No major lineup changes are planned during the Browns' bye week, but Coach Romeo Crennel does want a change in the way his team plays. He is upset with the number of penalties the Browns have drawn - 20 for 158 yards - and wants to see more discipline.
Crennel thought his message about discipline had been delivered clearly during training camp and subsequent meetings. Just to make sure, he is hammering it home again this week in team meetings and on the practice field.
"It irritates me," Crennel said. "Anytime you have a team that you put on the field, it's a reflection of yourself. I would like to think that I'm more disciplined and the team is more disciplined.
"When we make those mistakes, particularly when they cost us wins, it hurts. You don't need to get up and toss the ball to the other player (Edwards) or point the ball in the other guy's face (Bryant). You just get up, go back to the huddle and give the ball to the official. We can do that and we've done that before. Taunting is fixable."
Crennel called a blocking in the back penalty on Frisman Jackson that wiped out an 82-yard punt return by Northcutt for a touchdown against the Colts "a touch foul," indicating Jackson was guilty and that sometimes similar plays are not penalized.
Whether the Jackson play might have been ignored by another official does not matter. Crennel wants his special teams players to know that if they position themselves behind a would-be tackler, the possibility for a penalty is there. And since they can't make a legal block from that position, there is no reason at all to be there. Fullback Corey McIntyre drew the same penalty in the opener against the Bengals, wiping out a punt return for 73 yards and a touchdown by Northcutt.
"We have to play smarter," Crennel said. "If we play smarter we will give ourselves a chance to win some games. If we don't play smarter we won't give ourselves the chance we need. That's what we're going to emphasize to the team."
"Play smart" is a theme Northcutt voiced early in training camp. Prophetically, he said the team is not good enough to overcome critical errors.
The Browns don't play again until Oct. 9 when they face the Bears at home, but this has not been an easy week for them. They were to practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, as they normally would. The only difference is they are not preparing for a particular opponent.
Players will have Saturday and Sunday off and must be back in the complex by Monday. Most plan to stay in the area over the weekend. In the past, players have used the extended time off to visit their offseason homes in warmer parts of the country.