The Browns made their on-field debut under first-year coach Hue Jackson on Tuesday, as Cleveland opened its voluntary veteran minicamp on a brisk afternoon in Berea.
"I think the guys are working extremely hard," Jackson said, "they're doing exactly what we as a staff have asked them to do. That part's exciting."
Of course, Jackson will be the first to tell you the Browns have a "long ways to go" and that only so much can be gleaned from one practice in the spring.
"But I truly enjoy the enthusiasm, the camaraderie of the players, their focus of what we're trying to accomplish," Jackson said.
"Again, for a first practice, it was one of the better practices that I've ever been around. But we understand it's one day and as I've said many a time, we're going to put our head down and keep grinding at this thing because we have a long way to go and a lot to do."
Griffin III makes Browns debut
Newly-acquired quarterback Robert Griffin III took to the field for the first time as a member of the Cleveland Browns. The former Offensive Rookie of the Year and Heisman Trophy winner split snaps with fellow quarterbacks veteran Josh McCown, Austin Davis and Connor Shaw, who returned to action after missing last year with a broken thumb.
"Robert is very talented and obviously he did some good things, but he has a lot of things — like a lot of players do — to clean up," he said. "It was one practice, but again, it was a good start. I think it was a good start for all, the quarterbacks and a lot of guys on our team today."
While Jackson has spoken of finding somebody to be a franchise quarterback, he's also made it clear the Browns will give each signal-caller on the roster a fair and thorough evaluation.
"I know everybody's talking about Robert, but there's Josh and Austin and there's Connor. We have four guys here that we're going to give reps to and evaluate. I don't think it's truly about just one player. As I've said before, I don't want to make this always about Robert. He's a very talented player and he'll continue to get better each and every day."
Other players making their Cleveland debuts included linebacker Demario Davis, safety Rahim Moore, and tight end Chase Ford.
A motivated Cameron Erving focused on center
After a rookie season in which he struggled, Browns offensive lineman Cameron Erving said he used criticism as fuel during the offseason. Now, the second-year player and 2015 first-round draft pick finds himself with a chance to start at center after Alex Mack departed the team during free agency.
"You can't replace a guy like that," Erving said. "I mean, you can only come in and create your own identity and that's what I plan on doing."
While it's still too early to tell where he'll ultimately fit on an offensive line that must replace Mack and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, Jackson said "Cam has some ability and some characteristics that we love and we're going to continue to get him better."
"I think he's worked his tail off to come back prepared and accept the challenge," Jackson said.
Pryor looks sharp at WR, but still has 'work to do'
Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor made his first and only catch of the season — an acrobatic 42-yard grab — against the Steelers in the regular-season finale.
Pryor, who was the star quarterback at Ohio State before switching to receiver in the NFL, lined up again on the outside Tuesday and looked sharp in doing so.
"He's big and tall and fast. He did some good things today. He really caught the ball better, he looks a little bit more natural playing receiver than what I would think," Jackson said.
"Again, he's just learning … he understands that he has work to and he's just putting his head down and working. That's kind of our theme; there's nothing to talk about right now. It's really about work and working hard. But he's one of the young men who's really dedicated himself to trying to improve himself in an area to give himself the best opportunity to be a part of this football team."
Pryor, who played in three games last year, enters his second season with the Browns.
Danny Shelton prepared to lead
After multiple conversations with Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton, nose tackle Danny Shelton said he's ready to step up and take on a bigger role next season.
"He basically wants me to make sure that I'm doing the right thing, that I'm not seeing myself as a rookie anymore. He wants me to step up and take on a new role," said Shelton, who also proudly wore his new No. 55 jersey Tuesday.
"That new role could be the leader of the defense, the leader of the defensive line, the leader of this team. Really, I'm just going through everything that they're teaching us and making sure that I'm doing this at the best of my ability."
Shelton, the second-year player and 2015 first-round draft pick, added he felt like he was inconsistent in his rookie season.
"There's a lot of opportunities … being able to go in and play my rookie year, I didn't really feel like I took advantage of those opportunities. Opportunities that I'm talking about just players going against some of the veterans that we played against, learning from veterans," Shelton said.
"That's something that wasn't consistent for me and that's something that I want to work on this year."
Joe Thomas welcomes newborn son
Joe Thomas couldn't make it to practice Tuesday, and his reason was as good as any.
Jackson said Thomas missed the team's minicamp opener because he and his wife, Annie, welcomed a baby boy this week.
"Joe Thomas is a new dad, and he should be the one to tell you guys this, but he had a little boy and he's holding his brand new infant right now," Jackson said.
"He has every reason to be gone and the right reasons to be gone and I wish him and his family the best. What a great experience to be having a young son."