While most have turned their attention to training camp position battles such as backup quarterback and running back, the fight for the starting strong safety spot has quietly—and effectively—raged on.
In one corner, you have Butch Davis/Pete Garcia draft pick Sean Jones.
In the other, it's Phil Savage/Romeo Crennel draft pick Brodney Pool.
Most observers went into training camp feeling that Pool had at least a slight advantage, based simply on the fact that he was part of the current regime's first draft class. That was the wrong assumption then, and it certainly doesn't hold water now.
"It's still a battle, but Sean is slightly ahead," head coach Romeo Crennel said yesterday.
"He's a little more mature. He has more urgency about the job. Sean Jones wasn't ready last year. We tried to give him the job and he couldn't do it. This year we put him in competition for the job and he's more ready. Being in the system for a year and knowing the importance of having to do it this year helps a guy."
Earlier this year, Knight Ridder, a publishing giant for the last 30 years, and her 32 newspapers were purchased by McClatchy, a Sacramento-based media conglomerate.
(12 of those newspapers, mostly West Coast-based, were then sold to the MediaNews Group.)
One of the Knight Ridder papers involved in the sale was the Akron Beacon Journal. And, as with all mergers, comes the expected round of layoffs as the new company attempts to downsize and immediately begin recouping the cost of their expenditure.
Now, seeing that this is a predominately Browns column on a Browns website, how, exactly, is this related to the Cleveland Browns?
Well, one of the persons who could be in danger of heading for the unemployment line, The OBR has learned, could be ABJ Browns beat writer Pat McManamon.
Most layoffs, per negotiated union rules, will be dictated by seniority. McManamon's time with the ABJ, for seniority purposes, goes back to only 2005 due to his departure from the paper for a brief stint as a writer for the most official of officialest Browns websites.
Thus, the highly talented and respected McManamon could very well be on the short list of potential layoffs.
When reached by The OBR for comment, McManamon refused to get into any specifics, saying only that "I have many thoughts, but I've always maintained that we who write the stories are not the news, but what we write about is. At this point all I can do is hope for the best and continue covering the team to the best of my ability."
It would be a shame if one of the best, if not THE best Browns beat writers, were lost due to what basically comes down to a technicality. Not only would it be a loss for the paper, it would be an even bigger loss for the fans that follow the Browns, and follow them more knowledgeably at least in part thanks to the writings of McManamon.
Couldn't the Beacon Journal hire somebody like… oh, I don't know… somebody like Roger Brown, then lay him off instead? Talk about killing two birds with one stone.
Cornerback Gary Baxter remains confident that he will return in short order from an injury suffered last Thursday against the Eagles.
"It's not anything near last year's injury. I'm positive of that," Baxter said. "I have full motion with my arm and my shoulder. Everything is good, except I'm sore a little bit. I'm very confident I'll be back by the regular-season opener."
Baxter suffered the pectoral injury while attempting to make the tackle on Eagles wide receiver Hank Baskett. The veteran corner eventually returned to the game, but has not practiced since the injury.
Last week in this space, we told you that the Jets may have an interest in trading for running back Lee Suggs. Now, according to the New York Daily News, Suggs is believed to be on the short list of backs the club has an interest in acquiring.
Current Jets starter Curtis Martin is hobbled by a knee injury, and rumors of an imminent retirement have refused to go away in spite of Martin's insistence that he has no plans to walk away.
A league source has told The OBR in the past that the Jets have already been in contact with the Browns on at least a couple of occasions, but no formal trade proposals have been discussed.
On another potential trade front, there has been a plethora of rumors involving the Browns and Eagles backup center Hank Fraley.
Cleveland has an interest in acquiring Fraley, sources have repeatedly told The OBR, but it's uncertain whether or not Philadelphia has any interest in dealing the quality depth that the veteran offensive lineman represents.
Yesterday, Fraley addressed the Philly media about the trade rumors, losing his starting position, and the possibility of entering the free-agent market next offseason.
"You always want to be out there starting," Fraley is quoted as saying in today's Philadelphia Daily News.
"I can't worry about that stuff. I can't predict the future and what's going to happen. I'm just battling here. I'm worried about what's happening here. Everything else'll work itself out. Things happen for a reason... Who knows what's going to happen?... All I can predict right now, I'm going in to get a shower."
Linebacker Chaun Thompson, who missed the first preseason game with a calf injury, is already listed as questionable for this Friday's game against the Lions.
Hey Chaun, didja hear that? That was the sound of a door hitting your starting job in the ass on its way out.
After playing one quarter in the preseason opener against the Eagles—fifteen minutes worth of looks that didn't exactly scream "Air Coryell"—head coach Romeo Crennel says the starters will play into the second quarter this Friday versus the Lions.
Permit me to be so bold as to offer up a suggestion: provided the offensive line is doing its job and keeping the backfield relatively free of Detroit pass rushers, allow the starting offensive unit, particularly quarterback Charlie Frye, to play the entire second quarter. Maybe even give them a series into the third, to see how they adjust to the Lions' halftime adjustments, as few as they may be for a meaningless preseason game.
This is not Peyton Manning and the Colts offense we are talking about here. It's not a veteran group with years of experience playing together who need minimal snaps to get their timing back.
This is Frye—he of the five NFL starts—and an offense that was dead last in the league in scoring and rushing TDs. They have yet to get their timing, period, let alone get it back with two or three series a game.
Of course, the key to this offseason is keeping Frye upright. But what good does Frye being upright on the sidelines after yet another three-and-out do for both this season and the seasons beyond?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Make the coaches run, too."—nose tackle Ted Washington, as the defense was running a lap around the practice field as punishment for several practice miscues.
QUOTE OF THE DAY, THE SEQUEL: "We've had a revolving door at left tackle. We wanted to stop the madness and get a guy that can play five years and not worry about it."—general manager Phil Savage, on signing offensive tackle Kevin Shaffer this past offseason.