It's time for quarterback Johnny Manziel to channel himself some Don Meredith.

The party's over; turn out the lights.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsThe Browns would do well to give Johnny Manziel time to develop instead of thrusting him in as a starter.
The offseason of Vegas-Austin-Mexico-Los Angeles clubs and beverages/bottles has concluded. The social media photos with rolled bills are complete. Wednesday, Manziel reported for duty for his first NFL training camp in Cleveland to try to become the Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback. It's not exactly a brave new world for the Browns' first-round draft pick -- he did manage himself quite well in college during the season while having a good time in the offseason, thank you very much -- but it is a more challenging situation than anything he has dealt with in his life. The young wunderkind who was simply always better than those around him finds himself at a whole new level, having to earn his place in the world of professionals.

But while attention will be homed on his every move, his coach has made no secret he'd prefer Manziel not be the team's immediate starter. Coach Mike Pettine told SI.com that in his "ideal world," Manziel would not start on opening day.

Go figure.

The Browns, a team in need of a new image, excite the area and the football world by drafting the most exciting player eligible, and they want him to wait.

But there's sound logic and strong precedent behind Pettine's thinking.

He talks about success stories for people who wait to start -- Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer -- and compares them to guys he has seen rushed into the starting lineup too soon -- Kyle Boller -- for a team not good enough to support them.

That's a scenario Cleveland fans know all too well, as they have seen quarterback after quarterback forced into the lineup, only to struggle with a bad team and fail: Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Charlie Frye and Brandon Weeden among them.

The other cycle that has been repeated in Cleveland is that a quarterback ballyhooed as a savior watches as the team drafts another. The public and media -- and eventually the team -- grow weary of the first "savior" struggling because the team is not equipped to help him. This starts the clamor for the next guy. He then is rushed in and struggles for the same reasons the first guy did.

Savior after savior has flamed out, quickly. Heck, a year ago in Cleveland, Jason Campbell was briefly considered a savior. He finished 1-7 as a starter.

"It's a bad cycle," Pettine said, "until you get the team around him."

Pettine has to balance a lot, starting with hype and expectation (multiplied exponentially because it's Manziel) that comes with any quarterback drafted in the first round. But he also has to balance what he has seen -- that a quarterback will struggle if the team around him struggles.

"There's no doubt [the quarterback is] the most important guy on the field," Pettine said. "But he's so much the product of his supporting cast."

In many past years, the Browns built the team from the inside out. Start with the quarterback and hope to add pieces. It can work, but the danger in that process showed constantly as a lack of a supporting cast left each young quarterback battered, shell-shocked and fragile.

Pettine wants to build from the outside in while still working with the best quarterback he can find.

That's why in the offseason the Browns rebuilt the running game with personnel and system. It is why they bolstered the offensive line, and why they've implemented a defensive scheme that has been successful everywhere it has been used. It's also why they brought in prominent defensive veterans Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby, guys used to winning who might change the vibe in a locker room accustomed to losing.

The final piece was a quarterback to compete with Brian Hoyer. In Manziel, the Browns got a guy who threw for 7,800 yards and 63 touchdowns at Texas A&M, a guy who for whatever reason has become a social media phenomenon.

"I don't think even he can get a handle on the why," Pettine said

At this point in his NFL career, Manziel has done nothing but be successful in college. As any Browns fan can attest, college success and/or a college resume does not automatically translate to wins in the NFL.

Pettine said Manziel was a great teammate in the previous time he was in Cleveland, calling him "very humble." The typical litany of positives followed: good in the weight room, attentive in meetings, smart.

Pettine then added this tidbit: "I think he's ahead of the learning curve."

In the world of hype, parsing and interpreting what has formed around Manziel, that comment would translate on the conversion chart to: "Holy smokes this guy is good."

