- Hue Jackson was certainly excited by what he saw from the Browns’ No. 1 pick on his first day of rookie minicamp, but, after a flurry of questions about Baker Mayfield, the Browns coach encouraged everyone who was listening Friday to “pump our brakes.”
As he’s done in multiple interviews over the past week, Jackson reiterated veteran Tyrod Taylor was the team’s starting quarterback and Mayfield has a lot to learn from him as he grows accustomed to life in the NFL.
“He has a ways to go and a lot to learn. I am very excited about him,” Jackson said. “It was a good first day, but he has a ways to go. The guy you are comparing him to (Taylor) has played, played a lot of games and has won games in the National Football League. I think they are different that way, but at the same time, I do like both of their personalities and what they bring to our football team.”
Per the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, Mayfield wasn’t allowed to receive the team’s playbook until he reported to Berea on Thursday. Jackson said Mayfield, to little surprise, engrossed himself in it and came prepared for Friday’s practice, the first of three this weekend with the team’s draft picks, undrafted free agents, a handful of first-year players and 28 tryout players.
One of the biggest areas of adjustment for Mayfield will be playing under center, and there were some understandable hiccups in that area throughout Friday’s session. Mayfield stayed long after the practice ended, taking snap after snap alongside fellow quarterback Joel Stave.
“When you are used to being in the shotgun a majority of the time, it is just a habit a little bit that you are used to. We will work at this,” Jackson said. “I think it is going to be a quick fix because he is athletic enough and he is disciplined enough to do it. I do not think it is going to be something that is going to be a problem. We can’t keep having it in his head. He will keep working through it, and we will keep getting better at it.”
- Defensive back Denzel Ward, the former Ohio State star and No. 4 pick in the draft, was held out of the final portion of Friday’s practice for precautionary reasons, Jackson said.
“I am always going to be cautious with our guys,” Jackson said. “If I think that they have a little nick or something right now. I do not think being out here and having a guy if there is anything that we feel that might hurt a guy, I am going to make sure that I take him out. He did some good things, just watching him run around, too. We will see where he is tomorrow and go from there.”
Ward, who hails from the Cleveland suburb Macedonia, said he spent the week between the draft and minicamp back at his apartment in Columbus. He snuck in a few workouts between his packing and came to Berea on Thursday “ready to work.”
“It will definitely be a challenge, but I am definitely looking forward to it,” Ward said. “Have to get prepared and to get in the playbook. I am ready to go to work, though. I think that I will be ready.”
Fifty-seven players will be on the practice field for rookie minicamp.
- Versatile offensive lineman Austin Corbett spent Friday’s practice working at left tackle, the position he played throughout his career at Nevada. When the rookies join up with the veterans, Corbett’s expected to continue to play at the spot but also see some time at other positions along the line.
“We are going to kind of see where our best five guys are and how they play, but he will get an opportunity out there,” Jackson said.
Shon Coleman, Spencer Drango, Rod Johnson and others are also expected to compete at left tackle. Jackson said he liked what he saw from undrafted free agent Desmond Harrison, who split time at left tackle with Corbett, Cleveland’s second-round selection, at Friday’s practice.
“There is going to be some good guys, just watching this,” Jackson said. “This is the first day and there is a lot to see, but there is a lot to do. The thing that I think is really important is that there are enough guys there at the position, hopefully, that we can find someone to play it and be the guy.”
- Friday’s practice marked the first in a long time for Jackson in a role that did not include calling plays for the offense.
Jackson, who hired longtime coordinator Todd Haley in January to run the offense, was able to focus on a number of different position groups throughout the practice. He’s had to devote some time behind the scenes to learn the terminology of Haley’s offense.
“At some point in time, you have to keep transitioning,” Jackson said. “To me more so than that, I would do anything in my power to help this organization win. When I sat down and thought about it, I go, ‘What is going to put the Cleveland Browns in the best position to win games and be successful?’ Maybe it is Hue Jackson being involved in everybody’s meetings coaching everybody. That is the decision I made.
“Obviously, I wasn’t going to do it as I said to you a long time ago unless I had a guy who I truly believed in who could do it, and that could do it like I did and do it better. That is why Todd is here.”
- Ward is the only Browns draft pick who has yet to settle on a jersey number. The rest were confirmed before Friday’s practice:
Mayfield - 6
Corbett - 63
RB Nick Chubb - 31
DL Chad Thomas - 92
WR Antonio Callaway - 11
LB Genard Avery - 55
WR Damion Ratley - 18
DB Simeon Thomas - 33
Ward is wearing No. 12, his college number, during the team’s minicamp. That number is currently worn by wide receiver Josh Gordon and is not among the eligible numbers for NFL defensive backs.
Numbers for all of the team’s rookies are subject to change throughout the offseason.