Browns Head Coach Romeo Crennel is looking to "pick up the tempo" at the team's full-squad mini-camp which started on Monday.
Crennel feels the full-squad sessions challenge the team mentally by requiring them to pick up the installation of the team's offensive and defensive schemes, and challenges them physically by requiring practice twice a day.
The team is practicing in shirt-and-shorts (NFL code for "no pads and no hitting) and opened up the Monday morning session to the press. During camp, the Browns are focusing on first-and-second down situations during the morning practice, with more passing activity during the closed afternoon session.
While the team's practice didn't seem particularly intense on Monday morning, the players we spoke to seemed to appreciate the efficiency of practice and Crennel's approach to keeping it down to 90 minutes in each session. Under Butch Davis, practices were known to linger on for two hours or more.
COMPETITION, COMPETITION, COMPETITION: In his comments to the press on Monday, Romeo Crennel gave an indication of the level of competition he expects for starting jobs - and to make the cut.
Even when referring to such seeming roster locks as Terrelle Smith and Reuben Droughns, Crennel made reference to players as "likely to be competitive" or "going to be competitive", with comments like "if he makes the team" applied to all players.
The message to returning veterans and early first-teamers is very clear: the team expects to make a lot of changes on the depth chart once training camp begins. The head coach used the specific example of recievers, who can look very good going over the middle with no contact, but have an abrupt change of approach once the pads are on and hitting begins.
The team's early depth chart is based mostly on the coaching staff's appraisal of film and players game experience.
ROSS WHO? The Browns recently departed left tackle Ross Verba was the subject of some questioning during Crennel's press conference and in the locker room afterward.
Romeo Crennel made what may be the most revealing comment on Verba when he told the press corps that Verba had "an off-the-field history that we weren't too excited about". When questioned on what he meant, Crennel half-jokingly responded "Do you read the papers?".
Later on, Crennel dismissed notions that losing their left tackle would hurt the team's chemistry.
"Not in this case", he quipped.
SEAN JONES RETURNS: There were a lot of factors which contributed to Butch Davis' demise in 2004, but one has to be the former head coach's awful fortune with the team's 2004 draft selections. Sean Jones and Kellen Winslow were both knocked out of action early, helping to cripple a team which was counting on them to be valuable contributors.
Romeo Crennel seems to be having better luck, at least with Sean Jones. After recovering from a torn ACL, Jones was on the field Monday morning and looked solid. At one point, Jones made a nice read on a pass from Josh Harris and wound up with an interception.
Crennel is reserving judgment on his safety, however. "Sean is doing pretty decent", Crennel relayed, "His athletic ability shows up... also what shows up is that he really is a rookie, since he didn't play last year."
In particular, Crennel is concerned about some of Jones' reads, and has the coaching staff working with Jones to improve his ability to quickly read developing plays at the NFL level.