Not much fazes NFL athletes. They deal with distractions, screaming fans and grueling schedules. Practices, especially in training camp, become routine. It’s an everyday grind.
Thursday in Berea was anything but redundant for the Cleveland Browns.
On a whim, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James strolled up the sidelines with his representatives and his kids.
“When you have one of the biggest athletes in the world at your practice, I think there has to be a lot of buzz,” said Whitner about his teammates delight in mingling with James. “A lot of guys have never met LeBron before. It’s exciting.”
Browns head coach Mike Pettine and James shared a conversation about training camp and the upcoming 2014 NFL season.
“You could tell he was into and loves football,” said Pettine. “He’s a big Browns fan. He says he’ll be at the games when it’s warm and when it’s cold, he’ll be watching in his basement.”
Whitner and James are on the same page. They know the national attention will be on their city, and they also know they must produce wins.
“All eyes should be on Cleveland this year,” said Whitner. “And we have to go out there and make people want to watch us. Cavs go out there and handle their business, we handle ours, make people understand that Cleveland is pretty much back.”
And count Pettine and left tackle
“It’s hard to explain when it happens but I think it kind of gets fed through the fans,” the coach said. “The teams – I don’t know how many of them are actually connecting with each other. But just when the city gets revved up, I think you can have momentum from season to season.”
"I think that atmosphere can definitely help when you play at home," said Thomas. "I think it can kind of spill over to everything you do with the franchise. You bring a little optimism in and I think that can make a little bit of a difference."
When practice did conclude, James went on the field to toss around the rock a bit. Of course it got reporters thinking: what would it be like if LeBron James suited up in the NFL.
“He’d be a heckuva target,” Pettine said with a smile. “Let’s just flex one out a bit and throw it up for him. That would be very enticing.”