November 23, 2014

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Browns notes: Full pads puts focus on running backs

BEREA — With players in pads for the first time, the run game was the focus of practice Sunday. Rookie Trent Richardson was the featured performer, but he shared the spotlight with fellow running back Montario Hardesty.

Richardson, the No. 3 pick in the draft, got the first carry in the first 11-on-11 run drill and was thrown to the ground by veteran defensive tackle Brian Schaefering after a small gain. Later he found a hole and made a good move to get through it to pick up a chunk of yards. He then took a screen pass and made several defenders miss downfield, drawing a big cheer from the crowd.

Richardson was glad to put the pads on for the first time as a Brown.

“It felt good. I love contact and football’s a contact sport,” he said. “So if you don’t love contact, then you’re in the wrong sport.”

Richardson’s skills are obvious in any practice on any football field, but they truly shine when there are pads and the hitting intensifies.

“I really get to do what I do best,” he said. “I get to bounce off guys, get to try to run guys over, break tackles or whatever. I think when I get in full pads, it’s a whole ‘nother me. But not to be cocky or nothing, that’s just my confidence in my game and that’s just what I’m blessed with.”

After a series of injuries that limited him to 88 carries in his two seasons, Hardesty finally looks healthy. The quickness that made him a second-round pick in 2010 was on display.

“This is the best I’ve felt since I’ve been here,” he said. “This might be the best I’ve ever felt. I just want to make sure I continue to keep it like that and just continue to come out here and show up every day and once we hit the games show up every day.”

Hardesty burst through the hole on multiple runs off left guard and bounced another outside for a big gain.

“That’s as quick as I’ve seen him and that was as good as I’ve seen Montario look,” coach Pat Shurmur said.

Coming home

Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown told the Plain Dealer he will attend alumni weekend Sept. 22-23. Clarence Scott and Ernie Green will be inducted into the Cleveland Browns Legends.

“I’ll be there to support Ernie,” Brown said.

The induction is at halftime of the Bills game.

Brown has been estranged from the Browns since Mike Holmgren came in as president in 2010 and reduced his role. Brown was an adviser to owner Randy Lerner.

Brown refused to attend his induction into the team’s Ring of Honor.

Role play

Shurmur is glad Joshua Cribbs reported for camp at 210 pounds, 12 lighter than last season.

“As you become a player on the back nine of your career, I think it really helps you to not carry extra weight, if you’re a skill player,” Shurmur said. “So I think I expressed that to him.”

Cribbs, 29, is expected to return and cover kicks this season and see less time at receiver.

“He’s a special teams player,” Shurmur said.

Extra points

Veteran Oniel Cousins worked at right tackle with the starters Friday and Sunday. Rookie second-rounder Mitchell Schwartz got the honor Saturday.

“We’re competing those two guys right now and you cannot make a full evaluation of a player, especially upfront, until they put the pads on and bang around,” said Shurmur, who said he expects Schwartz to win the job.

• Rookie seventh-round cornerback Trevin Wade practiced after missing a day with an injury. Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, tight end Evan Moore, receiver Carlton Mitchell and fullback Eddie Williams didn’t practice again.

• Defensive back James Dockery made a nice interception on a jump ball with receiver Travis Benjamin. Colt McCoy threw the pass.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Lerner to keep 30 percent

BEREA — Owner Randy Lerner will initially keep 30 percent of the Browns in the impending sale to Tennessee businessman Jimmy Haslam, Jim Donovan reported.

Donovan, an anchor on WKYC-3 and the play-by-play voice of the Browns, reported Haslam would start with 70 percent and have the option to buy more of the team later. A reason for Lerner keeping such a sizable stake is the amount of debt incurred in money paid to coaches and general managers no longer with the team. Most of the deals go off the books after this season, Donovan reported.

Forbes reported the sale price will be $920 million. That would most likely be the total value of the club, so Haslam’s ownership group would pay $644 million for the 70 percent. Forbes reported Lerner was seeking at least $1 billion.

DAY 3 AT BROWNS CAMP

NEWS OF THE DAY: The players were in full pads for the first time in camp, and a record crowd got up early to see the collisions and hear the pads pop.

The team announced a crowd of 4,200, the highest since it began keeping track in 2005, surpassing 3,673 for the first session of 2010. Even more impressive is that only 3,000 are allowed into practice at a time, so plenty had to wait for someone to leave to get in.

“My favorite day of the year, other than gameday of course, is the first day of pads, and I wasn’t disappointed,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “I thought there was good banging out there.”

CAMPER OF THE DAY: Running back Montario Hardesty. He may have had his best practice in two-plus years as a Brown. With the running game a focus on the first day with pads, Hardesty took advantage by repeatedly flashing his quickness. He’s healthy after two years of injuries, and it showed.

PLAY OF THE DAY: Quarterback Brandon Weeden thought he had receiver Mohamed Massaquoi open streaking down the left seam. But Massaquoi drifted slightly to the outside, allowing safety Eric Hagg to undercut the route and make a leaping interception. Weeden said he should’ve thrown it more to the outside, but assistant coach Nolan Cromwell blamed the route.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s a contact sport and I love contact. So when it comes down to it, you’ve got to expect that, especially when you’re the first pick of the draft and you’re for the Cleveland Browns. There’s a lot of tradition here as far as running backs, just the whole football program. Defenses, they’re always turned up, so when you’re getting checked by them every time, it’s going to make you better on gameday.” — Rookie running back Trent Richardson on taking extra shots from the veteran defenders.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE: 8:45-11:15 a.m. The second practice of camp in pads, and open to the public. Hotline number: (877) 627-6967.