But there are many factors at play, not the least of which are the beliefs and principles of the head coach. In organized team activities and minicamps, Manziel had his moments but never consistently looked like a no-brainer to be the starter. He never played like a guy who immediately had to be put in the lineup. Manziel himself admitted the Browns' offense is a lot more complex than the one he ran in college, where he didn't even have a playbook. There's the reality that the Browns open in Pittsburgh and then play at home against the New Orleans Saints and the Baltimore Ravens. Those are three very tough, physical and aggressive defenses that might make a team hesitate to start a rookie.

Two things are steadfastly true, though. First is that if Manziel doesn't turn out the lights, his on-field party will be over. Because he won't be able to succeed on the field if he's living the extreme high life off it. Pettine said he expects the off-field to be a "non-story" soon.

The second is that Pettine is determined to not give Manziel the job simply because of who he is.

"It's very simple for us," Pettine said. "Who gives us the best chance to win?"
It isn't often that a guy from Cleveland agrees absolutely and completely with David Modell.

[+] EnlargeArt Modell
AP Photo/NFL PhotosAny follower of the Cleveland Browns should be disgusted with the incident that took place at Art Modell's grave.
But in this case he's right. What was done at his father's grave is vile, disgusting, ill-conceived and an embarrassment to any reasonable resident of Cleveland and any reasonable fan of the Cleveland Browns. To simply be associated by location with someone so proud of something like this prompts an immediate reach for the Lysol.

It's one thing to not like the fact that Art Modell moved his football team to Baltimore and left Cleveland without a team for three years. It's quite another to be so brazenly disrespectful and proud of it.

Any Cleveland fan should be disgusted that one man chose to urinate on Modell's grave, then post the video on YouTube. It's not funny, and it's not the kind of statement anyone should support.

David Modell pointed out that the grave belongs to his father, to a grandfather.

"Can any of your readers imagine, for one second, seeing someone do that to their parents' grave?" he asked the Baltimore Sun.

"The act is so offensive, and I'd like to publicly say, isn't enough enough? When is enough enough."

He called it cowardice and "incredibly distasteful, revolting and mean-spirited."
He also said he would try to prosecute the unidentified fan, who has only a YouTube identity.

There's nothing funny about this. Nothing even close to OK.

And David Modell's question is appropriate. Isn't 19 years long enough? Shouldn't the anger nowadays be directed more appropriately at the string of ineptness since 1999?

When Art Modell died the outcry against him was so ugly in Cleveland that the team, at David Modell's request, declined to even acknowledge his death.

LeBron James and Dan Gilbert apologized to each other. This happens at Modell's grave.

Enough is enough.
The Cleveland Browns will not have the last unsigned rookie in the league.

Cornerback Justin Gilbert, the eighth overall pick, agreed to terms Wednesday and should be on the field for practice when training camp opens to the public Saturday.

Gilbert
ESPN's Chris Mortensen first reported the contract. Spotrac.com reported the deal is for four years and $12.8 million, with a $7.65 million signing bonus.

Gilbert's presence completes the cornerback group, a postion "where we upgraded the most," Browns coach Mike Pettine said.

Given the additions elsewhere, that's an interesting statement.

Joe Haden will be one starter. Gilbert and Buster Skrine will compete for the other spot.

Isaiah Trufant and Aaron Berry will be in the mix. Pettine sounded intrigued with both -- especially Berry, a veteran who had off-field issues but is trying to resurrect his career.

"You'll enjoy watching him in camp," Pettine said. "If you don't see him, you'll at least hear him. He's got a lot of swagger to him. He'll definitely energize practice for us."

Pettine simply smiled when asked about Trufant and said he's a "good player." His body language and expressions were so positive it seems possible Trufant could be the nickel corner. He is a pure slot cornerback though, so he would compete at that spot.

The Browns have stressed competition, and Pettine is a huge believer that players who push each other make each other better. That's why Pettine is so happy to have Gilbert, and have him signed. Not only does the scheme demand aggressive cover corners, it adds depth and competition.

Skrine and Gilbert will push each other, with Trufant pushing both, and Berry evidently forcing his way into the mix.

