November 20, 2014

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Browns notes: Players glad to see training camp end

BEREA — Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden will be sleeping in his own bed, alongside his wife, for the first time in a month tonight.

Suffice to say, the rookie is very excited about the end of training camp — and checking out of the team hotel in Middleburg Heights.

“Man, I am more than ready for it,” Weeden said Wednesday. “I’m 28 and I’m married, and we’re staying in a hotel with bed check at 11. Even if I wanted to go to bed at 10, I can’t because I’m going to get woken up after an hour of sleep.

“I’m not going to miss that at all, but that’s just part of the ‘fun’ of training camp. I’m definitely looking forward to being in my own place.”

Weeden is far from the only Cleveland player counting the hours until he can turn in his room key this afternoon.

Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson has now completed seven training camps, but said being away from your house never gets easier.

“I can’t wait to get to my bed,” said Jackson, who also is 28. “Camp is camp, but for whatever reason mentally, when you break camp, just to be in your own bed and drink your own water, it gets you going for the season.”

Judging by the turnout throughout training camp, Browns fans are already jazzed up about 2012.

The team averaged 2,653 fans at the 14 practices that were open to the public in Berea, which was the highest mark since a turnstile count began in 2005. The previous best was 2,235 in 2008, while only 1,608 came out last season.

Cleveland’s total camp attendance was 56,548, including a crowd of 19,412 for Family Night at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Aug. 8. The latter event drew 12,354 in 2011.

The biggest crowd for practice at the team headquarters was a record-high 4,200 on July 29, which saw hundreds of fans lined up outside the gates, waiting for others to leave before the fire marshal would allow them inside. It broke the Berea-era mark of 3,673 set for a 2010 session.

To reward their loyal followers, every Browns player signed autographs at the end of their final morning practice.

“For the fans to be here to inspire the players, I think it is just outstanding,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “I’ve been a couple of places for practices (Philadelphia, St. Louis) and you don’t get near the turnout that we do here. I’m just a little disappointed they can’t see us do more work, but the season will be upon us quickly.”

Richardson news

Browns president Mike Holmgren told SportsTime Ohio — the franchise’s cable rightsholder — that rookie running back Trent Richardson “could be ready to play” in the regular season opener Sept. 9 against the Eagles.

Richardson, the No. 3 pick in the NFL Draft, underwent arthroscopic left knee surgery on Aug. 9 and was given a four-to-six week recovery period.

“He’s right on schedule,” Holmgren said. “He starts running in the swimming pool this week and should be back on the field doing some things in a week.

“But as a coaching staff, you have to be smart on how you do that. We can’t rush him back in before he’s ready.”

If Richardson can’t go in Week 1, Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson are likely to split carries.

“Trent should pay rent in the trainer’s room because he’s been living there for the last few weeks,” Weeden quipped. “But I know he’s busting his tail getting ready to play this season.”

Fond farewell

Former Browns left guard Eric Steinbach announced his retirement after a brief comeback attempt with the Dolphins.

Steinbach spent five years with Cleveland after signing as free agent in 2007, but missed all of last season after undergoing major back injury.

“I really enjoyed playing alongside Eric,” Browns left tackle Joe Thomas said. “He had four great seasons here as a starter. Eric had an outstanding career and I wish him and his family nothing but the best as he moves on to the next chapter of his life.”

Welcome back

Popular Browns broadcaster and WKYC-TV 3 sports director Jim Donovan is expected to be behind the mic for the remainder of the season.

The Medina County resident did not call Cleveland’s victory over Green Bay last week because of an illness. Donovan underwent a bone marrow transplant to treat leukemia in June 2011.

Albany, N.Y. sportscaster Andrew Catalon, who filled in for Donovan last preseason, also handled the play-by-play duties for the Packers game.

Next up

Philadelphia will start third-round pick Nick Foles at quarterback Friday against the Browns. Tickets are still available for the 7:30 p.m. game at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Eagles star Michael Vick suffered bruised ribs Monday in a 27-17 road win over the Patriots, leaving Foles and ex-Buffalo starter Trent Edwards as their only healthy quarterbacks.

Philadelphia coach Andy Reid said Vick will play in the season opener at Cleveland.

Extra points

Defensive end Emmanuel Stephens (left leg) practiced after missing one day, while defensive tackle John Hughes returned to full-squad drills. Rookie defensive tackle Billy Winn continued to work with the first team.

• Shurmur said the Browns would actively watch the waiver wire once NFL-wide cutdowns begin next week. “We’re always looking for ways to make our team better,” he said.

• Defensive end Frostee Rucker sat out Cleveland’s first two preseason games with a right knee injury, but said he hopes to convince Shurmur to let him play against the Eagles.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com

DAY 16 at BROWNS CAMP

NEWS OF THE DAY: On the last day of camp, a first stole the show.
Coach Pat Shurmur threw cornerback Joe Haden out of practice after he grabbed the jersey of receiver Travis Benjamin and took him to the ground after he caught a pass in the end zone. Shurmur is sensitive to injuries and thought Haden crossed the line.
Haden returned for the afternoon walkthrough and Shurmur declared the issue over.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s his car. He’s got the keys to the car. If he doesn’t want to wash his car when it’s dirty, don’t wash it. So he has the right to do whatever he wants. He’s the guy in charge.” — Cornerback Sheldon Brown on Shurmur booting Haden from practice.

POINT OF INTEREST: The fans starred throughout camp. A total of 37,136 attended 14 open sessions, an average of 2,653. Family Night at the stadium was also a big hit, drawing an additional 19,412.

WRAPUP: After nearly a month of camp, the players can take a breath. They leave the team-mandated hotel tonight and will resume a regular-season practice schedule after the preseason game Friday. After watching every practice, here are my takeaways from camp:

• TOP STORY — The sale of the Browns to Jimmy Haslam III, pending league approval. Randy Lerner wanted out after nearly 10 years in control and agreed to a $1 billion deal.

• MVP — Tight end Jordan Cameron. In his second season, he made several catches downfield. He’s being counted on to contribute when the season starts.

• COMEBACK PLAYER — Running back Montario Hardesty. The burst was back, and so is Hardesty. He seized the opportunity after Trent Richardson’s injury, looking healthy and driven.

• NO. 1 ROOKIE — Quarterback Brandon Weeden. After an uneven start, he settled in and finished strong. He zipped several passes into the end zone Wednesday in red zone drills, and the starting job isn’t too big for him.

•  NO. 2 ROOKIE — Receiver Travis Benjamin. The fourth-rounder missed almost a week with minor injuries, but was solid before and after. Most impressive was his ability to make catches downfield and in traffic. That’s not easy for a guy 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds.

• PLEASANT SURPRISE — Safety David Sims. He finished last year on the practice squad and could be in line for a promotion. He has two interceptions in two preseason games and multiple others in practice.

• BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT — Richardson’s knee injury. The No. 3 pick looked strong until he wound up on the bike one day with swelling. Arthroscopic surgery soon followed and he’s a question mark for the regular-season opener.

— Scott Petrak