BEREA,Ohio--Browns first year head coach Hue Jackson is pleased with what the Browns accomplished in the off-season and hopes to build upon it as the team returns for training camp in about six weeks.
"I'm not going to let them go backwards," Jackson said "I'm not going to let them go backwards. think it's really important that the men in the locker room don't let this team go backwards because they've established a really good foundation and a really good work ethic, so I think it's really important that we come back ready to hit the ground running and understand that we're here to get some business done each and every day.
"I think they will, I really do, to a man, I will be really surprised if they don't come back here in tip-top shape ready to practice and ready and eager to get going."
Jackson said although he welcomes the down time away from football before the long grind starting at training camp, in some regards wishes they could continue to build on the progress they've made.
"Sometime you hate to see an off-season come to an end," Jackson said. "Obviously, we have a long ways to go and we haven't played a game, but you have to have the right foundation and you have it laid."
QB Competition: QB Robert Griffin III ended practice with a long pass of about 50 yards for a touchdown to WR Terrelle Pryor. Griffin III had his ups and downs during the three day minicamp, but Jackson said he still sees Griffin III getting better each and every day.
"I think he's gotten better," Jackson said. "I know he gets highly scrutinized, but I think he's getting better."
Griffin III is trying to transition into more of a pocket passer, in addition to being able to roll out of the pocket and throw. Jackson said he thinks Griffin III is looking more natural in the pocket.
"He looks natural to me," Jackson said "He's improved, let's be honest. He's getting better every day, but there's still work to be done."
At the conclusion of the minicamp, Jackson was asked if he stands by his statement of not naming a starting quarterback as the team heads to training camp.
"Absolutely not," Jackson said. "I can assure you that there won't be any earth shattering announcement (on who the starting quarterback will be) between now and training camp, so you can go on your vacations and have a good time. It's still aways away, but I feel good about the process."
Jackson was asked if it would be an open quarterback competition in training camp.
"If you want to say it that way," he said. "I haven't come close to letting my mind go there."
The apparent pecking order at quarterback during minicamp, in terms of the order of taking reps was Griffin III first, Josh McCown second, Austin Davis third, Connor Shaw fourth and rookie Cody Kessler fifth. It is possible the Browns will not bring all five quarterbacks to training camp, but third-round pick Kessler is certain to be one of them.
High Praise for Bitonio: Jackson singled out OL Joel Bitonio as a player he thinks could take the next step to be a Pro Bowl offensive lineman.
"I think Bitonio has the potential to be one of the better players in this league, bar none."
The Browns offensive line for team drills had LT Joe Thomas, LG Bitonio, C Cameron Erving, RG John Greco and RT Alvin Bailey.
Corey's Potential: Jackson called first-round draft choice, WR Corey Coleman out at the start of OTA's saying he was out of shape, but the coach praised him at the conclusion of minicamp.
"He's really shown why we drafted him in the first round," Jackson said. '"He is as a tremendous talent and if he keeps working like he is and stays as humble, he has great desire to be a great football player and I think that is going to happen for him."
Wide receivers coach Al Saunders agreed.
"He's what we thought he was."
Coleman made a nice leaping catch on a pass from Griffin III, where he went high into the air to come down with the ball during the 11-on-11 scrimmage.
Jackson said nothing will be handed to the first year player from Baylor.
"He still has to earn it, work for it and fight for it and I think he will."
Sitting Out: TE Gary Barnidge (sports hernia), DB Joe Haden (ankle), OL Shon Coleman (knee), WR Taylor Gabriel (foot), DL Carl Nassib (leg), K Travis Coons and WR Dennis Parks were sitting out during practice. Offensive line coach Hal Hunter Jr. said he was told that Coleman, the third round pick from Auburn will be ready to go from the first day of training camp. Rookie WR Jordan Payton was still not in camp due to being at school at UCLA.
New Kicker: The Browns signed free agent K Patrick Murray, who was in camp on a tryout basis. K Travis Coons was held out with a minor undisclosed injury. To make room WR Dave Richards was released.
Murray (5-7, 182) who participated in the Browns minicamp this week on a tryout basis, is in his third NFL season out of Fordham. Originally signed by Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent in 2014, Murray appeared in 16 games with the Buccaneers as a rookie. He converted 20 of 24 field goal attempts and all 31 PATs for 91 points. He spent last season on injured reserve and was waived by Tampa Bay on May 16, 2016.
Summer Break: As the Browns concluded their three-day minicamp, the players scattered throughout the country on a six-week hiatus until training camp is set to begin in late July.
Jackson was asked if this is a nervous time for football coaches as player's sometimes get themselves in trouble when they're away on break.
"Yeah, it is," he said. "It's like you have a bunch of kids and sometimes things happen. I expect them to handle it as pros and that's part of being a professional."