Jim Brown sues over '64 title ring

July, 23, 2014
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NEW YORK -- Hall of Fame football star Jim Brown is running out of time to retrieve his 1964 NFL championship ring and has sued a memorabilia dealer in New York.

The Los Angeles resident filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Manhattan federal court against Lelands.com and Lelands Collectibles Inc.

The lawsuit seeks to halt the sale of the ring in an online auction that ends Friday. It also seeks unspecified damages over broadcast remarks Lelands founder Joshua Evans made about Brown.

Evans says Brown's claims "are entirely without merit."

The lawsuit says the ring is priceless to the former Cleveland Browns player. The bidding was around $59,000 Wednesday afternoon.

Brown rushed for 12,312 yards and scored 106 touchdowns in nine seasons before retiring at the peak of his career in 1965.


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A Cleveland Browns fan posted a video on YouTube showing himself urinating beside Art Modell's grave in Pikesville, Maryland.

The unidentified man in the video, titled "Browns Fan 'Pays Respects' to Modell," arrives at the gravesite dressed in a Baltimore Ravens Ed Reed jersey.

He then pulls it off to reveal a Browns Lyle Alzado No. 77 jersey and apparently urinates on Modell's grave out of the bottom of his pants leg using a catheter.

Afterward, he speaks to the camera.

"You know, Art, when you ... tried to kill the Cleveland Brownie, you didn't do so good, the Browns fans wouldn't let you, you piece of s---," he says. "I'm in rat land, and I'm going to use the words you used a few years ago.

"As far as pissing on your grave, I had no choice."

When Modell moved the team to Baltimore in 1996, he said he had "no choice."

The video has received more than 10,000 hits. A spokeswoman for the Druid Ridge Cemetery told The Baltimore Sun that the Browns fan's decision to urinate beside Modell's grave was "disappointing and disrespectful."

Police did not immediately respond to the paper on the situation and its legality.

Modell died in 2012.


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Brian Hoyer took a grand total of five days off this offseason.

He probably would have done the exact same thing had the Cleveland Browns not taken Johnny Manziel in the first round of the NFL draft.

"He's a gym rat," coach Mike Pettine said.

The phrase is timeworn, but accurate. Because it sums up the work ethic and dedication of the Cleveland-area kid trying to hold off the challenge of the first-round pick to live his dream of starting for his hometown team.

In the team's first minicamp before the draft, Hoyer was a confident guy, talking about the Browns being his team until he was told otherwise. The night of the draft, he was part of the Manziel maelstrom, and affected by it much more personally than anyone. By the team's organized team activities, he was saying that the best thing he could do as a teammate would be to be the best quarterback he could be. By the end of OTAs, he was eager and anxious to have limitations removed as he recovers from a torn knee ligament that ended a promising 2013 season too soon. In the time between minicamp and training camp, he took a brief respite from rehab and work. But only a brief one.

He enters training camp as the Browns' starter, but he's as aware as anyone what it means to not only be competing with a first-round draft pick, but a first-round pick with significant cachet, resume and achievements.

Pettine, though, has seen no sign that any of the public chatter over Manziel has affected Hoyer.

"I think he's confident," Pettine said, "and I think he's getting his confidence through his preparation."

Which is where it all begins and ends with Hoyer, who learned from the best as Tom Brady's backup. Last season when he had three starts, he talked about being as prepared as he could be. This offseason, with or without Manziel, he's taken the same approach.

The Browns believe Manziel's presence will help Hoyer, will make him better by forging his competitive juices and focusing his already-strong drive.

"The alternative would be that we didn't draft Manziel and we took somebody in the fifth round," Pettine said. "Would Brian Hoyer be as good then as he would be after taking Manziel and having to deal with the circumstances that we're in?"

It's one of his core foundations -- competition makes people better. He has that at running back with Terrance West and Ben Tate, at cornerback with Justin Gilbert and Buster Skrine, at guard with four guys fighting for two spots. And at quarterback.

"There's no substitute for it, and there's no better motivator than competition," Pettine said. "If you're not willing to compete, then you shouldn't be here."

