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Training Camp

Browns ramp up practice with pads, jersey competition

Saturday, Aug. 1, was a date on the calendar Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine had circled with a red Sharpie months ago in the spring.

It marked the first time in 2015 the players threw on the full pads and crunched their way through the most physical practice yet.

The first two days of training camp virtually mimicked how the Browns conducted their OTA and mini-camp practices with mostly non-contact drills. It's called the "acclimation" portion of camp where players get back into the swing of things. Pettine joked his father and longtime high school football coach, Mike Sr., calls it "flag football."

After months of waiting, Saturday looked like the real deal.

Running backs were met by thumping linebackers in drills. The coaching staff can now grade offensive and defensive line play with more clarity. Cornerbacks jammed wide receivers at the line in press-man coverage with much more concentration and power.

Toward the middle of practice, intensity was so widespread, a small skirmish flared up between a group of players.

"It's disappointing because we talk all the time about being good teammates and that certainly falls outside of that," said Pettine. "To me, that's very quickly forgetting that you're a part of a team when you're looking to settle an individual score. I know guys feel disrespected or whatever it is but there's just no place for that. There's also a fine line. We talk about being physical, tough and hard-nosed and that's both sides of the ball. It's part of it, I'm not a fan of it but it happens."

The other large development happened during the last five minutes of practice. Pettine reintroduced the "jersey competition" by creating a scenario where the offense competes against the defense and the winner dons a flashy jersey at the next day of practice.

On Saturday, the situation was third downs – third-and-8, third-and-5 and third-and-2. Quarterback Josh McCown connected with wide receiver Taylor Gabriel on a deep out to start the competition, but the defense rose up to the occasion and were declared the winners by Pettine.

"You are ready for that part of practice – because that's when it counts," McCown said. "That's when you are really competing. That was a really fun part of practice. The energy level really turns up because there is something on the line."

During a Friday radio appearance on Cleveland Browns Daily, Pettine alluded that the special practice jerseys may not be orange this year.

"That's all I can say," Pettine said amusingly.  

Come out to Browns training camp Sunday and you may be in for a wardrobe surprise.

A photographic look at Day 2 of training camp.

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