Browns' Weeden recovers from dismal debut
Brandon Weeden can be social again.
One week after a dismal NFL debut drove the Browns rookie quarterback underground, causing him to avoid all media and forcing him to stay up late studying game tape to see what he did wrong in his first game as a pro, Weeden can show his face in public without shame.
After throwing for 322 yards and two touchdowns in Cincinnati on Sunday, Weeden doesn't have to hide.
In fact, he's even back on Twitter, a place he didn't dare visit last week.
''There's been a lot of positive responses,'' he said, ''and I've responded back to some people.''
Weeden's confidence is high following his performance in Sunday's 34-27 loss, which eased some of the sting from his four-interception, 5.1-rating debacle in Week 1 against Philadelphia.
Weeden completed 26 of 37 passes (70 percent) and finished with a 114.9 rating against the Bengals while setting a Browns rookie record for most passing yards in a game.
According to STATS LLC, Weeden's improvement of 109.8 in passer rating over a two-game span is the sixth highest by any quarterback since 2000.
But beyond the huge jump in his numbers, Weeden showed he could take a punch and keep fighting. If there was any concern about his ability to bounce back, there isn't anymore.
''It just shows me that I can play at this level,'' he said Wednesday.
It's not that Weeden ever doubted his ability, but there were those outside the Browns (0-2) who began to wonder if the team made a mistake in selecting the 28-year-old former minor league pitcher in the first round of this year's draft. But those worries seemed valid after Weeden looked so unsure and almost frightened against the Eagles.
Weeden took it upon himself to make things better.
He stayed off social media sites, and avoided sports talk radio, TV and newspapers in the wake of his poor showing in the opener. Weeden joked that he ''didn't let the nation tell me how bad I played.'' He also spent last week watching game film, falling asleep one night at home while viewing some highlights on his iPad.
''My wife gives me a hard time because I can't stay awake in movies,'' Weeden cracked. ''I guess I can't stay awake watching film either.''
But the extra work paid off, and Weeden responded by lighting up the Bengals. This weekend, he'll try to do the same against the Bills (1-1).
His tight spirals impressed his teammates, so did his tenacity.
''It's cool just to see him have success because he's one of us,'' said wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, who had five catches for 90 yards at Cincinnati. ''You always wish success to one of your teammates and a guy like that. But just his mental toughness after he took so much flak from his first game. He didn't play as well as he wanted to, and he said he was going to come back and play a good game and he did.
''I think that's just a scratch of what he's going to do, and what he's capable of doing.''
Weeden's turnaround can also be attributed to his willingness to accept criticism. Maybe because Weeden is more mature than the average rookie, Browns coach Pat Shurmur said he's not afraid to point out mistakes to his QB.
If Weeden does something Shurmur finds unacceptable, he hears about it.
''Oh yeah, I'm tough on him,'' Shurmur said. ''I'm his coach. I admire what he is as a player, but I look at him like I would look at my son. I've got no problem saying the tough stuff to him, I really don't. The way this thing works is the head coach, the coordinator (Brad Childress) and the quarterback coach (Mark Whipple) are all on the same page with what we say to him.''
Shurmur said Weeden can take whatever criticism the coaches throw at him.
''You can present it to Brandon however you want,'' Shurmur said. ''You can whisper it to him or you can put a little oomph into it. He handles it both ways.''
Weeden appreciates the tough love from Shurmur, a former quarterbacks coach and coordinator. As long as the comments are constructive, Weeden has no problem getting an earful from his coach anytime.
''He's not chewing me out in front of everyone else,'' he said. ''He'll pull me aside and tell me exactly how he feels and I respond well to that. At least once a practice he'll come over and say, `look we need you to do this, this and this.' I respect him and I respect everything he has to say because he's been doing this a lot longer than I have.
''I don't want to be called out in front of the team every day, but if he can come over and tell me man to man like he does, it will work for a long time.''
Weeden got a big boost last week from Cleveland's running game. Rookie Trent Richardson gained 109 yards on 19 carries, scoring on a 32-yard run in the second quarter. In the third, Richardson turned a check-down pass from Weeden into a 23-yard TD in which he made four Bengals defenders miss on his way to the end zone.
Weeden initially looked down field before dumping the ball off to Richardson. A week earlier, Weeden might have forced a pass into traffic and gotten picked off. But he learned his lessons, and knows he can't get away with what he did in college.
''Through my thick skull and as stubborn as I am, I've gotta realize that sometimes those guys are gonna get caught in man-to-man,'' he said. ''They're not gonna win. So I've gotta find my backs. I'm still progressing. In college, I got greedy.
''I stuck balls in some tight windows `cause I knew I could and guys were a lot more open, but that's not the case here.''
NOTES: Incoming owner Jimmy Haslam III told Cleveland City Council members he would consider a dome for Cleveland Browns Stadium. Haslam, whose purchase of the Browns is expected to be approved by other owners next month, said he will bring in architects to make suggestions for stadium upgrades. ... Browns TE Alex Smith and DT Billy Winn sustained concussions. Smith was not at practice, but Winn participated. ... S Ray Ventrone also returned to practice after missing time with a broken hand.
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