It was hard to tell who welcomed the return of pads more: players, coaches, media or fans.
Count us among those who approved on a busy day at Browns training camp.
1) Give and take OK for Browns QB Josh McCown
The Browns offense performed so well Friday, veteran safety Donte Whitner was compelled to tweet about it. Dwayne Bowe called it one of the best early practices he'd ever experienced.
And then on Saturday, as the Browns donned full pads for the first time during this training camp, the defense got even.
This wasn't one-sided by any means, as both the offense and defense labored a bit in the team's first 11-on-11 run period. The difference from Friday stood out most, though, when the defense went with six defensive backs and presented looks observers hadn't seen through the first three days. There were many near-turnovers, but no official ones, as quarterbacks Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel faced a barrage of pressure and were forced into throws they wanted back.
"That's our defense. It's a good defense," McCown said. "To me, the mark of a well-rounded team is that there will be some give and take. We went out there and had a really good day yesterday and everybody threw the ball around well. Today, there were some really good things but it wasn't as clean as yesterday."
The defense held its own when it mattered most in the Browns' traditional end-of-practice showdown. After surrendering a few third downs, one of which saw McCown hit Taylor Gabriel on a nice, 15-yard crossing pattern, the defense locked down, as Justin Gilbert knocked a pass away from Josh Lenz and McCown's final heave to Bowe fell incomplete.
"There's give and take," McCown said. "If we continue that, I believe that's what's going to make us a good football team, and at the end of the day that's what you want to see."
2) Injury bug finally bites the Browns
After two relatively healthy days of practice, the Browns saw a handful of players go down with injuries.
Defensive end Billy Winn was carted off the field midway through the practice with an apparent knee injury. Browns coach Mike Pettine said Winn's status would be clarified later in the day.
Running backs Terrance West and Duke Johnson were both hampered a bit by injuries and did not finish practice. The same went for defensive back Brandon Stephens, who wasn't on the field for the second half of practice.
Running back Glenn Winston was sidelined for a third consecutive day while linebacker Darius Eubanks practiced after missing the first two.
3) RB Shaun Draughn quietly logging quality snaps
When Pettine spoke with ClevelandBrowns.com last week, he made sure to include Draughn when the topic shifted to the Browns' running back competition.
The Browns didn't make national headlines when they signed Draughn late last season and didn't when they re-signed him to the 2015 squad, but they've been pleased with what he's brought to the table ever since he arrived. He can return kicks, play a variety of spots on special teams and, as he's displayed through the first three practices, make plays as a runner and pass-catcher out of the backfield.
"He is a quiet kid and that's how he is on the field," Pettine said. "There is not a lot of flash there. Like a lot of guys he very quietly fills the grade sheet with pluses."
Draughn, a star running back at North Carolina, has bounced around the NFL since he went undrafted in 2011. He ran for 233 yards with the Chiefs in 2012 but compiled just 21 over the past two seasons with the Ravens, Bears, Chargers and Browns.
If the Browns keep four running backs at the end of the preseason like they did last year, Draughn would appear to be in decent shape three practices into training camp.
4) Tracking the movement on the O-line
With Joe Thomas receiving an off day, Andrew McDonald filled his spot at left tackle with the first-team offense.
This was a tad different than what was seen at times throughout OTAs, when rookie Cameron Erving would often fill the spot occupied by whomever from the first team was resting. Erving remained with the second-team offense at right guard but also saw some snaps at left tackle.
The only rookie to see regular, significant snaps with the first-team offense has been sixth-round fullback Malcolm Johnson, who is the only player on the roster listed at his position.
Pettine doled out some praise to McDonald, who was acquired late last season after he was waived by the Colts.
"He's another guy, very quiet, doesn't say a lot but he just goes out and works," Pettine said. "He's had a really productive offseason for us, and we were very quietly optimistic about him coming into camp and very anxious to see how he'll be with pads on."
5) Other observations
- First-round picks Danny Shelton and Erving got a chance to go one-on-one against each other in drills during the early portion of practice. There was no clear winner.
- Youngstown State president and former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones were in attendance at Saturday's practice. Jones was teammates at Cleveland's Glenville High with wide receiver Shane Wynn, whom the Browns signed after OTAs.
- Shelton has been rooming with fellow defensive line rookie Dylan Wynn, who went undrafted out of Oregon State.