The Cleveland Browns returned to the practice field to begin game planning for their second straight game against an opponent from the AFC west, the San Diego Chargers on Wednesday. The Browns want to get rid of the bitter taste in their mouths left from the terrible performance against the Oakland Raiders last Sunday in front of the home fans.
Wednesday was also the first chance for coaches and players to respond to the report that came out on Tuesday on TMZ.com. The report said that three unnamed players talked to members of the website expressing disgust that Josh McCown was the starting quarterback in Sunday’s loss and for the time being and not Johnny Manziel. The Browns only win of the season came against the Tennessee Titans, the game Manziel started for McCown who was still in the NFL’s concussion protocol. It’s still unclear if the story is actually true or not.
“I don’t know. I am not worried. I don’t think it was anything that I need to waste my time on,” McCown said. “That stuff is outside of here. The guys in here, we know what we have going and the direction we are headed. We are all on the same page with that. I don’t really worry about stuff like that.”
“We talk to the team periodically just about media policy and if you want to go on record, put your name on something,” Pettine said. “As far as multiple players being off the record, like I said, we talk to them about it but that’s not something that I’m concerned with. I know it makes for good copy and clicks outside of here, but given the veterans that we have in the room and being on the inside and talking with the players constantly and getting feedback from whether it’s other coaches or other players and getting a sense for the pulse of the locker room, I’m confident that this is not an issue.”
There were players who expressed their disappointment during media availability after practice over the report. One of them was wide receiver Travis Benjamin who leads the team in total touchdowns with five. Benjamin has caught all of the touchdown passes thrown by Manziel in the loss at New York and the win over the Titans. Benjamin also caught one of McCown’s two touchdown passes in the second half of Sunday’s loss.
Members of the Browns began disputing the report not to long after it was first published on Tuesday including wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, left tackle Joe Thomas and right guard John Greco. It’s possible that somebody could be trying to divide the locker room, something that Pettine doesn’t feel will happen moving forward.
“No. No, and we’re confident that our players know that my door is open, that their position coach’s door is open, that the coordinator’s door is open. We have a leadership council where there’s a player in each room so there’s certainly resources available,” Pettine said. “Are we going to have 1,000 percent agreement on how we’re using players and how we’re doing that? No, but it falls into that coaches coach and the players go out, they have their jobs to do. Are they going to have opinions? Certainly. I’m confident that there’s no rift in the locker room. I think the way our players reacted signifies that. We always talk about controlling the controllables and ‘external debate,’ as you put it, is something that we don’t control. We’re confident in our plan and we’ll move ahead forward with it.”
The story doesn’t appear to me much of a concern for McCown either. He plans to just continue working on the plan for Sunday’s game in San Diego and not concern himself about outside distractions.
“No, I had to ask someone what TMZ was (laughter). I don’t follow that stuff very much. I have been doing this for a while. This really doesn’t matter. It has no bearing on how you go out and practice and prepare. I feel like the thing with it, if you let those things bother you, you generally don’t hang around very long. That has been my observations over the years. For me, that is stuff that is outside. That stuff doesn’t help you throw the ball better or make you throw the ball worse. It is just outside noise.”
McCown will start against the Chargers on Sunday, Manziel will be the backup. Manziel did not meet with the media after practice on Wednesday. TMZ.com sticks behind its story.