October 23, 2014

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Browns notes: Lauvao works with starters on offensive line

BEREA — A couple of early camp ailments put rookie offensive lineman Shawn Lauvao at right guard with the first team Sunday and Monday. The third-round pick held his own, and coach Eric Mangini said he’d have no problem starting Lauvao next to second-year center Alex Mack.

“If he ends up winning that spot, I wouldn’t hesitate at all,” Mangini said Monday between two-a-day practices. “I think Alex could help him along. It’s pretty fresh in his mind, some of the challenges that you face, and I think he could be a real asset if that were the case.”

Lauvao will also work at left guard and center, but was featured at right guard when Tony Pashos (flu) and John St. Clair (arm) didn’t practice. Pashos, St. Clair and Floyd Womack are also in the mix to start on the right side.

Lauvao (6-foot-3, 315 pounds) brings the size and strength the Browns are looking for across the line. He’s also smart, which should help him adjust to the positional versatility required by Mangini.

“It’s really a prerequisite to coming here, because you are going to be asked to do a lot of different things,” Mangini said. “If he can build on that versatility where he can play center and guard, that improves his chances of going to the game (gameday roster).”

Lauvao said he hasn’t been surprised by his first NFL training camp. He’s comfortable with the playbook and is focusing on improving the consistency of his technique.

“It’s football when you come down to it. Either you show up or you don’t,” he said.

He’s also taking the first-team repetitions in stride, while refusing to fixate on the possibility of winning a starting job.

“It’s been a tremendous opportunity,” Lauvao said. “It’s up to the coaches. I’ll just go out and compete, help the team anyway possible.”

If Lauvao doesn’t start at right guard, he would be in the mix to be the backup center/interior lineman along with Billy Yates and Pat Murray.

Pashos practiced Monday night for the first time since camp began. He worked with the second team at right tackle.

Z’s knee

Punter Dave Zastudil told reporters he’s recovering from surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in his right (non-kicking) knee. He hopes to be ready for the opener Sept. 12 in Tampa Bay and is splitting repetitions with Reggie Hodges. Zastudil didn’t participate in the evening practice.

Zastudil appeared in eight games last year and was forced to injured reserve Nov. 18. He averaged 44.7 yards with a net of 39.1 on 49 kicks. His 25 punts inside the 20-yard line tied for sixth in the AFC.

Hodges replaced him last year and averaged 39.8 with a 36.4 net on 45 kicks. He placed 15 inside the 20.

Happy in background

Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas is probably the best player on the Browns, but he doesn’t consider himself a candidate to replace LeBron James as Cleveland’s best athlete.

“I can’t say I really think about that for me,” Thomas said. “Josh (Cribbs) is certainly the most well-known. He’s the guy people talk about when they talk about the Cleveland Browns.

“I’m a lineman. I like it out of the spotlight.”

Thomas, who hails from Wisconsin, has attended many Cavaliers games and was sad to see James leave.

“I’m a transplant, but I loved watching him play for the hometown team,” Thomas said.

Nickel’s worth a lot

Cornerback Eric Wright worked as the first-team nickelback covering the slot receiver, while Sheldon Brown and Brandon McDonald manned the outside. In the standard defensive formation, Wright and Brown are the starting cornerbacks.

The Browns have tried a variety of nickelbacks over the last few years — Ray Mickens, Ralph Brown, Hank Poteat, Mike Adams — but none has been particularly effective. Wright is one of the better cover cornerbacks in the league and should improve the quality of play inside on passing downs.

“Nickelback is a position I’m playing a little bit at this point, and I’m trying to master that craft,” he said. “I spent the whole offseason studying players at that position. It definitely helps.

“It’s just a huge opportunity to go out there and use your playmaking ability. Usually on third down, the ball goes in the slot or somewhere in the middle. It’s a challenge, and it’s fun.”

Brownie bits

  • Jake Delhomme hit fullback Lawrence Vickers with a long pass down the seam between linebacker Chris Gocong and rookie safety T.J. Ward.
  • Delhomme hit running back James Davis with a short crossing route that turned into a touchdown. Davis won the race with nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin, who somehow wound up in coverage and futilely chasing.
  • The offense struggled with clock management, as it was forced to call multiple timeouts to avoid penalties.
  • Delhomme was intercepted by Wright on a deep pass into heavy coverage in a two-minute drill.
  • Running back Chris Jennings fumbled in the hole, and Ward recovered.
  • Backup quarterback Seneca Wallace hit rookie receiver Johnathan Haggerty in the front of the end zone for a touchdown.
  • Backup safety Ray Ventrone intercepted a deep pass by Wallace intended for rookie Carlton Mitchell.

Extra points

  • Running back Peyton Hillis sat out the evening practice.
  • Mangini revealed rookie running back Montario Hardesty twisted his right knee last week. He will be re-evaluated in a couple of weeks.
  • A song with lyrics “Footwork” and “watch my feet” appropriately played while the linebackers and defensive backs ran agility drills through the bags.
  • ESPN arrived in a giant bus that travels around the country to training camps. Reporter Adam Schefter attended practice.

Day 3 at Browns camp

  • NEWS OF THE DAY: The Browns practiced twice, in shells in the morning and full pads in the evening. Offensive lineman Tony Pashos (flu) practiced for the first time in camp in the second session.
  • CAMPER OF THE DAY: Running back James Davis. He flashed the form that got the fans excited last year before he suffered a shoulder injury and missed the final 14 games. He showed great burst after turning the corner on a sweep, quickly bounced outside on another run and took a short pass the distance.
  • PLAY OF THE DAY: Cornerback Eric Wright stepped in front of a Jake Delhomme pass intended for tight end Evan Moore and might have gone for a touchdown. Moore did a quick hook on the outside and Wright jumped the route.
  • QUOTE OF THE DAY: “There’s no bad. There’s a bunch of people that are behind you. You can never have negative feelings for those people who are behind you, who want you to do well. There’s a lot of people out here supporting me.” — Receiver Brian Robiskie, a former Buckeye, on the love and attention he gets from Browns/OSU fans.
  • POINT OF INTEREST: Perhaps the most exciting drill of the camp occurred in the evening session as running backs and tight ends took on blitzing linebackers. Marcus Benard ran right past tight end Robert Royal, who wanted a second chance. Royal stoned him in the rematch, drawing screams from the offense and defense. The drill concluded with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan chest-bumping running backs coach Gary Brown.
  • TODAY’S SCHEDULE: Nothing open to the public. They will practice from 8:45-10:45 a.m. and 5:45-7:45 p.m. on Wednesday.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.