BEREA — Veteran quarterbacks Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen have three days to impress the Browns and earn a contract and an extended stay. Coach Mike Pettine expects one or both to do just that.
“I would think that we would sign at least one coming out of this camp,” he said Tuesday after the first practice of his first three-day minicamp.
Young and Thigpen, who are on tryouts, took turns with Brian Hoyer and Alex Tanney. Young hasn’t been on a regular-season roster since 2011 and Thigpen since 2012, but neither is ready to give up on his NFL dream.
“The fire is lit always,” Young said. “One thing a lot of people don’t know, I love this game so much.
“I’m just happy to be here and just happy for the opportunity. I’m just going to make the best of it and hopefully I get an opportunity to make the team.”
Young, the No. 3 pick in the 2006 draft, is 31-19 as a starter with 46 touchdowns and 51 interceptions. He has some familiarity with coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s system and said his primary goal this week is to learn the playbook and terminology.
Receiver Josh Gordon grew up in Houston as did Young, and Gordon’s mom taught Young in elementary school.
“We looked up to him,” Gordon said. “He was one of the best guys out of the city.
“He’s still got it.”
Pettine said Young still has a presence, which comes with a history of success and a 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame. Young’s relationship with quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains from five years together with the Titans helped earn him a chance in Cleveland.
“Dowell is somebody I lean on heavily and I know a lot of guys have made the most of getting repeat chances in this league, and we’re hoping that that’s something that can happen for Vince,” Pettine said. “He’s a quality person and he’s won some games in this league, and I was happy that we were able to give him the opportunity.”
Thigpen has a much smaller resume, going 1-11 as a starter. He was with Buffalo in 2012, then waited for a chance last year that didn’t come.
“I was going to at least give it two years being out of ball before I retire and then going into this, I was going to train all the way up until August,” he said. “But right now, this opportunity is presenting itself. It’s a great opportunity.”
Thigpen has a history with general manager Ray Farmer from their days with the Chiefs.
“I didn’t come here just to be an arm,” Thigpen said. “I definitely came here to earn a job.”
FOR AN ENCORE
Gordon led the NFL last year with 1,646 receiving yards in his second season, then played in his first Pro Bowl and made his first All-Pro team.
“I think you can always top it,” he said. “There’s no peak to potential.
“I just want to go out there and be the best, just be the best wide receiver hands-down, just say there’s nobody else that came close or did it better than him.”
Gordon took advantage of his newfound celebrity, appearing on NFL Network and ESPN during the offseason.
“It was good. It was exciting,” he said. “I got to do a lot of things for the first time — travel around a bunch, just enjoying what comes with it when you do well on the field.”
Pettine played against Gordon last year as defensive coordinator with the Bills and was glad to see Gordon on his side Tuesday.
“A credit to Josh, he’s been here, he’s worked hard, he’s really gotten after it in the meeting room and on the field as well,” Pettine said. “He’s got a lot to learn. It’s a new system, but he’s been very open to coaching, to hard coaching, and I think that will show up in the fall in his play.”
Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, a second-round pick in 2012, received a lot of criticism for his play last year and some have suggested the Browns use the No. 4 pick in the draft to select Auburn’s Greg Robinson or Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews to replace Schwartz.
But Pettine gave him a vote of confidence.
“Mitchell’s a guy that we were happy with what he put on tape last year,” Pettine said. “We’ll potentially address it in the draft, but I don’t really see tackle right now as a position of need.”
Pettine said Schwartz will be at tackle throughout the three-day minicamp but could spend some time at guard at some point. Schwartz said no one’s said anything to him about trying guard.
Five players who ended the year on injured reserve returned to practice: Hoyer (torn anterior cruciate ligament), running back Dion Lewis (broken leg), offensive lineman Chris Faulk (knee surgery), outside linebacker Quentin Groves (ankle) and strong safety Josh Aubrey (ankle).
Receiver Travis Benjamin (ACL) worked on the side with trainers, along with receiver Charles Johnson (ACL), linebackers Brandon Magee (pectoral) and Tank Carder and defensive back Brandon Hughes. Pettine said Benjamin’s rehab is on schedule, but he’ll likely be kept out of practice until training camp in July to strengthen the knee.
Pettine said Faulk has no limitations and will start the offseason at guard.
“He’s a guy that we were very much looking forward to this camp, kind of getting him out there and testing that knee and seeing what he can do,” Pettine said.
** Defensive lineman Desmond Bryant was the only player not in attendance, and Pettine said it was for personal reasons. The minicamp is voluntary.
Bryant missed the last four games of last season with an irregular heartbeat but had surgery to correct it.
A GOOD DAY
Pettine was excited about his first practice as an NFL head coach.
“Enjoyed it,” he said. “It was a long time coming getting hired in January and just had this date circled. It was a special one and I thought the guys responded.
“I thought coaching-wise we did a real good job with the organization part of it and the players were great. Great effort, flew around, made some mistakes, but very natural for it being the first day and I like to say we’ll have a lot of coaching moments on the videotape.”
Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron declined to talk about negotiations for a contract extension. His rookie contract expires after 2014, and ESPNCleveland.com reported he rejected two offers from the Browns for a long-term deal.
“That’s business stuff,” he said. “I can’t think about that. I’ve got the season to play and my business people handle that. I can’t really say anything about it. I’ve got to play hard and really focus on this right now.”
** Eight-year linebacker Zac Diles (6-0, 245) is in camp on a tryout basis. He played one game for the Titans last season. He’s played 69 games with 31 starts, totaling 172 tackles and a sack.