BEREA — Quarterback Colt McCoy was under center for the first snap of every team drill Tuesday at the opening practice of organized team activities. How long he stays in that role is the hottest topic involving the Browns.
The latest Cleveland quarterback competition features McCoy as the underdog to hold onto the starting job he held in 2011. The Browns used the No. 22 pick in the draft on Brandon Weeden, and general manager Tom Heckert said Monday he “fully expects” the 28-year-old rookie to win the job.
McCoy just wants a chance to compete.
“If it’s a fair competition, then that’s all you can ask for,” he said in his first interview since the end of the 2011 season.
Has he asked to be traded?
“No, because they told me I had a chance to compete,” McCoy said.
Will he ask for a trade if Weeden’s named the starter?
“I don’t really deal with hypotheticals,” he said.
Heckert said coach Pat Shurmur will decide who starts the season Sept. 9 against Philadelphia. Heckert, Shurmur and president Mike Holmgren have stressed that the best player will start, but Heckert reiterated Monday that he drafted Weeden to play and expects him to win the job.
“I can only go by what they tell me,” McCoy said. “The only thing they’ve really told me right now is, ‘You can compete for the job.’ That’s the only thing I think about. I kind of regard this as a day-by-day thing.”
McCoy is 6-15 as the starter in two years, including 4-9 last year before suffering a season-ending concussion on a hit from Pittsburgh’s James Harrison. He said he feels “really good” and hasn’t had any lingering symptoms.
But his offseason wasn’t without its difficulties.
The Browns failed in an attempt to trade for Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, then spent the next few weeks talking up McCoy as a legitimate starter if surrounded by better talent. On draft night, the rug was pulled out from under him.
“It is what it is,” McCoy said. “It happened and I’ve just got to go out and play. I mean, just go compete. Amidst some difficulties as a quarterback, you’ve got to be able to thrive in those situations.”
On the day after the Browns picked Weeden, ESPN reported the team had told McCoy it wouldn’t take a quarterback in the first round. Holmgren and Shurmur have adamantly denied it, while McCoy sidestepped the question Tuesday.
“I don’t want to get into the ‘he said, she said’ stuff,” he said. “All I know is that I’m here, I’m excited to be here and we had a great first day of OTAs.”
McCoy took the first few snaps with the starters during each 11-on-11 period, then was replaced by Weeden. Veteran backup Seneca Wallace, also in the competition, was third in the rotation.
Weeden is 6-foot-3, about 2 inches taller than McCoy, and has a stronger arm. He threw a dart to fourth-round rookie receiver Travis Benjamin on an out, zipped in a comeback route to Carlton Mitchell in traffic, missed a couple of outs and was almost intercepted.
McCoy made a nice throw down the seam to receiver Greg Little and threw a bad interception to linebacker Chris Gocong.
“They practiced fast and they made some good throws, although there were some errors in there,” Shurmur said.
The Redskins have already named Griffin, the No. 2 pick, the starter, but Weeden isn’t jealous.
“I want to go out and win the job,” he said. “I want to continue to compete to earn the job.”
From the coach to the competitors to the teammates, everyone insisted the quarterback competition won’t become a destructive distraction.
“I have a room full of quarterbacks that are great competitors and very fine players,” Shurmur said. “The room is fine, it’s fine.”
“I don’t want there to be any distraction as far as am I the quarterback or is Brandon the quarterback,” McCoy said. “I want it to be about, hopefully the best person will play.”
“The great thing about this team, this staff, I feel like we’re mature enough to understand that this is a business,” tight end Benjamin Watson said. “I just mean we’re all here to compete. There’s no split in the locker room, there’s no different camps.
There’s none of that stuff going on.”
McCoy completed 57 percent of his passes in 2011 with 14 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 74.6 rating. He was hurt by the lack of a consistent running game and a receiving corps that led the league in dropped passes.
“You can’t make any excuses,” he said. “This is the card that’s been dealt.
“One of my favorite quotes by the Navy SEALs is, ‘The only easy day was yesterday.’ That’s just kind of how I have to live right now.”
McCoy said proving himself is nothing new.
“I had to earn my job at (Texas) every year basically except for my senior year,” he said. “I had to earn my job in high school. My dad (the coach) didn’t start me when I was a freshman. I understand the idea.
“I don’t want this to be a situation where it’s me vs. him or him vs. me. I want it to be a situation of, and I think we can all agree to this, let’s help our team the most. Let’s make it about the Cleveland Browns being a great football team next year. And if that’s the case, I’m all in.”