1) There’s nothing like the unbridled optimism of a Cleveland Browns offseason. Just like there’s nothing like a Browns minicamp to spike said optimism. In the world of a team that has won 22 games in five years, the offseason spike in interest pushes every envelope. Average players are targeted for stardom, retreads become Pro Bowlers and the team suddenly will win 22 games in one season alone. During the draft, somebody actually tweeted after the first round “who better to train Barkevious Mingo than Ray Horton?” Who indeed? This is the time of year the Browns always win. It’s quite a phenomenon.
2) Trent Richardson did not take part in some OTA activity due to a shin problem. Count me among those who say it’s not really an issue until training camp. Richardson played 15 games in 2012 and ran for 950 yards. He scored 11 touchdowns. He played with broken ribs (which might not have been the wisest decision). Clearly he’s willing to lay it on the line for the team when it matters. He missed minicamp. He missed some OTAs. Yawn.
3) Richardson does need to understand something Irving Fryar told me a long time ago in a different life. When Fryar played for the Dolphins, he said some of the best advice he received on playing NFL receiver came from Raymond Berry. It makes sense the advice was good; Berry was a Hall of Fame player for the Colts for years. Said Fryar: “Raymond told me, ‘Know when your journey is over.’” In other words, get the yards you can, but don’t be struggling for a half-yard when it’s evident it will at best a half-yard. Know when the journey is over, get to the ground and avoid unnecessary shots. NFL guys are simply too big and too fast to take extra hits. Richardson didn’t do that as a rookie. Often, he’d be in the grasp of someone and would try to fight for another half-yard with four guys bearing down on him. That’s how he broke his ribs — fighting for yards while being swarmed near the sidelines in Cincinnati. It’s to Richardson’s credit that he wants to get what he can. But he also has to know when the journey is over.
4) When they give offseason rankings for OTAs and minicamps, you’ve got to think the Browns have to be top three. Almost every year.
5) Norv Turner is an excellent coaching hire, and the Browns are to be commended because they hired him. The guy knows what he’s doing. But it’s really been interesting to hear him deified this offseason as if he’s capable of transforming the Browns merely by his presence. Norv Turner will make Brandon Weeden never throw an interception. Norv Turner will increase the rushing average over 7. Norv Turner will wash the uniforms, paint the halls and then have breakfast ready for the owner every day. At this point, I’d expect Turner to balance the federal budget by Tuesday. Had he been present, Helen Keller wouldn’t have needed Anne Sullivan. Turner is a good coach, and throwing down the field more is welcome. But let’s not forget that the Browns had former head coaches as coordinators last year too. Brad Childress took his team to the NFC Championship Game, and Dick Jauron is as respected a coach as there is in the league. Turner is a good hire; perhaps he’ll help. But his mere presence does not guarantee anything.
6) Three things the Browns do really well in minicamp that go unnoticed: Their coaches meander through the players as they stretch with a purpose unseen in other cities. Linemen look really good as they trot out of the huddle. Their mental reps are among the league’s best.
7) Brandon Weeden threw the ball well, and seems to be carrying himself as the starter, which is right and proper. The Jason Campbell signing was a good one because it upgraded the backup position. But the Browns want Weeden to start, and are planning for him to start. Campbell is there if Weeden, as they say in the vernacular, wets the bed. Weeden said he feels good about himself, knows he has to improve and plans to keep the starting job. All good. The former regime took Weeden a year ago with an eye on the meager group of quarterbacks in this year’s draft. The newest regime showed what they thought of this year’s quarterbacks in the draft by not taking one. At this point, Weeden remains on a one-year tryout to prove he should be the Browns quarterback for the next few years.
8) Change remains the constant in Berea. Change this, change that. The new regime swept out all the old and brought in the new to run football. With that change comes the requisite adjustment and growth on the field, and as the Browns have proved over the years, that adjustment and growth is not simple. Meanwhile, in the front office, the team is also making changes. The new front office is following the pattern of every other one in that it comes in by trying prove it is smarter than the people there before. The few folks left who were hired by Al Lerner are being ushered out. New hires are touting doing things the way they did it with their former teams. Which means upheaval in every facet, and which means starting over and yada yada yada, as Seinfeld might say. The same thing happened with John Collins, with Mike Holmgren, with YouNameIt taking over the team’s operations. An old phrase is never more applicable than it is in Berea: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
9) Maybe the Browns and Cavs should get together in the offseason and have a joint fan gala, a combined Draft Lottery Victory/Successful MiniCamp party.
10) Guys who were noticed on the field, in shorts, in the offseason: It is striking how big Josh Gordon is and how well he moves. If he can keep himself on the straight and narrow, he could wind up being a player. … Joe Haden continues to show that he has skills. If he concentrates on achieving first rather than accepting being a celebrity before achieving, he can be a solid NFL corner. … Johnson Bademosi is an interesting player. Smart, good size, Stanford guy. One of the league’s best special teams coaches told me years ago that any player who stands out on special teams should eventually be a very good regular-down player. Bademosi fits that profile, though having said that at this point it seems like Tashaun Gipson is targeted to start at safety. … In other areas of interest, Craig Robertson seems to be ahead at inside linebacker next to D’Qwell Jackson, and Buster Skrine has the edge at cornerback opposite Haden. Training camp starts July 26.