The Owl: Walking Softly

Our feathered friend considers the early results of the Crennel era...

Training camp so far under Romeo Crennel has been quieter than a church picnic, more laid back than a summer stroll through the park.

Fans that have come out to Berea wanting to hear thunderous crashes of shoulder pads, expecting players to fall like the losing knight in a joust have to be disappointed. I have overheard fans wondering if the Browns are working hard enough.

"I think the guys are somewhat physical," Crennel said. "I think the only thing that would make it more physical would be to go full-speed tackling. We do that on the goal line, which is a more controlled situation with less space. The chances of getting a guy injured are a lot less in that situation.

"I think you can work effectively without going full-speed tackling, and that's what we're trying to do to get our work done and minimize the risk of injury. This team has been beat up a little bit over the years."

This has been a teaching camp. After 25 years as an NFL assistant, Crennel is a teacher before he is anything else.

Crennel is not a shouter. He smiles when he talks to reporters. Whether he is still smiling in November remains to be seen.

But don't mistake that smile for a softie. Crennel is anything but that. It is August 4, and the players already know the rules.

During practice a couple days ago rookie safety Brodney Pool did something right. Defensive backs coach Mel Tucker sprinted to Pool slapped him on the back and said, 'Helluva job, Brodney! Helluva job!' But when asked what he did to win that praise, Pool would not say because of fear of retribution.

Daylon McCutcheon didn't want to detail his headaches because Crennel told players not to discuss injuries. Ryan Pontbriand did not talk about his sore back for the same reason.

What does it all mean? It means the Browns have a head coach who gets his message across without drawing attention to himself.

"Everybody has different personalities," General Manager Phil Savage said. "Some people mistake not having ego for not having pride either. I think that saying 'Walk softly but carry a big stick' applies to Romeo and hopefully it applies to me.

"The players certainly sense when they're told something, that's the way it's going to be. I think that's very refreshing for this team. In today's NFL, it's not a one-man job, especially when you're kind of starting over."

Savage and Crennel have definitely created a different atmosphere in the training complex. Only time will tell if all the changes translate into victories.

"I'm real pleased with what we were able to do this year in setting up the structure, the environment, trying to create a winning culture" Savage said. "I think all those things are in place. We just have to get better.

"When you bring a group of people together that are doing things for the first time - myself, Romeo, some of the players, people in different positions here - then you do have something to prove. Everyone wants to do that."

How many games can the Browns win? Savage says he has no idea.

"We're going in with our eyes wide open," he said. "If expectations are low by some people, maybe that's a motivation for us. If they're too high, certainly that can put more pressure on people.

"We're going to try to stay the course and are more concerned with the structure, culture, the environment and putting together the program so this time next year we'll have a lot better idea of what we really have as we walk on the field for the first time. Today, we think we know to a degree, but we really don't know."

The honesty is refreshing.


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