Browns Traumas Well-Timed, At Least

The Browns have had problems already this off-season, but hopefully have a better sense of timing. Here are some news and notes heading into the final week before the start of Training Camp.

The injury jinx that has shadowed the Browns since their return to the NFL in 1999 has now spilled over to Cleveland Browns Stadium.

An eight-inch water pipe burst during a Kenny Chesney concert July 14, causing 50,000 gallons of fresh water to flow into the stadium. The crowd of more than 50,000 was unable to use most of the toilets during the last three hours of the nine-hour concert featuring Chesney and other country music stars.

The stadium is owned by Cleveland, not the Browns, so it is up to the city to resolve the problem. Already a single-ticket sale scheduled for July 20 plus a family-fun night featuring a Browns intrasquad scrimmage at the stadium Aug. 3 has been canceled.

The real concern for the Browns is their Aug. 11 preseason game against the Chiefs. The game might have to be moved to Kansas City or possibly Columbus if the pipe is not fixed by then. Cleveland Chief Operating Officer Darrell Brown said he is confident repairs will be completed before the preseason begins.

Coincidentally, toilets inside Cleveland Browns Stadium backed up in 2000 during a country music festival featuring George Strait, forcing many of the restrooms to be closed. The stadium was one year old at the time.

The broken water pipe from the July 14 incident caused far more damage than the problem seven years earlier. Extensive damage was done to all three locker rooms inside the stadium, according to Browns senior vice president Lew Merletti.

If there is any bright side to this embarrassing issue it is that it happened in July and not late August or September. Browns officials are hopeful the pipe will be fixed before the game against the Chiefs. They are confident repairs will be completed long before the season opener against the Steelers in a home game Sept. 9.

Actually, the Browns' luck started changing for the positive in April when their top prize in free agency, guard Eric Steinbach, underwent an appendectomy. He was restricted in off-season workouts but was fully recovered by minicamp last month.

How could an appendectomy be a positive thing, you ask? Because it happened in April and not during the regular season. LeCharles Bentley, the top prize in the Browns' 2006 free agency class, missed all of last season with a torn patellar tendon. Gary Baxter, the centerpiece of free agency in 2005, played in five games that year and just three in 2006. He missed the other 24 with injuries.

CAMP CALENDAR: Training camp opens for rookies July 23. Full training camp opens July 27. A family night event at Cleveland Browns Stadium Aug. 3 is cancelled. Training camp closes Aug. 23.

LUCKY THIRTEEN: The Browns are set to begin their 13th training camp at their training complex in the Cleveland suburb of Berea. The only place where their training camp was held for a longer period was at Hiram (Ohio) College. Paul Brown had the Browns train in Hiram starting in 1952 and they stayed there through 1974.

TIME TO TAP THE KEG: This could be a critical training camp for converted guard Andrew Hoffman. Hoffman was drafted as a defensive lineman in the sixth round in 2005. He spent the season on the practice squad. He reported to training camp as a defensive lineman last year, but because of a rash of injuries on the offensive line was switched to guard. He landed on injured reserve with an ankle injury. He is healthy now and has been working as a guard in the off-season.

EARLY TESTING: It won't take long to learn how much the Browns have gained on their division rivals. They were a combined 0-6 against the Ravens, Bengals and Steelers last year. Three of their first four games are against division teams. That is challenging enough, but with all three at home it means they will have to beat division foes on the road late in the season to have any shot at the playoffs.

ODIOUS OFFENSE: This stat more than any other reflects why the Browns needed a new offensive coordinator. Throughout their 4-12 season in 2006, only two drives of 80 or more yards resulted in scoring, and only one of those, an eight-play, 87-yard drive against the Ravens Dec. 17, ended with a touchdown.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've said from the beginning that you have to be smart in terms of utilizing the talents of the guys you have and what they can do well. You have to be flexible, offensively, in your schemes and the things you're doing." - Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.

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