Hoyer seems to relish it. On a recent radio interview on ESPN's "Mike & Mike," he called the drafting of Manziel "a relief" because he then understood what he was facing. Manziel has talked about wanting to start, but while Hoyer has been spending time with his family and children, Manziel has been on the party circuit. Whether that matters remains to be seen.

Pettine does not hide from the reality of what it means to take a quarterback in the first round, especially one like Manziel. But he also understands why he was hired.

"We can't lose sight as a staff that it's very simple for us: Who gives us the best chance to win this coming Sunday?" he said.

He points out that nobody from the Browns on draft night said they had drafted their starting quarterback.

"There's so much credibility when he earns it on the field," Pettine said. "Sure, [Manziel] comes in here with an incredible background of being a playmaker and having success. But there's the question of getting it to translate to the NFL level.

"We're confident that will happen. That's the reason we took him. But at the same time we feel we have a quarterback here in Brian who can win games for us."

Pettine values mental toughness. And Hoyer has shown no sign of being rattled or shaken by the hoopla over the rookie. In fact, it might have honed his desire.

"To me," Pettine said, "you have to be the strongest guy on the field mentally if you're the quarterback. To me, if he had issues with that mentally then you would question, ‘Does he have the wherewithal to be an NFL quarterback?' If he's going to let that bother him, you would question it.

"I'm not worried about it. I think that cream rises to the top."

Browns eye Manziel football headlines

July, 23, 2014
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ESPN.com Cleveland Browns reporter Pat McManamon discusses the team's belief that Johnny Manziel's off-field headlines will soon cease.

A look at key Cleveland Browns positions as training camp approaches, starting with wide receivers. And starting with a simple assumption: The quarterback position will be closely watched by everyone.

The Browns receiver spot is jumbled, with or without Josh Gordon.

“There’s some talented guys,” coach Mike Pettine said during a lengthy interview on Monday. “But there’s not much cohesion there as far as guys playing together.”

Which is a problem, and it’s a problem complicated by the fact every player on the roster is learning a new system, and by the fact the Browns don’t know what they can or should expect as far as Gordon is concerned because they don’t know if he’ll be suspended for the season, part of it or not at all.

It leads to some thorny questions for a coaching staff.

Do the Browns give Gordon the usual time with the starters in the expectation he might play? Or do they rotate in others more because he might not play?

If they give Gordon the usual time, that affects timing with new receivers working with a new quarterback. If he winds up suspended, every receiver is behind.

If the Browns hold back on Gordon’s reps and he avoids a ban then his timing is affected -- though it’s tempered some by the reality he played with Brian Hoyer last season.

It’s a messy situation that creates a balancing act any coach would have wanted settled before camp. But that’s not going to happen. Not with Gordon’s hearing scheduled in the next two weeks -- with a possible appeal to follow. At least when the hearing is concluded the Browns will some inkling what to expect.

Austin

If Gordon is suspended, the Browns will pick from a crew that includes Miles Austin, Nate Burleson, Charles Johnson, Andrew Hawkins, Travis Benjamin and Anthony Armstrong.

The ripple effect from Gordon is obvious immediately. If he plays, he and Austin would appear to be the starters, with Hawkins the natural choice for the slot/third position.

If Gordon does not play, Hawkins would be next up, except it takes him out of the slot, where he gives the Browns a significant matchup advantage. That could mean elevating Burleson or an unproven guy like Johnson -- because the Browns might want to keep Hawkins at the slot, where he was so effective in the offseason.

Pettine admitted the team was ultra-careful with Austin in OTAs, but he will be “ready to go” in camp.

Johnson has the physique, but nobody has seen him.

Burleson is a veteran good guy, but he has struggled with injuries the past two seasons.

The rest are all from Missouri. The Browns want them to “show me” what they can do.

Teams have found receivers in all shapes and sizes and places. Certainly nobody expected Gordon to have the kind of impact he did a year ago. So even without him the Browns might find players.

