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Ray Farmer’s competitive atmosphere coming to life

Posted Jul 27, 2014

General manager will have some tough choices come August.

In an 11-minute interview with media members on Sunday, Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer used some variation of the word “competitive” eight times.

With his careful construction of the roster, Farmer has created an admirable atmosphere for players to prove themselves. Think of it like a three-week-long horse race. Dozens of players on the Browns’ roster are constantly jockeying for position. Coach Mike Pettine said on Saturday that every single snap will be taken into account.

When asked if he would be shocked if Brian Hoyer lost the quarterback battle, Farmer responded with, “I don’t think I’d be surprised, shocked about anything.”

How many positions are completely solved at the moment? Tight end, left tackle, center, right tackle, one middle linebacker, one cornerback and two safeties. That’s a testament to the newfound depth on this Browns team.

Farmer and Pettine, who meet routinely throughout the day, will have some excruciating choices to make when August winds down. And that’s exactly what they want.

The best players will play. It seems like a simple and obviously useful strategy to employ, but a portion of NFL teams don’t live by that rule. Contracts, reputations and jersey sales often dictate playing time. It will never be that way under Farmer and Pettine’s watch.

“My role here is to try to improve the talent on this football team,” Farmer said. “I think we did that; to what degree I’ll let you guys judge. I think I’m always looking to get better. The movie is never over. Every day we come out here, every day we sit in there with the scouts, we’re looking to improve our roster.”

The wide receiver position has been a heavily debated topic for Farmer and his Browns this offseason. Instead of using draft picks to improve the group, Cleveland signed free agents Nate Burleson, Anthony Armstrong and Miles Austin. Although all three clearly still have talent left in the tank, they weren’t exactly hot commodities on the market. The team also plucked a handful of undrafted free agents.

“I like our receiving corps,” Farmer told reporters. “At the end of the day, there are some names that everybody here recognizes, whether it’s Miles Austin, whether it’s Nate Burleson. There are names that you’ll recognize. There are some other guys that you won’t recognize.

“For me, it comes down to when you look at what guys do it’s when they get an opportunity to play, will they play well? Nobody knew Miles Austin until Miles Austin got his opportunity. That’s what we’re looking for, guys that compete and then push Miles Austin to make our football team better.”

The Browns may find their “Miles Austin” breakout player because of Farmer’s competition philosophy. It could be undrafted receiver Willie Snead. It could be someone like defensive lineman Calvin Barnett. It could be anyone. There are real opportunities to shine Cleveland.

Believe it or not, training camp is the lifeblood of the new Cleveland Browns. The days are long. The nights studying iPads are even longer. If a player is unsure if he’ll make the 53-man roster, he probably won’t. The building is now jam-packed with confident football players who worship their beloved sport – just like their head coach and general manager do.

A phrase both Farmer and Pettine use has resonated with the team. Many players use this quote now in their interviews: “The cream will rise to the top.”

Yes it will.

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