November 20, 2014

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Browns Notes: GM Michael Lombardi likes progress made by QB Brandon Weeden, WR Josh Gordon

BEREA – General manager Michael Lombardi spoke mostly in generalities and didn’t divulge any secrets Wednesday in nine minutes with reporters, but he was complimentary of quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Josh Gordon.
He didn’t lavish them with praise, but was more positive than when they were drafted last season by his predecessor, Tom Heckert. As an analyst for NFL Network, Lombardi called the pick of Weeden a “panicked disaster” and referred to Gordon as “a wasted pick.”
“I think everybody that practices football has really good days and they have some bad days and I think everything’s a learning experience and I think he clearly has proven in the offseason that he’s gotten better at everything they’ve asked him to do,” Lombardi said of Weeden in his first meeting with the media since May.
Gordon will serve a two-game suspension to start the season, but Lombardi hasn’t given up on him.
“I’m excited to see Josh’s development as a player,” he said. “I think he’s shown this offseason with a great attitude and I’m looking forward to being a part of that. I think he’s got to demonstrate that what he’s done is continue on. I think that’s what he wants to do. He wants to be a good player.”
What about the perception that Gordon loafs during practice?
“I think Josh, like a lot of players, has come out here to try to get better every single day and I think that’s been really important,” Lombardi said.
He and CEO Joe Banner brought in veteran Jason Campbell as a backup and to push Weeden. Weeden has taken every snap with the first-team offense throughout the offseason and training camp.
“Jason’s an experienced player and we felt like before we signed him, Coach Chud (Rob Chudzinski), Joe and everybody in the organization felt like that experience could certainly help an organization,” Lombardi said. “He’s come in here, worked hard, he knows the system, he’s getting better with every single rep.”
Lombardi raved about Brian Hoyer during his gig with NFL Network and when Hoyer became a free agent, the Browns signed him May 17. He’s third on the depth chart but could push Campbell.
“Brian’s a guy who’s been in the league,” Lombardi said. “He hasn’t played a lot, but is experienced in terms of being around it, he works hard and he’s a competitive kid. So it was an opportunity to add somebody to keep improving in that area and give him an opportunity.”
Does Lombardi view this as a quarterback competition?
“My job is to evaluate the players, Chud’s job is to coach the team and handle all that,” he said. “So I think that’s really important for him.”

INJURY REPORT
Gordon sat out practice after leaving Monday with patellar tendinitis. Chudzinski said he didn’t need an MRI and expects him back within the next couple of days.
** Chudzinski said offensive lineman Ryan Miller, who suffered a concussion Saturday, was still in the concussion protocol. He’s allowed to attend meetings but hasn’t.
** Strong safety T.J. Ward was limited.
“He has a little bit of a hamstring, but nothing too bad,” Chudzinski said.
Josh Aubrey took some of his repetitions with the first-team defense.
** Running back Montario Hardesty returned and participated in team drills.
** Defensive end Desmond Bryant (back spasms) and rookie safety Jamoris Slaughter (hamstring) returned but were limited to individual drills.
** Safety Tashaun Gipson (shoulder), backup offensive tackle Oniel Cousins (ankle), fullback Brock Bolen (calf) and rookie offensive lineman Chris Faulk (knee) didn’t practice.

MORE LOMBARDI
Lombardi touched on several other areas.
** Rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, the No. 6 pick.
“Mingo is a lot like he was at LSU, he plays hard, he’s kind of symbolic of what we’re trying to acquire here, players in terms of plays hard, plays with passion, athletic, can run,” Lombardi said. “And obviously he has a long way to go to learn his craft as a player.”
** There isn’t a rookie among the starters on the current depth chart. Would it be a disappointment if no one from his first draft class with the Browns started this year?
“Their play time is more important to me than who gets introduced,” he said. “But I think as we build this team, I think you’ll see players play, and the younger players will play and grow, and I think that’s really more important.”
** Center Alex Mack, who could be next in line for a contract extension.
“Alex certainly has proven that he’s a good player on and off the field,” Lombardi said. “I think he stands for that and I think he has the ability to continue to play well. So he certainly fits the profile.”

A FAN OF TRENT
Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, an analyst on NFL Network, visited with running back Trent Richardson after practice. Faulk was impressed when Richardson came back from preseason knee surgery to start Week 1 as a rookie last season.
“The position is one as such that’s it’s not about how healthy you are,” Faulk said. “It’s how unhealthy you can play at times, and that’s what being reliable at the position is.
“He’s thirsty to not just get yards and be a good player, but he wants to be great and he wants to win. And those are the things that tend to help organizations change the culture that puts a bad taste in fans’ mouths, in players’ mouths when they come in here. He understands what needs to happen in order for him to be great. It’s in him to be great. He wants it.”

HASLAM ON MOUND
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam better loosen up his throwing arm. He’s scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the Lake Erie Crushers game Friday night at 7 o’clock at All Pro Freight Stadium.
“I hope they give me an easy throw,” Haslam said after practice, which he watched for the first time since opening day Thursday.
It’s Browns vs. Steelers night at the Crushers game, and fans will receive $1 off admission if they wear their favorite team’s apparel. The Crushers are a member of the independent Frontier League.
Haslam was a minority owner of the Steelers before buying the Browns last year. He is CEO of Pilot Flying J, which has a travel center down the street from All Pro Freight Stadium.

FIELD REPORT
Safety Johnson Bademosi, filling in for Gipson with the starters, collided with cornerback Chris Owens but still intercepted a Weeden pass on the goal line intended for receiver Travis Benjamin.
** Weeden and Benjamin recovered with a gorgeous 50-yard post-corner route for a touchdown behind Aubrey.
** Phil Taylor deflected a Weeden pass at the line of scrimmage, which has been a rare occurrence after a rash of tipped balls last year.

EXTRA POINTS
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be at Browns headquarters this afternoon for a youth clinic that focuses on the fundamentals of tackling. He’s scheduled to meet with the media at 4 p.m.
** Single-game tickets for the home opener vs. the Dolphins sold out Tuesday in 28 minutes. The Steelers game was next. Tickets for those games are only available through package plans or season tickets.
** SiriusXM NFL Radio will visit camp today and broadcast live from 3-7 p.m. Former NFL defensive lineman Tim Ryan and former NFL front office executive Pat Kirwan will host the show.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.