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Browns relishing benefits of joint practices in all facets

TAMPA -- A hundred-degree-plus heat index wasn't wiping the smile from Hue Jackson's face after Tuesday's joint practice with the Buccaneers.

The Browns coach loved that his team got to experience a grueling, two-hour plus practice in the scorching heat and humidity only Florida can provide at this time of year. But there was so much more to the experience the team not only absorbed for a couple of hours on the practice field, but also an entire week together hundreds of miles away from Berea.

The laundry list of benefits from joint practices are why Jackson was thrilled to hook up with the Buccaneers and hopes to find a willing partner in the seasons to come.

"Anytime you can go against another team, another organization and get a chance evaluate your team in a different light – we see our guys against our guys all the time – to evaluate them against somebody else is always fun, different and it's a true evaluation more so than going against the same guys all the time," Jackson said. "You get to do more things. You get to really see the things that you need to see as a staff because we're kind of working together. There are things they need to see. There are things we need to see so it has its value."

Barring a few periods in which the Browns and Buccaneers went through individual drills, they went head-to-head in a variety of situations Tuesday, pitting players against adversaries who would only know their tendencies from previous experience in a game or film review. That added a little excitement to one-on-one receiver-defensive back drills or one-on-one pass rush drills and introduced an even bigger change of pace during 9-on-7 or 11-on-11.

Even without complete full contact -- the teams decided not to tackle to the ground because of Friday's game -- lessons were learned and situations were created that simply couldn't occur at an ordinary practice.

"You get different looks and possibilities," wide receiver Terrelle Pryor said. "You are going to see different looks all season long."

Tuesday was the team's first joint practice with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The length of Cleveland's stay away from Berea and the timing on the calendar sets this year's joint practices apart from last year's, when the Browns traveled to Rochester, New York, to square off with the Bills.

Last year, the Browns hit the road for the practices but came back for the game at FirstEnergy Stadium. This year, Cleveland is spending four full nights together at a nearby hotel before taking the field at 8 p.m. Friday at Raymond James Stadium. Of the 100-plus hours the team will log in Florida, less than 10 will be spent on the practice field. The remainder of that time, though, has some significant, intangible value.

"We need to know how to handle this," Jackson said. "We are going to go on the road quite a bit early so we need to learn how to handle it and handle it right because tomorrow, we have to come back out here and do it again and get better."

The timing of these practices comes one week later in the preseason compared to not only last year's, but also the numerous others around the league this year. Tampa Bay, in fact, spent last week in Jacksonville engaging in joint practices with the Jaguars.

It might be the time of year when teams start winding down the intensity and physicality of practice, but it came at the right time for Cleveland, which returned a number of injured players that wouldn't have been able to get the full, joint-practice experience if they were set for one week earlier in the preseason.

"A lot of teams probably wouldn't do it on the third week, but I thought it would be best for us, and I couldn't foresee the physical injuries that we would have or anything," Jackson said. "It wasn't any magic solution. It just worked out this way. It's working out in our favor because it is important for us and what we have in the future."

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