Hoyer's work ethic is unmatched
It's nearing 1 p.m. on a weekday at the Cleveland Browns practice facility in Berea. Most of the players have trickled out to the parking lot. Some are finishing a gourmet lunch in the cafeteria.
Quarterback Brian Hoyer is still working.
"There hasn't been an offseason for me this year," Hoyer said with a smirk.
Standing one-legged on a balance beam, Hoyer catches a heavy-medicine ball being tossed at him by a trainer. He pauses for a moment, whispering what appears to be advice to one of his young receivers. Our interview is delayed so he can get some extra throwing reps in.
Media members who cover the team will point to the veteran free agent signings as the reason why Cleveland feels so upbeat about their beloved "Brownies," when actually, it starts with Hoyer.
"We are trying to change the culture around here," said Hoyer. "And that's a long process. It's not going to happen overnight. I think guys are really open to it."
A big part of the reason Hoyer's teammates seem to be following his lead is because of what he showed briefly last season. Replacing Brandon Weeden in the starting lineup, Hoyer charmed Clevelanders with back-to-back wins in late September.
The fourth quarter is where the Ohio-native shined, boasting a 117.3 QB rating. With seven seconds left against the Vikings, Hoyer lobbed a game-winning pass to Jordan Cameron in the back-corner of the end zone, capping off an 11-play, 55-yard drive. A week later against the Cincinnati, Hoyer protected the football, throwing two touchdowns and zero interceptions in an ugly 17-6 slugfest win over the Bengals.
Just when signs were pointing towards the Browns turning the corner, Hoyer tore his ACL against the Bills and a promising season unraveled at the seams.
"Starting was something I had waited for, for a long time," said Hoyer, 28, who bounced around with the Patriots and Cardinals before landing in Cleveland.
"I tried to make the most of it. Unfortunately it kind of got taken away from me due to the injuries. I'm out here working hard looking forward to getting back out onto the field and picking things up where I left off," Hoyer said.
So what now?
Other than Hoyer, the only quarterback on the Browns' roster is Alex Tanney, who has never taken an NFL snap. While Hoyer is on the mend, the Browns, at the very least, will need depth at his position when minicamps begin. Or even more likely, direct competition to his starting job. Hoyer knows this.
"I'm not looking for anything to be handed to me," Hoyer said. "I'll compete with whoever it may be. I have full confidence in myself. I think all you can really ask for is a chance."
While others are rightfully vacationing and enjoying their time off before the grind of the 2014 season, Brian Hoyer will be locked in. The rehab workouts will continue. He'll get acquainted to the terminology of Kyle Shanahan's playbook, an offense he calls, "so versatile."
Quietly, his September performances and work ethic to recover from his ACL surgery, may have been the start of the culture change in Berea.