A crowd of nearly three thousand fans packed into the Cleveland Browns training facility on Thursday morning to get their first look at the players battling for one of the 53 spots on the opening day roster as year two of camp Pettine is underway.
The fans and the media were surprised at the efforts of Terrelle Pryor as a wide receiver and witnessed why Johnny Manziel was listed as the second team quarterback behind Josh McCown when offseason workouts wrapped up in June.
Head coach Mike Pettine decided to wrap up day one of training camp a half an hour earlier than scheduled to avoid any possible first day injuries but was pleased with how things went.
“I saw a lot of good things out there – most importantly, the focus, the effort and the energy,” Pettine said. “This is a shock to the system. I told them that afterwards. Our recovery from here is very important and to take care of themselves these next couple hours. No matter how hard you train over the summer, there is no way to replicate this. I thought our guys handled it well. We threw a lot at them from a physical standpoint and from a mental standpoint. It was clear to see that our guys were in shape and they got in their books over the summer. I will reserve final judgment until I watch the film as always. My first impression was that it was a good start.”
Manziel had a very tough day one of his second training camp. On his first four snaps of practice, Manziel nearly threw an interception, was sacked twice and had a pass knocked down at the line of scrimmage. Manziel’s snaps were with the second team offense so that doesn’t bode well in his battle for the starting quarterback job against Josh McCown.
As for McCown’s day, the veteran was solid except for a fumbled exchange between him and running back Isaiah Crowell. McCown certainly has not done anything to lose the starting quarterback job after day one, but there is plenty of training camp remaining.
“I thought both those guys did some good things,” Pettine said. “What I liked about it, regardless after the ball was snapped, is the command in the huddle and the knowledge of the offense and to be able to take a play and if a guy was lined up wrong and move him and just the way the plays are being called and the cadence. Sometimes that takes some time. We’re further ahead this year than we were a year ago with that for all the quarterbacks.”
Pryor became the story of day one with the effort he showed as he continues to convert to a wide receiver from a quarterback. Pryor may have been going up against backup defenders but his route running and catching ability made heads turn from the veterans, the media, the fans and the coaching staff alike.
“Talking to some of the vets, they said they saw a lot of positives,” Pryor said. “Obviously, there are some things that I need to work on. I’m far off right now, but I’m learning from guys like Dwayne Bowe, guys like Brian Hartline and all of the receiving corps. Coach has been a big help, and the quarterbacks, as well. That’s all I can do is every single day plug away and get one percent better at this position and see where it goes.”
“I’ve never really seen anybody make that transformation in person,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “We ran the conditioning test yesterday, and this is the first time I got a chance to meet Pryor, and he’s huge. His stride length, he was running with the receivers and DBs and he killed the whole conditioning test. He can run, obviously, a big dude. Now, it’s just seeing what his hands look like and how he comes out of his routes. I didn’t go up against him today, but I can’t wait to look at him and see what he does because he looks the part, for sure.”
The Browns did not practice in pads on Thursday and won’t for day two on Friday. Practice begins at 9:30 a.m and runs until noon for each of the next three days before an off day on Monday. If you have tickets to attend practice on Saturday, that’s the first day the Browns will take the field in full pads and should be exciting to watch.