The Cleveland Browns got their first look at the five players they added through the 2013 NFL Draft, and the 18 undrafted free agents they signed in the days that followed, as well as more than 20 athletes in town on a tryout basis during the first day of rookie minicamp Friday.
The team started the day with meetings and a walk-through in the morning, and following a break for lunch, the players were on the field for the first of three practices this weekend.
“It’s really nice to see them and get out with them for the first time, and actually see them on the field and see what they can do, and have our coaches around them, get to know them,” said Browns coach Rob Chudzinski. “We had basically a normal minicamp day, similar to the ones we had initially.
“We had a walk-through this morning, threw a lot at these guys, gave them a chance to learn it, go through it on the field walking, and then, go out and practicing this afternoon. We started on the field this afternoon and ended up inside. We had a little Lake Erie sprinkle hit us, but we got a lot done, and I’m really pleased with today.”
Chudzinski said the tempo and production during the first day of rookie minicamp “was just normal,” although he did recall a few plays that stood out.
“It’s always good to see some of the tryout guys that are coming in, that you don’t know anything about at all and really haven’t seen much of. Some of those guys flash, and it’s good to have them for a couple days because you get another two days, another two practices of evaluation. Usually, by the end of the weekend, you have a pretty good sense for what those guys are and what they can become potentially. If they can help us whether it’s now, down the road, on the practice squad, you’re hoping to find guys.”
After spending nearly 20 years in the coaching business, and gaining nearly a decade of experience in the NFL, Chudzinski has learned the importance of studying practice film in order to learn and get a full evaluation about each player on the field. Having worked with San Diego tight end Antonio Gates, who was an undrafted free agent after playing basketball at Kent State University, Chudzinski is well aware that players do not have to be first-round picks to be successful.
“I’ve been around where undrafted guys were big impact guys on our team,” Chudzinski said. “Back when I was in San Diego, you look at that team at that time, Antonio Gates was an undrafted guy. Some of those guys came this route, coming up as rookies who were undrafted.
“You look at these guys and you look at them seriously. You never know, a diamond in the rough. A couple years ago, Byron Bell played for us, an undrafted offensive lineman. He started as a rookie. You just never know who they are, where they come from and what they have inside. That’s really, ultimately, what helps them succeed.”
Two of the Browns’ newest players did not participate in the team’s practice due to injury.
“We’re looking at them,” Chudzinski said. “Slaughter, we’re expecting to be back, ready for training camp. Maybe he’d be ready sooner. I don’t know, but we’re planning on training camp for him. Faulk, we’re looking at the same thing. We’ll see and we’ll make that evaluation and determination after this is over.”
Although Faulk played in just one game during his junior year because of the knee injury, when healthy, he played at both left and right tackle over his 26-game career with LSU. When the Browns turned on the game film of Faulk, they liked what they saw from the 6-foot-6, 330-pound offensive lineman.
“He’s a big guy, and that’s the first thing that stands out to you, his size,” Chudzinski said. “Certainly, coming back from the injury, he’ll have a lot of work to do, but as a player that’s played at LSU, played and started games and competed in that conference, obviously, there’s something there, and we’ll see.
“It’s a long way between where guys are now and where they want to be. That’s one thing we started with, that I talked to them the first day about. It doesn’t really matter where you start, it’s where you finish. That’s the emphasis on this weekend.”