COLUMBUS -- Hours before Friday's Orange and Brown scrimmage kicked off, fans wearing an assortment of Browns jerseys and T-shirts milled about the gates outside of Ohio Stadium, waiting for the precise moment when they'd be allowed to enter. Thousands of others soaked up the afternoon sun at a special road edition of Dawg Pound Drive.
It was a party on the outside and inside of The Shoe on a picturesque day and evening in Ohio's capital city. Between the lines, it was a productive, business-like performance from a Browns roster that was itching to show what they could do in a different, high-pressure atmosphere after seven practices in Berea.
"It's just the energy of the crowd. You can put yourself in game mode when you go out to practice and all that, but you can't replace this," quarterback Josh McCown said. "It's fun to get out here. It's good for young guys who haven't been in front of a crowd like this.
"It induces some nerves and you get some things going on. It's good for you to process that, especially before you play a preseason game and kind of get that feeling and go through that, so it was good for us."
Veteran Joe Thomas summed it up in a simple sentence.
"There was more juice in the atmosphere today," Thomas said.
One year after the Browns treated fans at Akron's InfoCision Stadium to a day of defense, the Browns offense, led by McCown and new offensive coordinator John DeFillipo, showed the 49,734 fans plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the team's refurbished scoring attack. Even during 7-on-7s, the fans were engaged and locked on the Browns' playmakers, erupting when Johnny Manziel connected with Darius Jennings and Josh Lenz for touchdowns.
It was more of the same during 11-on-11s, as McCown led a long touchdown drive that was highlighted by two big throws. His 48-yard, third-down connection to Gary Barnidge set up a touchdown pass to Brian Hartline, a former Buckeye who caught two touchdown passes in a 2008 rout of Michigan the last time he played at Ohio Stadium.
"I feel like I'm kind of in the same grass I grew up on, same temperatures, same smells," Hartline said. "It feels more like a backyard than it does work."
Manziel took a sack on an unsuccessful first drive but bounced back with multiple scoring drives of his own. His final pass was arguably his best of the night, when he hit Lenz in the end zone to cap a 5-for-5 passing possession.
Friday's crowd, which more than doubled the largest crowd the Browns had ever seen for a scrimmage, hung around well past the final whistle to send the team back to Berea in style. Players signed autographs for nearly 45 minutes while fans screamed their names and barked in their direction.
From what Pettine saw in the hours leading up to Friday's kickoff, the sendoff came as little surprise.
"It was great. It is a football town," Pettine said. "It was a real good trip for us. It was good to come down here. The turnout of our fans speaks for itself."