The problem is that as camp opens it’s a jumbled position with Gordon, and without him it becomes even more jumbled.

“We want to get that settled very quickly,” Pettine said.

Mike Pettine will know the plan for how he will handle his quarterbacks when Cleveland Browns training camp opens on Saturday.

Said plan will be worked out in early-week meetings among him, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains.

Hoyer

The Browns coach promised a fair competition, and left open the possibility that Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel could each get a start in the first and second preseason games.

“That’s something that hasn’t been decided yet,” Pettine said Monday. “That might be something that potentially could come out of the scrimmage [at the University of Akron on Aug. 2]. ‘Hey, both are playing well, let’s go ahead and let one start the game one start the other.’

"There are a lot of different ways we can approach it, but there will be a lot of thought to it.”

Hoyer will open camp as the starter, with Manziel the backup.

Pettine said a decision on the starter for the season will come sometime “in the neighborhood” of the third preseason game -- and probably before given most teams want to know the starter for what is considered the “dress rehearsal.”

“I don’t want to be non-decisive with it,” Pettine said.

The key, Pettine said (again), is not to decide too late.

“Decide sooner than later on a starter and let that chemistry build in a new system with a bunch of new faces,” he said. “That we can’t wait too long and now nobody is ready for the opener. So I think it’s important that we find that sweet spot of, ‘It’s been long enough.’”

Pettine added he’d try to give both equal opportunities.

“We’ll try,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s feasible. You worry about the juggling of that and the logistics of that. Brian is the starter. We go out day one and send the first group out it will be him. Just my knee-jerk thought to it is that it will be close to equal.”

Browns set deadline to name QB

July, 22, 2014
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Mike Pettine says that the Cleveland Browns will have an answer to one of the NFL's biggest offseason questions -- Johnny Manziel or Brian Hoyer? -- in a little over a month.

The first-year head coach told reporters Monday that the Browns expect to name their starting quarterback by their third preseason game, which takes place Aug. 23 against the St. Louis Rams.

Whether the Browns choose Manziel, a Heisman Trophy-winning rookie, or Hoyer, a six-year veteran and Cleveland-area native, still is a matter of debate.

Pettine told reporters that the Browns have not established an exact deadline for naming a starter, although they would prefer to make a decision soon.

He planned to meet with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to discuss the competition between Manziel and Hoyer.

"It's definitely still up in the air," Pettine said, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. "It could be sooner, and that's something we're going to discuss in that meeting. It'll be before the third preseason game. I just don't have a date. I don't know if I'll set a date and kind of paint ourselves into a date, but it will be sooner than the third preseason game."


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BEREA, Ohio -- Mike Pettine thinks that Johnny Manziel's off-the-field activity will "be a nonstory" once training camp starts.

"It's something that was a hot topic for the offseason just because of who he is," Pettine said Monday as the Cleveland Browns prepare for the start of training camp on Saturday. "It's a very unique thing. I don't think he can get a handle on the why. Is his behavior that much different from the average NFL player?"

Pettine did not seem to think that it is, but he said that the people with whom Manziel circulates -- Drake, Justin Bieber -- might be different.

Pettine said he never thought that the photos posted of Manziel in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Texas or Mexico this offseason reflected badly on the team.

"I just think to overreact to stuff that's occurred before he's even taken a snap in training camp, we weren't going to do that," he said. "And it's been such a small sample of him being here. While he's been here, he's been great.

"He's been very humble. He's been great in the meeting rooms. Worked hard. Worked hard in the weight room; one of the best guys in the weight room. Asked the right questions. I think he's ahead of the learning curve.

"We always say, if we see it start to affect his job, then I think there would be much more of a cause for concern."

At the same time, Pettine said quarterbacks are held to a higher standard because of the leadership position they play.

"We talk about playing like a Brown," Pettine said. "We've added act like a Brown. I think that's important. Is it more important for a quarterback? I think so. There's a certain standard when you're a leader and guys look to you."


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