BEREA — Quarterback Brian Hoyer saw an increase in repetitions Tuesday during 11-on-11 drills, feels completely healthy and remains on schedule to enter training camp without restrictions.
It still pains him that rookie Johnny Manziel and journeyman Tyler Thigpen are taking his snaps as the coaching and medical staffs continue to proceed with caution to protect Hoyer’s surgically repaired right knee.
“You never want to see someone else doing your job,” Hoyer said after an OTA practice. “That’s the biggest thing for me. I feel I’m ready.
“I know they emphasized it’s the best thing in my interest and for the team, but as the competitor in me I want to be out there with my guys, calling the plays and running them. I understand what’s at stake. I’m not stupid. I don’t want to get hurt here and not even be in training camp. I also know how much it means to be taking these reps right now.”
Coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who’s installing a new system, said the competition for the starting job between incumbent Hoyer and first-round pick Manziel won’t truly begin until training camp. That hasn’t stopped Hoyer from putting all his time and energy into the offseason program.
“It’s always in the back of my mind and that’s why I push myself as hard as I can to be as ready as I can,” Hoyer said of winning the job. “I know what’s at stake and I think he does too. I’ve always felt like this was my team when I took over last year and I don’t feel any differently now. I push myself to the limit, I study as best as I can and I practice as hard as I can.”
Hoyer has moved around well in the OTAs and thrown a number of good deep balls during passing and seven-on-seven drills. His time in the team drills has been limited to a series or two out of the pistol formation with no pass rush — to avoid incidental contact to the knee.
He’s frustrated because he doesn’t have as many chances as he’d like to learn Shanahan’s offense under fire. He’d like to work the kinks out in OTAs rather than training camp.
Coach Mike Pettine said he’ll have a meeting with the medical staff to discuss removing restrictions for Hoyer for mandatory minicamp next week but is leaning toward playing it safe. Hoyer’s resigned to the idea he’ll still be under the watchful eye of overprotective coaches.
“They’re probably sick of me just trying to beg them to let me do it, but at this point, I see it’s not worth the risk,” he said. “We’re so close to training camp and to have a month off to keep getting strength in my leg, we’ve played it safe and it’s gotten better.”
While Manziel was the talk of the town for his Memorial Day weekend trip to Las Vegas, Hoyer was also soaking in the sun. Just a little closer to home.
“I was at the pool with my family,” he said.
JOHNNY BAD AND GOOD
Manziel had and up-and-down practice. He threw three interceptions early but finished with a nice deep throw late to tight end Jordan Cameron and a drive down the field.
Manziel followed a beautiful deep throw by Hoyer early by missing Josh Gordon on a similar route. He was then picked by Robert Nelson in a passing drill and safety Donte Whitner and cornerback Joe Haden in team drills.
“I know at least one of them was a result of the wrong route,” Pettine said. “I know one of them was the result of a misread.”
The highlight was a completion of about 30 yards to Cameron. Manziel rolled right, stopped and threw back down the left sideline for Cameron, who beat linebacker Craig Robertson and nose tackle Ishmaa’ily Kitchen.
“He’s an exciting guy,” Cameron said. “He’ll make plays out of nothing and I guess that was one of them. We’ve been kind of connecting on that the last week. It was a great throw. He put it exactly where he needed to put it.
“It got people going a little. It was exciting. I know guys reacted. That’s what he does. He makes people react. It’s an emotional thing when they watch him play. He brings a lot of energy and that’s his game.”
STEP FOR STEP
Yes, it was Kitchen running downfield with Cameron, an athletic tight end who made the Pro Bowl last year. Kitchen is 330 pounds, Cameron 249.
“The first thing I asked was, ‘What the hell coverage were we in?’” Pettine said. “I think he just sensed the play coming because we had been burned on it a couple times in practice. He just latched on him and started running. That was actually pretty funny.”
Cameron said there was a reason he didn’t separate from Kitchen.
“He was grabbing my jersey,” he said. “He gave a little tug. But he was moving for how big that guy is. That was pretty impressive.”
GILBERT ON BIKE
Rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert, the No. 8 pick, missed the end of a practice last week after he limped to the sideline and had his right knee wrapped.
“I got kicked in the knee and it kind of went dead on me,” he said. “It scared me more than anything, but I’m fine.”
He said he practiced Friday and Monday, but he sat out Tuesday. He rode the stationary bike a long time.
“I strained something, but I should be back Thursday,” he said, declining to reveal the muscle in question.
Gilbert is expected to win a starting job on defense, but he also wants to contribute as a kick returner. He returned kicks for four years at Oklahoma State, and special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said last week he’s in a large group of candidates for the job.
“It’s something I love doing,” Gilbert said. “There is nothing like taking one to the house. I tell a couple of my teammates, ‘It’s like your mama’s cookin’, it’s finger-lickin’ good.’”
Gilbert will join Manziel tonight at Progressive Field to throw out the first pitches before the Indians-Red Sox game. Gilbert said he was a good pitcher in his younger days.
“I told a couple of people that I was going to throw a 12-6 curveball,” he said. “I might be a little bit rusty, so I might just float it in there.”
Receiver Nate Burleson said the cast on his left forearm will be removed this week and he’ll be ready for training camp in July. Burleson watched some of practice, then ran sprints on a hill.
He reinjured the arm during an offseason practice.
“It just got banged up,” he said. “I had some plate in there. Kind of rebuilt like Robocop. The good news is the plan is to play 16-plus games. It’s going to happen.”
- Veteran receiver Miles Austin did individual drills for the first time since joining the Browns last month. The team’s easing him into the routine as he gets into shape.
- Rookie guard Joel Bitonio, the No. 35 pick, walked off the field with a trainer and didn’t return to practice.
- Defensive linemen Ahtyba Rubin and Desmond Bryant and inside linebacker Karlos Dansby returned to practice after missing time last week.
- Left tackle Joe Thomas watched practice for the second straight week in the session open to the media.
- Defensive lineman Billy Winn and offensive lineman Chris Faulk weren’t on the field for practice.
- Receivers Travis Benjamin and Charles Johnson, running backs Dion Lewis and Isaiah Crowell and linebacker Tank Carder were among those who worked on the side with trainers.
- Pettine said all the injured should be ready for the start of training camp in July.
- An intruder tried to walk on the field and was removed.
- Benjamin and Johnson have switched numbers. Benjamin is No. 11 and Johnson 80.
- Running back Ben Tate, who threw out the first pitch at the Indians game, went to Twitter to give away 44 (his number) tickets to the game.