Behind the Spin

As with all NFL teams, Berea has been talking in glowing terms about their top draft picks in 2003. And why not? With the team jettisoning Dave Wohlabaugh and all three starting linebackers, the Browns and their fans hope that Jeff Faine and Chaun Thompson will be able to step in quickly. <P>But is it genuine excitement or just spin we're hearing? Lane Adkins finds out...

The hoopla surrounding the Browns quarterback school and mini-camps was about the quarterback situation. Who was throwing the ball better... what quarterback looked better than the other.... one quarterback threw passes that wobbled... the other was throwing interceptions.

And so on.

What was almost forgotten was the play and growth of the seven rookie players the team selected in the 2003 NFL College player draft.

From the Browns first selection Jeff Faine, the aggressive center from Notre Dame, to Antonio Garay, the high-motor defensive lineman from Boston College picked in the sixth-round of the draft, they were all on the field, and in some cases taking their lumps learning the pro-game.

The team likes to issue statements to the press and, naturally, tries to create the most positive spin that it can. Sometimes it is difficult to poke through the PR to get at what members of the organization are really thinking.

We have had the opportunity to speak anonymously (unfortunately, we have to go this route, but some guys like it this way, so we let them twist our collective arms at BerniesInsiders) with a high-ranking official from the organization to gain some insight on the growth and performance of the Browns top-two rookies selected in the 2003 draft. What we are finding, even under the cover of anonymity, is that there is genuine excitement in the halls of Berea about the team's top selections.

"Jeff Faine will compete for the starting center spot on the offensive line. What he brings is a tremendous work ethic, great knowledge of the game, and he is very technically sound. He'll definitely provide us with a push and consistent presence within the interior of our offensive line," the team official said. "Furthermore, from what we saw on film to what we have viewed of him in the weight-room and on the field, we believe that we got a steal of a player with the 21st selection in the draft."

When the Browns selected Chaun Thompson, a linebacker from West Texas A&M, many fans (the ones who hadn't been reading, at least) wondered who he was. Coming from a small school, Thompson was touted to be a player with tremendous speed and quickness, but one who had played against weak competition in college.

"Chaun (Thompson) has come a long way in the short time that he has been here. His athletic skills are just huge, there is not anything physically on the field that he can not do. From rushing the quarterback to covering a back or tight-end in coverage, he has the speed to do it," the official said. "Now, getting him to work instinctively within the defensive scheme will be his toughest challenge. Getting a young player to react rather than having to think every play through is what separates the best from the average player, or a player that does not make it in the game."

"In the case of Chaun, he is in that learning period. There will be a time when the game comes to him and when it does he can be something special."

Obviously, the Browns are high on the athletic talent of Thompson and his college coach at West Texas A&M had a few words about his popular pupil as well:

"Chaun will be as good as he wants to be. He is the best athlete that I ever have coached, and he has grown to be a very good young man," Ronnie Jones said. "He takes coaching well, wants to learn, and has the fire inside for greatness. If he were at a bigger school that received national recognition, he would have easily been a first round draft pick."

The Browns believe that Thompson will be the real deal.

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