AKRON — Browns coach Pat Shurmur described his life during the NFL lockout as a “head-up, knees-bent” situation.
Shurmur has told numerous players countless times over the years to keep their head up and knees bent. It means be in a physical position that allows you to adjust to whatever comes your way.
Shurmur has been forced to heed his own advice – mentally. In his first time as a head coach, the lockout has denied him the opportunity to lead his team. He wasn’t able to hold an offseason workout program and had to cancel multiple minicamps and organized team activities.
Because he’s forbidden by league rules from even talking to his players, he’s spent more time with fans, team alumni and reporters than the men he’ll coach.
“We’re going to react and respond to what happens,” Shurmur said Tuesday during the Browns Foundation golf outing at Firestone Country Club. “I think that’s part of playing football and that’s part of what makes this a great game.”
Shurmur said the coaching staff is working as if it’s a normal offseason. Many teams across the league have mandated pay cuts or furloughs throughout the organizations, but Shurmur said the Browns haven’t “to the best of my knowledge.”
General manager Tom Heckert said the front office continues to work, “but it’s just different without the players around.” He said the Browns are better prepared for free agency because of the long delay.
“We’ve been going back and forth through all the lists,” Heckert said. “When it happens, we’ll be ready.
“We’re not going to be gung-ho. There’s a couple free agents that we’re interested in and it’s so hard right now because you don’t know if they’re really going to go back to their team.”
With the Browns allowing starting safety Abram Elam to become a free agent, there’s a spot open next to T.J. Ward, which would seem like a priority in free agency.
“Right now, Mike Adams is penciled in as a guy who’s going to play almost all safety for us but we’ll see,” Heckert said. “There’s a few guys in free agency and we’ll see what happens with the undrafted rookies, so we still have a couple of options out there.”
Some observers believe the Browns should sign a veteran receiver to help third-year guys Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie and rookie Greg Little. Former New York Giant Plaxico Burress is on the market after leaving prison Monday after serving nearly two years on a gun charge.
“I can’t talk about Plaxico but anybody in that situation, obviously there’d have to be a workout and all of that stuff just to see how it is,” Heckert said. “You have to see if you think he’s ready or not.”
Shurmur and Burress played at Michigan State, and Shurmur was asked if he would like to add a veteran wideout.
“I feel like we’ve got some veteran receivers,” he said. “Although they’re younger, they’ve played NFL seasons, so I’m looking forward to working with the guys that we have.”
Does he care about the baggage that some free agents would bring?
“In terms of character issues, I think you’re always trying to find guys that are good citizens,” Shurmur said.
Heckert spent a little time answering questions about quarterbacks. He was quick to dismiss a report that the Browns were interested in trading for one, likely Philadelphia’s Kevin Kolb.
“We’re not trading for a quarterback,” Heckert said.
He added the Browns will talk to veteran Jake Delhomme when the lockout’s over. He’s under contract but will likely have to take a significant pay cut to return as a backup to Colt McCoy.
“Whenever the thing opens up, we’ll sit down with Jake and talk to him and decide what’s the best for him and for our organization,” Heckert said.
McCoy reportedly will hold a third session of workouts with offensive teammates this week in Texas.
“It’s more of a leadership thing and a chance for those guys to get together and work together,” Heckert said. “How much they’re actually going to learn football-wise, that’s debatable, but I do think it’s healthy.”
Shurmur had the offseason schedule set months ago, but has had to revise it repeatedly. The final offseason practices would normally be held in mid-June, so it looks like Shurmur won’t see his team on the field until training camp in late July — if the lockout’s resolved. He said his training camp schedule wouldn’t be affected by the lack of offseason workouts.
The six-week break between minicamps and training camp is the traditional time for coaches to go on vacation. That’s still the plan, but it’s subject to change.
“There’s going to be vacation, but don’t be spending a lot of money, putting it down on houses and don’t go out of the country because we might be back,” Heckert said.
“Really be ready to reappear here if something changes,” Shurmur said.
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