Thursday Morning Practice Report

David Carducci brings us the first look at the last rookie practice (still sans draft picks). Even with the marquee youngsters unavailable, there were some interesting highlights from this morning's practice. <B>NOTE:</B> David will not be able to make tonight's Browns Uncensored chat. We will be rescheduling for Sunday or Monday.

BEREA - Butch Davis left the practice field after his third straight day without the participation of this year's draft class Thursday, but guessed there would be at least a few signings by the time the Cleveland Browns veterans report Friday afternoon.

"I wish I had something positive to report on as far as the rookie signings," Davis said after the day's only practice wrapped just after 10 a.m.. "I don't really know. We started practice and we came out here before we had a chance to visit with any of our people in personnel. So, as of now there is no update. Hopefully later on this afternoon we'll get a chance to go up there and find out exactly what the update is and where we stand.

"I'm still optimistic that before we practice tomorrow afternoon, we'll get some of hopefully close to all of them done by tomorrow afternoon."

Of the draft picks, Davis hinted on Wednesday that first-round pick Jeff Faine may be the first to sign. On Thursday, the coach hinted that he may get impatient with rookies like Faine if they hold out for too long.

"As the veterans start to report, these rookies are going to get a sense that if they are going to be a part of the team, they need to get here," said Davis. "They are not helping themselves, and they certainly are not helping the Cleveland Browns. If the rookies don't show, we are more than prepared to make changes as we need to the starting lineup.

"Shaun O'Hara has started ballgames at center, and we feel very, very comfortable that he could go in there and do the job. Melvin Fowler has obviously been a center, so we could make the necessary adjustments if we had to."

The Browns are the only NFL team currently in training camp without at least one of their draft picks signed. As of Thursday morning, all of the Colts and Redskins picks remained unsigned, but those teams do not report to camp until the weekend.

MAKING THE MOST OF AN OPPORTUNITY While Faine, Chaun Thompson, Chris Crocker, Lee Suggs, Ryan Pontbriand, Michael Lehan and Antonio Garay stayed home, several undrafted rookie free agents took advantage of the three days of work.

No player helped his status more than former cornerback Leigh Bodden, who again shined Thursday, intercepting a Nate Hybl pass and returning it for a touchdown.

"(Bodden) made some outstanding plays. He opened up team period with an interception for a touchdown. He's made (a play) in almost every pass drill, seven-on-seven and team, and that is encouraging."

Bodden was considered by some pro scouts to be one of the better cornerbacks in the East coming out of Duquense.

"I think I wasn't drafted because I went to a small school where I got no publicity," said Bodden. "A scout came to my workout and asked why I didn't go to the combine, and I really didn't know ... I think the thing I can bring to a team is that I'm pretty big (6-foot-1) and pretty fast. This was good for me to at least get out and get a few reps and make some plays. All I can do is keep trying to show my ability."

Linebacker Ben Taylor and right guard Qasim Mitchell were two of the small handful of players from last year who practiced with the rookies. With both players, who are coming off injuries and still expected to challenge for starting jobs, benefitted from the extra attention of practicing with the rookies.

"There is no question in my mind that (Mitchell) got a lot better in every one of those practices," said Davis. "So, these were not three wasted practices ... (Taylor) is maybe a little bit more used to carrying his weight. He had a pretty rapid acceleration, going from a wide receiver in high school to safety and then linebacker in college, to being big enough to play linebacker in the National Football League. I think he is somewhere in the mid-to-low 240's, and I think being at the weight for a year or so, he is probably a little more comfortable carrying that weight."

JUMPING THE GUN? While most of the fans and media have spent the offseason jumping on the Qasim Mitchell bandwagon, Davis warned that the mammoth 355-pound guard still has a lot to prove before he is ready to play in the NFL.

Mitchell, an undrafted rookie free-agent from North Carolina A&T last season, missed all of last season when he was injured during training camp.

"He had a little bit of an opportunity in the Buffalo scrimmage and he had a chance to play a limited role in the Minnesota Vikings preseason game a a year ago before he got injured," said Davis. "He is a couple steps ahead of some of the rookies, but he still has to go out and learn how to fight through the adversity that you are going to have when the bullets are flying full speed, and the other team is blitzing. We don't have time for one guy to mentally come along. He has a lot to catch up because Tim (Couch), Kelly (Holcomb) and all the quarterbacks are going to be out there audibleing and changing protections on every single play, and he has to go to work."

Offensive line coach Larry Zierlein spent several minutes trying to convince Mitchell to use his size better in run-blocking drills.

"Stop trying to engulf guys and run through them," Zierlein kept yelling.

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