Rookie Josh Gordon makes impact at Browns camp
Josh Gordon is making a quick impact with the Cleveland Browns.
One day after owner Randy Lerner surprisingly announced his negotiations to sell controlling interest in the team to truck-stop magnate Jimmy Haslam, the Browns opened practice to their fans Saturday. They waited in the rain before gates opened to watch heralded rookies Gordon, Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson work with and against veteran teammates.
Not everyone participated. Defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin ran sprints as teammates ran plays. Tight end Evan Moore wore a ball cap and watched those in helmets knock each other around.
''Rubin and Evan will be back quickly,'' coach Pat Shurmur said, adding little in-depth explanation. ''(Receiver) Carlton Mitchell was not out there. They are just leg things.''
Shurmur was delighted by an aggressive defense and encouraged at how Cleveland's prized rookies performed on offense.
''A pretty good practice,'' he said. ''They tend to get after it ... competed well. I'm seeing a huge difference from last year.''
Gordon drew attention from Shurmur and fans. Lerner and team president Mike Holmgren also watched intently from the sidelines.
''I saw Josh play a little faster,'' Shurmur said. ''I know he can catch the football and he can run when he gets going. He has great size. Joe Haden came back and said, `Wow, this is a big sucker.' ''
Haden got the best of the 6-3, 224-pound rookie a few times, too. The 5-foot-11 cornerback knocked him off stride in bump-and-run coverage despite giving away 35 pounds. Nevertheless, the hard-nosed Haden was impressed.
''He's big and he's strong,'' Haden said. ''Now it's about him learning to run all his routes the same and to come out of breaks strong.''
Gordon said it was no embarrassment to be schooled by Haden. His play a year ago was a key reason why the Browns finished second overall in pass defense, their best ranking since 1962.
''He's one of the best defensive backs in the league,'' the 21-year-old Gordon said. ''It's great to go against a player like that.''
Gordon was surprised to hear fans hooting and hollering after good plays during a practice where players didn't even wear full pads and basically were working on tempo.
''Welcome to Cleveland, Josh baby,'' a fan clad in his own personalized Browns jersey yelled out after Gordon gathered in a short pass from Weeden.
A few minutes later, Gordon got wide open and the strong-armed Weeden fired a pinpoint 40-yarder to him in the corner of the end zone. Gordon dropped it.
Shurmur says it's all part of the learning process for Gordon, a second-round pick in the supplemental draft. Gordon has more catching up to do than most rookies. He missed a lot of time in college due to failed drug tests at Baylor and Utah.
''We don't expect that to happen again,'' Shurmur said earlier in the week, when Gordon flatly stated that he was a changed man and felt indebted to the Browns for giving him a new start.
''Josh is a really fine learner, he picks this stuff up pretty well,'' Shurmur said Saturday, adding that when Gordon did play in college, he worked with a West Coast-style offense employed by the Browns.
Gordon wasn't cocky but cool when he agreed.
''I know the terminology. It's not too hard,'' he said.
NOTES: Shurmur is already rotating linebackers, preparing to fill the void when veteran Scott Fujita misses the first three games. That's Fujita's suspension for his part in ''Bounty Gate'' when he played for New Orleans two years ago ... DL Phil Taylor, out until mid-season with a torn biceps, Rubin and reserve FB Eddie Williams are on the active/physically unable to perform list and Moore on the active/non-football injury list. Shurmur would not confirm reports that Rubin had a slight pelvic tear surgically repaired in early June. Rubin's 83 tackles in 2011 were second among NFL linemen, three behind Jason Pierre-Paul of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. ... Richardson, picked No. 3 overall from Alabama, decisively found holes and followed blockers. ... Shurmur anticipates a healthy return by feisty DB T.J. Ward, who missed eight games with a sprained foot. ... Former NFL RB Stump Mitchell (Cardinals, 1981-89), the head coach at Southern University, and his staff were camp guests. ... The team announced 2,937 fans in attendance.