The goalposts came down after the conclusion of the Browns' final spring practice in FirstEnergy Stadium. (TheLandOnDemand)
Browns hit summer recess on a positive note after concluding offseason program
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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Takeaways from Browns practice and interviews …
When the Browns began their offseason program on April 19, snow squalls greeted the players as they arrived in Berea.
The program ended Thursday in FirstEnergy Stadium under training camp-like conditions – blistering sunshine, 88 degrees and stifling humidity.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say the team improved on pace with the weather.
Newcomers like Amari Cooper and Deshaun Watson and a new batch of rookies were blended in and bonded by purposeful team-building experiences in the Bahamas, South Beach, FL, a shootaround at the Cleveland Cavaliers practice facility, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
On the field, concerted effort was given to improving the passing game.
Asked if he could visualize how good the 2022 Browns could be, Cooper said, “Oh, of course. Listen, this team was good last year. One of the things that coaches emphasized was improving the passing game. This has been a passing camp. Coach emphasized that. I think we were pretty successful. Obviously, we have to iron out a few details and get better, but overall it was a pretty successful camp.”
You can judge the mindset of the Browns by the smile on the face of Jadeveon Clowney. A happy Clowney generally means the vibe on the team is good.
“I feel we get along well … good group, very young team – hell, I’m one of the oldest ones. It’s weird,” Clowney said. “We have a lot of fun together. That was one of my biggest things to come back, too – I had a lot of fun last year.”
After Clowney agreed to a one-year contract to return a second season, he texted linebacker Anthony Walker with two words: Super Bowl.
“I told him we were a couple pieces away last year, a couple plays away,” Clowney said. “If I come back, I’m chasing it. Same thing I told Myles [Garrett], ‘We’ve got to chase that Super Bowl.’ I didn’t come here just to win eight, nine games. I want to chase the Super Bowl.’ And I think we’ve got a shot. Put it together this year and see where it goes.”
The elephant in the room is the prospect of a league suspension for Watson, of course.
“It’s all right,” Clowney said. “We have a good defense. We can hold it together. We did good last year. We were banged up on offense all over the place. Defense played well. We got the same defense back with a couple additional pieces. We’ll be all right.”
Meet me in Cleveland
Clowney disclosed that the addition of Watson closed the deal on returning to the Browns. They were Houston Texans teammates in 2017-18.
“I talked to him a few times before he signed, after he signed,” Clowney said. “We stayed in touch through that whole thing about coming here. If he come, then I come. I told him if he goes, I’ll follow him up here. I’ll go back. That’s what it came down to.
“I was all about where my boy Deshaun was going,” Clowney added. “When I talked to [the Browns], I said, ‘I played with him, he kept us off the field a lot.’ I was like, ‘I know you’re going to keep us off the field, you put up a lot of points, put us in rushing situations instead of having to stop the run all the time.’ I just wanted to go play with him and see what I can do with him again.”
Clowney said if Watson would have signed with Atlanta or Carolina – two other finalists in pursuit of the quarterback – he “probably” would have followed him there.
“Who knows? But he ended up here. So we’re here now.”
Asked how much of an upgrade Watson is over Baker Mayfield, Clowney smiled and said, “I ain’t going to get into that because my boy Baker, that’s my guy. I like Baker, good person, great person. I’m just glad to be back here doing my thing.”
GM Andrew Berry announced seven new hires to his staff and a few promotions, some of which have been previously reported.
Among the notables:
Berry named Catherine (Cat) Raiche assistant GM and VP of football operations. Raiche previously was with the Philadelphia Eagles and is the highest-ranking female in football operations in the NFL. At the same time, Berry promoted Glen Cook to assistant GM and VP of player personnel.
So the top two football execs under Berry are both minorities and if they would ascend to a GM position with another team – as did Kwesi Adofo-Mensah a year ago – the Browns would be eligible for a compensatory draft pick after the third round.
Also, Berry promoted Bob Quinn to senior personnel/coaching executive. Quinn, formerly GM of the Detroit Lions, served as a consultant to Berry last year.
Further, Jimmy Raye, a long-time coach, scout and personnel executive, was added as senior executive advisor to Berry.
Camp schedule set
The Browns announced their training camp schedule, which calls for 11 practices open to fans. Players report to camp on July 27. First practice open to the public is July 30.
Fans will have to register for tickets to attend. Registration begins June 27 via the team’s mobile app.
The club is in the process of an ambitious expansion of their CrossCountry Mortgage Campus after the purchase and demolition of several houses bordering the facility.
A new training camp layout this year “enhances the team’s long-standing commitment to offering Browns season ticket members and fans an immersive, engaging experience at all open practices. In addition to increasing interactive activations onsite, the team now has the opportunity to create unique hospitality spaces – including viewing areas specifically dedicated to season ticket members.”
More details will be released prior to the start of training camp.
Coach Kevin Stefanski’s departing message to his players: “No. 1 is to be safe. As a coach, you hate when your team is traveling all into the globe and you want everybody to be safe – you want them to have fun … you want them to charge the battery but definitely be safe and make great decisions when they are away from here. Then they have to come back in the best shape of their lives. That is kind of what you have to do every time you are getting ready to start training camp.” …
Cornerback Denzel Ward walked off the final practice with a trainer after having his left lower leg examined, but Stefanski had no update after practice …
Fourteen Browns alums were on hand for the final practice and a post-practice barbecue. Among them were Dick Ambrose, Bob Golic, D’Qwell Jackson, Kevin Mack, Greg Pruitt, David Mays, Cleo Miller and Anthony Griggs.