Passan: Lazy, Crazy OTAs of Summer

The veteran writer has seen this before, and offers some advice...

Gotta love this time of the professional football season.

The Browns are conducting the National Football League's wonderful offseason contrivance known as Organized Team Activities, a.k.a. OTAs.

It's just another excuse for the NFL to gather players during the offseason, yet another public relations move by the league to let the sports world know football is not that far off.

It's that time of the football year when nothing really happens, but the league wants to ratchet up the interest, anyway. Got to keep The Shield in the constituents' consciousness.

It's that time of the year when many fans take far too seriously what goes on in Berea as the Browns begin preliminary preparations for the 2007 season. The OTAs are nothing more than a rehearsal for minicamp, which is a rehearsal for training camp.

Most fans wait for any little tidbit into which they can sink their emotional teeth in order to better prepare themselves for the new season. They cling to just about every nugget that comes out of the OTAs.

Makes no difference that the players work out in shorts, helmets and no pads with no appreciable contact, no one looking for a piece of a teammate. It's nothing more than assorted walk-throughs, especially the offense trying to learn a brand new system this season.

Fans hunger for information and hidden meanings as to why this is happening and why that isn't happening. They look for little clues that will give them better insight as to the inner workings of the club.

The Cavaliers are playing for the NBA championship, the Indians lead the American League's Central Division and are playing terrific baseball. Cleveland sports fans are juiced.

Yet, they want to know why Braylon Edwards was working out with the third team in the OTAs. Was it some sort of punishment for missing the opening day? Was he being sent a message? Yep, that had to be it.

Why is top draft pick Joe Thomas operating with the second team? Isn't he supposed to be the starting offensive left tackle? What's going on here?

And what is Kevin Shaffer doing at left tackle? That's Thomas' spot. Isn't Shaffer supposed to be moving over to right tackle? Why waste time when we all know Thomas is going to be the man.

Antwaan Peek and Kamerion Wimbley look very quick from their outside linebacker positions, giving rise to the notion that the Browns' sack total will take an exponential leap this season. Has anyone blocked them yet?

Running back Jamal Lewis says he's nearly 100% and looks forward to running behind the new revamped offensive line. Now that's good news.

Hey, Romeo Crennel, any of the second-day draft picks sticking out? Sure, the head coach says and singles out cornerback Brandon McDonald, the club's fifth-round selection.

"He's been somewhat of a pleasant surprise," says Crennel. "We weren't sure what we were getting in him, but he seems to have a quiet confidence about himself."

What in the world can anyone glean from a fifth-rounder, or anyone for that matter, running around in shorts?

On the down side, it looks as though rookie quarterback Brady Quinn is having trouble throwing the ball. Bad mechanics is the word on the street. Time to worry? Nah.

Charlie Frye, who, according to Crennel, has a leg up on the starting quarterback job, struggled a bit. "Hey, I have a leg, too," teases Derek Anderson, the most accurate passer in camp.

At least Anderson is taking this the right way. In other words, not seriously.

Read absolutely nothing into what's going on now in Berea now other than the coaches want these guys to be ready, physically and emotionally, for the upcoming season. No excuses for not being prepared.

Anderson and his teammates realize the depth chart will look quite different by the time Sept. 9 rolls around. Now, it's all about loosening muscles to revive their memories and getting the mind geared toward football.

Put these guys in full gear and pads later on and then we'll see if they're the same players. That'll be the great separator.

Edwards will not be with the third team, Thomas will be at left tackle, Shaffer at right tackle, Peek and Wimbley won't look quite as good as they do now in shorts, McDonald will be severely tested, Lewis won't go untouched and Quinn will be that much more experienced as he battles for the starting job.

Providing, of course, he's in camp.

That's a whole other story.

So for those of you reading too much into what's going on Berea, chill. The good stuff is still about eight weeks away.

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