one or both of them might start training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.
"It was good to get Charles Johnson and Travis Benjamin out there," Pettine said. "We’ll ease them back into it having not had them in the spring. We feel from top to bottom that’s a solid group. They’re smart and there’s not a huge difference from the top to the bottom."
Pettine was asked if he knows very much about Johnson.
"Not much," Pettine said. "I went on YouTube and watch some Grand Valley State highlights. They were impressive."
Pettine was asked if he looked as if he dominated at that level.
"He did," he said. "It’s worth taking a look at. He’s a guy with long arms and soft hands and he’s a guy that we hope will emerge."
Hoyer said he has been impressed with what he’s seen of Johnson.
"For me, getting to work with him in the offseason, obviously we were here rehabbing the whole time and then when he was cleared to go, we would throw together," Hoyer said. "He’s a hard worker, size, speed. For a big guy, I think he gets in and out of routes really well. I didn’t get a chance to go in there with him today, but the other day I ran a route with him where he had kind of a double move and for a big guy for him to get in and out of the break was impressive. I think for him, a lot of people were kind of waiting to see what he’s capable of because he was on the practice squad with a torn ACL, so I mean, who knows if he was healthy."
Austin Shines: WR Miles Austin practiced for the first time since joining the Browns. He was limited in the OTAs and minicamp, but made some nice catches.
"Miles is the one guy that especially jumped out today," Pettine said. "Thought he did a good job working himself into shape. He really showed up today and made some nice catches. He’s still on a pitch count, but I thought he was solid."
Active/non-football Injury: Listed on the active/non-football injury list were TE Gary Barnidge, LB Tank Carder, TE MarQueis Gray, OL John Greco, DL Phil Taylor and DL Billy Winn. Barnidge and Taylor didn’t finish their conditioning tests on Friday night.
Greco, Winn, Taylor and Gray were on the stationary bikes, along with K/P Jake Rogers.
Pettine offered no insight on injuries, but did confirm that Winn had a hamstring injury and Greco was also injured.
"He does have a hamstring injury."
Pettine was asked if he was concerned with the number of players who didn’t pass the conditioning tests.
"It’s an area of concern. We weren’t going to have a really easy conditioning test," Pettine said. "We wanted to make sure our guys were ready to go. Some guys were coming back from minor injuries and it might take a week or two to get everybody back to full. I believe in a tough conditioning test."
Pettine said the conditioning tests are made up of 20 sprints with different yardages for positions from 40, 50 and 60 yards with a three-minute rest between.
Pettine said if a player is coming off injury, there might be different circumstances.
"It’s not an absolute," he said. "There might be some factors we take into consideration."
First Day: Pettine was conducting his first NFL practice as a head coach and he felt it went well.
"It was a solid first day, told the guys I liked the energy," Pettine said. "Tempo was good and it trimmed some of the time off the practice time."
The Browns gave out 4,500 tickets for Saturday’s practice and fans piled in when the gates opened at 8:30 a.m., an hour before practice began. The Browns announced earlier that the ticket allotment for Sunday and Monday’s practices have also been given out.
Fans from ten different states came to Saturday’s practice for a grand total of 3,702 in attendance. Surpassing 2010’s 3,673 total as the highest first day attendance since at least 2005.
"It was just great to walk out the door and feel the energy," he said. "I’ve said it all along we have the best fans in the league. They are passionate and loyal and it was evident today."
Quick Hits: RB Terrance West made two very nice one-handed catches in one-on-one passing drills…DB Tashaun Gipson intercepted a pass from QB Brian Hoyer that was deflected by DB Buster Skrine…LB Barkevious Mingo intercepted a pass from QB Connor Shaw in the end zone…Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was in attendance at practice.