Passan: Mini-Camp Awaits

Romeo Crennel and crew are about to kick off the Browns June mini-camp, but Browns fans will be on the outside looking in. Rich Passan asks why fans can't attend the camp since, after all, it's the fans who pay the bills...

Minicamp 2006, the time of the season where just about everyone looks like an All-Pro, is about to descend upon us.

The Browns veterans and rookies congregate for the first time this season this weekend in Berea to strut their stuff for the coaching staff.

The rooks will have that glazed look in their eyes for at least the first few hours before most realize they actually do belong. At least for the time being.

The veterans, seeking muscle memory from the long offseason, will bring that nonchalance veterans are supposed to bring to such get-togethers. It's all about body language.

Players will walk through, then run plays with physical activity kept at a minimum. A bare minimum. Wink, wink. Wouldn't want to violate the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which prohibits any kind of contact in minicamp.

Shorts and half shells most likely will be the uniform of the day as footballs once again fill the Cleveland air. And Charlie Frye will take center stage in his first camp as the No. 1 quarterback, working with an inexperienced safety net.

There will be no distractions like last season when Kellen Winslow Jr. went Evel Knievel and rumors were rife that the Browns' front office had cast covetous eyes at Columbus as a future summer training camp site.

Battles will not be won or lost in minicamp. It'll be more of a get-back-to-football type thing designed to kick the mind back into gridiron gear.

It will be a special day for veterans LeCharles Bentley (St. Ignatius), Joe Jurevicius (Lake Catholic), Dave Zastudil (Bay) and Bob Hallen (Mentor), all of whom grew up in the Cleveland area, were Browns fans and chose to return home.

Winslow will actually be in uniform and resume a career that seems to be stuck in neutral. And veteran newcomers Ted Washington and Willie McGinest will give the club's defense some legitimacy.

That's the good news.

Now the bad news.

This minicamp has been closed to the public. You, the fans. You, the guys and gals who fuel this National Football League machine. You, the guys and gals who really, really care about this franchise.

What would the harm be to open up camp to the fans? None that I can think of. A distraction to the players? Nonsense.

The San Diego Chargers, it appears, is one of the few NFL teams that cares about its fans. They showed just how much recently by opening up their minicamp to paying customers. C'mon down.

More than 3,000 fans did just that the first day as the Philip Rivers era began. Reportedly, the players enjoyed their presence. Put on a show, in fact.

Again, what's the harm? The lull that has fallen over the Cleveland professional football community has become palpable. Browns fans hunger for football right now. It has turned into absolute lust. They'll grab on to any little nugget about the Browns and pound it to death.

The Browns sign an obscure free-agent defensive end from Moon Valley Tech and the fans are all over it. What are his measurables? How good can he be if he was cut? Could he be one of those sleepers who might benefit from a change of scenery?

Browns fans jones for football as no other supporters in the NFL. Feed that hunger. Nurture it. Don't turn a blind eye to it. Too bad the club won't let you enjoy a few days' company with your favorite team.

Now the very bad news.

You'll have to get your minicamp stuff from the bad guys, the dreaded media, those purveyors of negativity. Can't imagine why they have been invited to attend.

After this weekend, the machine shuts down for a few weeks, then cranks back up for the next seven months. Hopefully eight, if you catch my drift.

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