Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur assured the media that there will be no distractions for the players as the team began its 2012 training camp with Friday’s full-team walk-through and practice on the fields at the Berea training facility.
When Shurmur heard the news of Mr. Jimmy Haslam’s “interest in making an investment in the Cleveland Browns,” he immediately thought of and told his coaches about the situation.
“When I was hired here, I hired a staff of guys to help me coach this football team, so my first concern was the coaches -- that they were informed of this early on and then, next were the players,” Shurmur said following practice. “Those were the two groups in the organization and of course the trainers and the support staff. That was my concern, so we informed them.”
Although the news came as a surprise to some of the players, Shurmur said there will not be a change in the philosophy of building a successful franchise on the football field.
“The goals, the things we talked about last night in the meeting as we move forward this year have not changed, not one bit,” Shurmur said. “What we’re trying to do as a football team should be unchanged by what was talked about today. We are a much better football team; we’ll be much better prepared this season.
“I feel like we’ve got a better group to put on the field and I think we function better as a staff, so that’s my concern and that’s what I told the players. The feedback from them is they understand that message.”
The Browns started training camp earlier in the week when the rookies had their first practice on Wednesday afternoon. The veterans reported and took their running tests -- which everyone passed -- on Thursday. All of the players, veterans and rookies alike, were on the field for Friday’s walk-through and practice.
The team opens its training camp to the public with Saturday morning’s practice. Players will be in full pads for the first time on Sunday, July 29. They will hold eight fully-padded practices prior to Family Night (Wednesday, Aug. 8) and the preseason opener at Detroit (Friday, Aug. 10).
“Our focus is to work through this training camp and get this team as good as we can be to start the season and play,” Shurmur said. “Everybody deals with things that distract you or adversity. That’s not the case here. We’re getting a football team ready to play. We have a very professional group of guys on this team and we have a bunch of prideful guys that understand that message.”
DELIVERING A MESSAGE
Once the full team reported Thursday, Shurmur spoke to the players as a group. During the speech, Shurmur wanted to make sure that the players understood that improvements had to be made from 2011’s 4-12 record.
“I expect that we’re a much improved football team,” Shurmur said. “We all agreed that what we did last year wasn’t good enough and we’ve highlighted areas that, we as a team -- and that’s between the team and I -- need to be better and we need to work on here in practice and go ahead and do it. That’s the message.”
Shurmur was asked about the “low expectations of the team nationally” and how that will affect the team.
“What I’m concerned about is the thought process that this team has as we move forward within the building,” Shurmur said. “My concern is the players, their mindset, winning football games and the fans of this community who can go to work on Monday and be proud because their team won. That’s what my concerns are.”
DEFENDING THE BALL
The players were in helmets, shorts and shell pads for Friday’s practice and will be in similar gear Saturday morning. Despite the lack of contact between the players, Shurmur was able to observe the defense and how they played against a young Browns offense.
“I thought the defense challenged very well today in practice,” Shurmur said. “I thought we got in some excellent work. You can tell initially, always in the first practice when you put shells on and helmets and you add the linemen in there, the passing game takes a day or two to look the way I want it to look, but I thought the defense challenged well and that’s a good thing.”