The grind of the offseason continues as the Browns wrapped up their first week of OTAs, marking the first time veterans and rookies practiced together under first-year coach Hue Jackson.
"It's just so exciting to get the players all out there on the field and practicing and practicing together and getting a feel for what your team looks like and what your team potentially could be in certain spots and places," said Jackson, who says Cleveland has entered the third phase of its workouts.
"I think the guys are working hard, and that's what you want. The guys have done everything I've asked. We're not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we don't need to be right now. We need to work at it and pay attention to detail and be accountable to each other and make sure guys are doing the right things and coach them the way we know we have to in order to get them to where we need to get them to be."
Jackson, who has been impressed by the work ethic and energy of the players, added: "I think our guys understand there's a tall challenge ahead.
"We're starting at the bottom, and we're going to climb our way to the top. We're just going to keep putting our head down and keep grinding through."
Without further ado, here's what we learned from the first week of OTAs
On the mend, a recharged Joe Haden doesn't want to miss 'any games'
Joe Haden seemed to be in good spirits Wednesday in his first meeting with the local media since having ankle surgery in March. The Pro Bowl cornerback shed his walking boot the day before — another positive step in his road to recovery — and said the arrival of Jackson is "the best thing that's happened since I've been here."
While there's not yet a timetable set for his return, Haden said it's his goal to be ready for Cleveland's season opener against the Eagles. "I'm not missing any games," he said. And as he continues to work at getting healthy, he said he has something of a newfound appreciation for football and what it means to him.
"I never went through any type of adversity like this playing football. It's always been pretty good," Haden said. "Being able to go through something like this, it definitely brings a newfound respect, newfound love, passion and I'm missing it, not being able to be out there with my guys.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm in the way a little bit. I just don't really like that feeling at all knowing I'm a leader on this team and a person that's going to be making a big impact in terms of wins and losses. But I'm just excited to keep pushing."
Jackson said Haden's "done an outstanding job" of preparing himself despite the injury.
"He's worked extremely hard. As I said from Day 1, Joe can't wait to get back out there with the guys. I think he's progressing well. There's still no timetable, but I think he's getting there and is going to be there hopefully sooner than what we all thought because the mind is something that's special," Jackson said.
"The guy really wants to be out there. He works extremely hard, and I think that's where he wants to be. I think he'll be out there sooner rather than later."
Confidence in the RBs
Shortly after the draft, Hue Jackson offered the Browns' running backs a considerable vote of confidence when asked why Cleveland didn't add another back to the room last month.
"I think we have some really good players there," said Jackson, who added Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. are "as good as I've seen in a while. Their talent is extreme."
Trust the pair of running backs took notice, saying Wednesday such comments served as a "confidence booster" as they're expected to shoulder the load for Cleveland's run game next season.
"I just think (Jackson) has a lot of confidence in us, period, just knowing that we're going out there getting the job done," Johnson said. "We're both two young guys they have a lot of trust in knowing that we're going to go out there every day and give our all and do our job. "He's willing to bet it all with us just because he knows. He knows our work ethic. He knows that we're going to do whatever it takes and we got his back."
Crowell added: "I feel like me and Duke both have what it takes to be a big threat on this level/ Really, it just showed me that he has great confidence in us. We want to go out there and give them all we've got."
The Browns took to the practice fields for Day 2 of OTAs - just the second day the rookies and veterans work on field together. (All photos by John Reid)
Robert Griffin embracing QB competition**
Amid a flurry of questions about the quarterback position, Jackson has stressed he's not going to name a starter anytime soon. And this week, Robert Griffin III echoed a similar sentiment, saying he's embraced the competition to earn the right to lead the Browns on offense next season.
"Everybody has to earn everything that they get. When you go out there and you perform at a high level and you show guys that they can trust you, that is when they will buy in," Griffin said.
"You don't really focus on putting together a plan to take over the team. You put together a plan to go out and execute the offense, be there for guys when they need you to be there and continue to grow and increase the camaraderie amongst your teammates."
Griffin, who was the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year, added: "The way I look at it is that it is my spot and I have to go out and defend that and go out there and grow with my teammates, grow within the offense and just showcase my talent and ability, and Coach will make the decisions accordingly to how he feels."
Jackson and the coaching staff are still evaluating their options at quarterback, a position group that includes Griffin, Josh McCown, Austin Davis, Connor Shaw and rookie Cody Kessler.
Griffin said he and the other veterans have welcomed Kessler, the third-round pick from USC, with open arms. "All of us are going to have to earn our spot on this team and earn our spot on the depth chart," Griffin said. "We are not going to hoard our notes or hoard our special keys here and there. We are going to try to help him be the best football player he can and then go out there and compete on the field."
WR Terrelle Pryor 'flashing'**
Quarterback-turned-wide receiver Terrelle Pryor continued the momentum he built during the Browns' voluntary veteran minicamp last month, catching Jackson's eye once again.
"Obviously, he's flashed. He's flashed the last several days," said Jackson, who previously lauded Pryor for his work ethic. "He's taking coaching from the best there is from (senior offensive assistant/wide receivers coach) Al Saunders and (offensive quality control/assistant wide receivers coach) Bob Saunders."
Pryor, a 6-foot-4 dynamic athlete who was a backup quarterback for Jackson in Oakland in 2011, is competing for a spot in a crowded wide receivers room that includes veterans such as Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins and newcomers such as first-round draft pick Corey Coleman, Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis and Jordan Payton.
The former Ohio State quarterback might have an advantage, though, having worked in Jackson's offensive scheme before.
"I think he kind of knows this system. He's been around it a little bit. He knows what to expect, what to do, what not to do," Jackson said.
"The biggest thing, I think, that he's done is he's settled down and understands this is really what I want to do and I want to be good at it. 'I'm athletic enough to do it. What's my why? Why do I want to do this? Do I want to be great at this?'
"My challenge to each and every one of these guys is to be great at what you do, not just be average, it's to be great. He's working at it. I think we all see it. I think he's growing every day and getting better every day, and that's all you can ask for."