Dawson Speaks, Says Little

Veteran kicker returns for this mandatory camp, but says little about what kept him away from a pair of "voluntary" minicamps earlier this year.

Cleveland Browns veteran kicker Phil Dawson avoided talking about the situation.

But he didn't avoid trying to do something about it. Whether he was successful or not remains to be seen. In reality, though, his success could be at partly dependent on a new teammate.

In the first of what will certainly be the first of a number of "OK, can you top this?" type of competitions throughout the rest of this weekend and in training camp, Dawson and rookie Parker Douglass had a kick-off at the end of Thursday's first practice in the team's three-day, mandatory, full-squad minicamp.

Dawson refused to blink as the two alternated back and forth. And ditto for Douglass.

Dawson, who held out for most of the earlier spring practices in an apparent contract dispute, hit all four of his field-goal tries, from 32, 42 (twice) and 47 yards, in an attempt to prove he's worth his weight in gold.

But Douglass, who was signed in Dawson's absence, refused to give in. He was 4-for-4 as well, connecting from 37, 42 twice and – get this – 52 yards as practice ended. Douglass, who played at tiny South Dakota State and then professionally in an off-the-main-drag indoor league, had done well earlier in the spring in the voluntary minicamps and OTAs. Though he had struggled recently, he picked up his game – considerably when the incumbent showed up, throwing the last shot. It was eye-catching – just as was Dawson's performance.

Dawson, the last remaining player not just on the team but still in the NFL from the Browns 1999 expansion squad, has never criticized the club – or even as much as gotten himself involved in anything controversial -- in his career. He continued that in his absence from the team recently, not making a peep publicly about his situation as he worked out at a Cleveland area high school field, golfed with a friend and spent time with his wife, Shannon, and their three children.

And nothing changed when he was asked about the situation following practice. He talked but said nothing, in essence.

"I'm not going to go into all that," Dawson said. "There will be a time and place for that, but now is not that time and place. I'm just happy to see my teammates again."

As if having rehearsed what he was going to say – who knows, maybe he did, and if so it would be understandable --- he repeated those exact thoughts when pressed on the issue a little later.

When asked about his performance in practice, he was somewhat more conversant.

"I was a little rusty out there today, but it's just June now," Dawson said. "We don't play a game until September."

A lot can – and no doubt will -- happen between now and then in his competition with Douglass, and maybe even with his contract situation as well. He's signed through the 2010 season as part of a five-year contract extension he inked in 2005.

But so far, so good with Dawson's return to the playing field – for however long it lasts. He seemed to impress Browns head coach Eric Mangini.

"Phil looked good in the field goal drill at the end of practice. He had no misses," he said. "I'm real happy with the things he did and to have him back."

Wonder, though, what Mangini would have said had someone asked him about Douglass? That could have been telling as well.

Stay tuned.

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