Passan: The Dawg Days

Romeo is looking for mental light bulbs, not bodies crashing together, this hot and humid summer. Rich reflects on a Browns training camp which has been very different from those before it...

OK, who's bored?

Here we are 12 days into Romeo Crennel's first training camp and the best one can say is that Crennel has completely redefined the term laid-back.

Sure, the guys work hard. And yes, the weather conditions, for the most part, have been difficult. The three H's – hot, humid, hazy – have prevailed as the team readies for the 2005 National Football League season.

The discipline is obvious. The precision with which the team goes through its paces speaks mutely for Crennel's detail-oriented approach to his new job.

Only the jolting sound of the air horn signaling a change in routine breaks the monotony.

At times, it appears as though the rookie head coach is doing his Teddy Roosevelt thing. You know the one with a soft walk and a big stick. The only time he can be heard is when he addresses the media following practice.

Todd Grantham, at the other spectrum, screams with the best of them. The new defensive coordinator turns up the volume to the point where he leaves no doubt of his approval or disgust with certain players.

Initial indications are that Crennel coaches quietly.  But the players know he's watching.

So why is this camp so boring?

Because the emphasis is being put on the mental aspect of the game. The little things are being paid attention to.

The fans want the more eye-pleasing 11-on-11 skirmishes. They want to see how Joe Andruzzi and Cosey Coleman, the new guards, help solidify an offensive line that has been rather putrid since the team was reborn in 1999.

They want to see how Crennel's 3-4 defense operates and who will comprise the front seven. They want to see which rookies step up and which rookies struggle to make the switch to the professional ranks.

They want to see action.

Instead, Crennel gives them classroom-on-the-field stuff. Boring drills. Stultifying mundane exercises that draw yawns and make the time pass like sand in an hourglass.

In the past, those little things were ignored. Perhaps that's why the new Browns have struggled.

While the there is a decided toning down of the physical game from previous regimes, Crennel ratches up the mental part of the game.

Of course, hitting your teammates instead of the opposition can get tiresome after a while. Beating the snot out of teammates accomplishes nothing. Taking it easy on them seems to be the mantra of the camp.

Then again, maybe it's the Browns' history of injuries, fluke or otherwise, that has Crennel taking it easy. About the only category in which the team leads the NFL year in and year out is injuries. 

The fans at the club's Berea complex have been extremely patient as the Browns go through the various position drills before coming together occasionally for a little 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 action.

It's gotten so frustrating for the onlookers, appreciative applause in smattering form at the conclusion of the few head-knocking sessions falls on deaf ears. It's almost as the fans believe the applause will trigger an encore. They want more and are left wanting.

With the first exhibition game Saturday night against the New York Giants, it's possible Crennel and his staff might amp it up a bit and actually turn the team loose between now and then. But not likely.

Boring? Depends on your perspective. Effective? We'll find out soon enough.

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