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Shurmur energized as minicamp concludes

Observations and other meanderings as the Browns wrap up three days of mini-camp

BEREA — Pat Shurmur’s demeanor never really allows him to have a skip in his step, but if anyone seems energized by this offseason of Cleveland Browns work, it’s the head coach.

It’s understandable.

A year ago, Shurmur was locked in his office (well, not literally locked) and prohibited from talking to players. The league had locked out the players, and Shurmur could do nothing to get his team ready.

His situation was no different from the other 31 NFL coaches, but it affected Shurmur more because it was his first year. Rather than teach what he wanted, he had to count on a bunch of guys getting together under the leadership of a second-year quarterback in Austin, Texas.

Now he’s able to teach his systems and work with players and actually … well … coach them.

“It’s very refreshing,” Shurmur said Thursday as minicamp wrapped up. “There’s a certain amount of work that we as coaches think we need to get done in the offseason to prepare for training camp and then the season. It was a little uneasy for all 32 of us last year when we weren’t able to go through the process that we were used to going through. I feel better about the direction now, because I can see guys getting work done in the offseason.”

Shurmur’s evaluation of his first minicamp?

“We’re making steady progress, which is what you need to do at this point of the year,” he said.

—After answering questions about the starting quarterback for two days and explaining that he would make a decision sooner rather than later, Shurmur was not thrilled to answer more questions about the position on Thursday.

“At this point, I got nothing really to add to (Wednesday),”  he said after pointing out everyone was getting the right amount of work.

Pressed on whether Weeden should be getting more reps to help his development, Shurmur pointed out that in June, everyone gets reps.

“When you get to the season and you’ve named somebody the starter, that’s when he gets most, if not all, the reps,” he said. “This time of year you’re working ones, twos and threes. In my opinion, there’s not really an issue there.”

It led to this exchange: 

Q: When developing a rookie, is there a cost in not giving him every snap you could?

Shurmur: Well we have young players in the secondary and they don’t get every single rep either.

Q: They’re not quarterbacks.

Shurmur: I know. Same thing with Trent Richardson. He physically couldn’t come out here and take 60 reps. So I think it’s the same with every position.

---The Browns are putting a lot of pressure and focus on Mohamed Massaquoi having a good season. Team president Mike Holmgren singled him out in several radio interviews, saying the team believes he is healthy and ready to make a significant contribution.

“Whenever a guy like that endorses you and says what he said, you have to step up to the plate and accept the challenge,” Massaquoi said.

Massaquoi was targeted, though, on one deep throw down the middle of the field. He could not catch up to the ball when he had to fight through the coverage of Dimitri Patterson.

After the play ended Massaquoi took to one knee, reached down and pretended to throw a flag, as if there were interference.

He may have been right, but it’s not the kind of thing that would go over well with veteran players in Baltimore or Pittsburgh. As a former head coach in the NFL once said, if a guy wants to go get the ball he doesn’t let himself be held. The corollary: And he sure doesn’t ask for the flag during an offseason minicamp.

—Shurmur said Colt McCoy has been fine and he’s competing, but McCoy seems to have suffered a loss in confidence. He has made some good throws, but at other times he’s made some poor ones. including one play when it was one receiver against one defensive back and he threw the ball right to Patterson. It happened again in another team drill when Ben Watson ran a four-yard out in the middle of the field, and McCoy threw the ball at his ankles.

—Much was made of Greg Little’s leaner physique, and rightfully so. But Little still needs to prove he can catch the ball consistently. He also drew the attention of the head coach when he flinched as Brandon Weeden called signals. Yes, it would have been a five-yard penalty.

—They weren’t all Little, but the dropped pass problem resurfaced Wednesday, when there were quite a few passes that wound up on the ground.

—Weeden’s former teammate Josh Cooper showed the same ability in minicamp he had in college. He catches just about everything thrown his way, and it’s obvious Weeden is very comfortable throwing to him.

—Shurmur has yet to name Weeden the starting quarterback, but he did say it’s fair to say Trent Richardson will be the starter at running back. Take that, Jim Brown.

—It seems evident that the Browns would like Richardson and Brandon Jackson to be the primary two backs. That might rule out Montario Hardesty, though he was a significant contributor on special teams at Tennessee.

—If the Browns wind up releasing McCoy, and if Hardesty for whatever reason does not stick, that would mean the team would be without their second- and third-round choices in the 2010 draft.

—Shurmur didn’t express any concern, but defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin looked heavier than he did a year ago. Rubin’s strength during a very good 2011 was he was not heavy, which allowed him to use his quickness. He was often taking a knee when he wasn’t in drills in minicamp.

—It’s hard to tell much about linemen at minicamps. LeCharles Bentley once was asked what a person could learn from watching a lineman work without pads, and he said, “nothing.” But rookie Mitchell Schwartz looks the part of a right tackle. He’s big and very strong, and seems — based on practices in shorts — a good fit at right tackle. With long hair and a unique beard, Schwartz also has that gnarly look you like from an offensive lineman.

—Shurmur structured the minicamp so that it would mirror a practice week during the season. The first day was like a Wednesday practice, the second day a Thursday workout and the third a Friday.

The times mirrored what will happen during the season, with meetings structured the same way.

It was an interesting way to do it given the restrictions in the new CBA.

The Browns have four more OTA practices next week, with Tuesday the last one open to the media before training camp.