Levine: Vets Like What They See

Les Levine was at mini-camp last week, and reports back on some conversations he had with Browns veterans who have been through several coaching changes. Plus... early returns on the 3-4 defense and what the signing of Johnson says about back-up quarterback Josh Harris.

There aren't too many Browns players who have been around for all three head coaches (four, if you include Terry Robiskie) since the return of the franchise in 1999, but the few who remain are very happy with what they see.  To the best of my knowledge, there are only six or seven players who will be on the opening game roster, who have seen, first-hand, all of the head coaching changes.  Those six or seven were here when Romeo Crennel was an assistant coach under Chris Palmer in 2000.

One of those players, who at this point will remain nameless, told me that Romeo's personality hasn't changed a bit since then, despite the success that he achieved after going to New England.  In addition, the locker room has never had a better atmosphere than it has now, and that is not just because the players have to say that. 

Clearly there were personnel problems in the locker room before, along with a lack of trust of the coaching staff.  But that is no longer the case.  That could change if the wins and losses don't change, but right now, according to my conversation, everybody appears to be on the same page.

In addition, the veteran players have really taken a liking to owner Randy Lerner.  Lerner has earned that respect because he has figured out when to be around, and when to stay away.  I don't think players, for the most part, could less who the owner of a team is, as long as the checks clear, but it must be comforting for Lerner, Crennel and Phil Savage that the atmosphere has turned around so quickly.

Isn't it interesting, that as of today, there are ten Mid American Conference players on the Browns roster, and only one, Kenard Lang (not including Kellen Winslow, Jr.) from Miami (Fl).  There aren't many from Florida or Florida State, either, although newly acquired QB Doug Johnson played at Florida.


The signing of veteran QB Doug Johnson is not an indictment against Charlie Frye as it is against Josh Harris.  Frye, who was great in games at Akron U., never was an impressive practice player, wasn't really expected to step in to the backup QB position right from the beginning.  Harris, who was on the Baltimore Raven roster last year, might have been, but it looks like his fate is sealed with the signing of Johnson.  That, of course, could change during training camp, as there is no guarantee that Johnson will be the right fit, but he probably will be.

Even though the real hitting hasn't started yet, some of the offensive players are very impressed with the early stages of the 3-4 defense. 

According to one veteran offensive player that I talked to, the hard part is to figure out where the fourth rusher is coming from.  There are keys to look for, but in those early stages, the Browns defense is learning how to ‘mask' those keys. 

According to several players, Orpheus Roye has been extremely quick to adapt to end position in the new defense.  When much of the defensive line wound up in Denver, there was some concern about what was left.  So far, the adaptation of Roye and LB Chaun Thompson has been impressive.

‘More Sports & Les Levine' can be seen in northeastern Ohio M-F from 6-7pm with replays at 11pm on Adelphia Channel 15.  E-mail msandll@aol.com or www.leslevine.com

The OBR Top Stories