King: Pool Returns

While the buzz is about Ryan Tucker's future and the release of Rod Hood, the real news may be the return of Brodney Pool and the move of Shaun Rogers to DE. Here's the scoop...

Starting safety Brodney Pool is back.

The fifth-year pro, who missed last Saturday night's 23-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans after suffering a concussion against the Detroit Lions the previous week, returned to practice on Monday and was working with the second unit as the Browns began getting ready for Thursday night's preseason finale against the Chicago Bears.

Pool has a history of concussion issues, and it was feared that this latest occurrence might be the one that forces him out of the game. He was not in the locker room during the media availability period before practice, so it's not known how serious this concussion was, or if he did indeed think about retiring. Concussions are nothing to take lightly, obviously.

But with almost two full weeks before the Sept. 13 season opener against the Minnesota Vikings, Browns head coach Eric Mangini no doubt hopes Pool is recovered and ready to go. With Pool out, the Browns were going with Mike Adams at safety alongside Abram Elam. Adams is fast and has a nose for the ball, but he's simply not big enough for safety. He's listed at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, but that's not accurate unless someone has tied him to the rack and stretched him out, and then stuck a couple of bricks in each pocket before he jumped onto the scale.

Meanwhile, Pool is 6-2 and 210 – legitimately.

And anyway, Adams is much more valuable covering the slot receiver in passing situations than he could ever be at safety. However, Pool's injury had to send a message to the Browns that while they have several good young cornerbacks backing up Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright, they need a talented young safety to bring along as well. Could this be a position to address in next year's NFL draft?

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A MEANS TO AN END: The most important news to come out of Mangini's press conference was the fact that second-year nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin has been so impressive in Shaun Rogers' absence that the Browns are thinking of using Rogers at end and Rubin at the nose in some packages. Working out on the flank away from the constant double and even triple-teams that he faces inside, the big, strong, and quick Rogers could really be a real disruptive force at end. Rubin, a sixth-round draft choice in 2008, has been an extremely pleasant surprise after having done little in his rookie season.

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PATIENCE WITH PATTEN: Veteran wide receiver David Patten has not played in a preseason game thus far, making his future with the Browns cloudy at best. The 13th-year pro, a former Brown (2000) who played with New England when Mangini was an assistant there, practiced sparingly last week and was out there on Monday catching passes and making plays. He has been battling an undisclosed injury. The Browns already have a similar type of player in Mike Furrey, a smallish veteran pass catcher with great hands, so you have to wonder if Mangini will cut some slack for his old friend and keep him on the roster.

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MIXED MESSAGES: Mangini did a great job mixing up the locker room and putting players of different position groups and different backgrounds and experience levels next to each other. This encourages players who otherwise would never talk to get to know one another, thus increasing team camaraderie. But at the same time, Mangini is doing just the opposite by continuing to refuse to name a starter at quarterback with the season fast approaching. Because the quarterback plays the most important position in team sports, he is the leader not just of the offense, but of the overall squad as well. As such, a club needs time to rally behind its leader and grow together before the season starts. In addition, the quarterback needs extended work with the rest of the No. 1 offense, especially with his receivers, to fine-tune things. By the time Mangini gets around to finally naming a starter – maybe the day of the game – it will be too late for any of that to happen before they play the Vikings. And with the talent on that Minnesota team, the Browns offense is going to need all the fine-tuning it can get.

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SPEAKING OF QUARTERBACKS II: It was almost comical to see Brady Quinn, in an open competition with Derek Anderson for that QB job, lined up as a tight end to help the offense walk through some plays on a side field. That said, at 6-3 and 235 pounds, Quinn at least has the size to be a tight end.

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SPEAKING OF QUARTERBACKS III: Mangini has been asked about rotating quarterbacks even after he names a starter, and each time, he says he won't do that. He'll stick – at least for a while -- with the man he ultimately names. History tells us this is true. In 2006, in his first year as head coach of the New York Jets, Mangini had an open competition for the job as well and ended up giving it to Chad Pennington over Kellen Clemens. Pennington went on to play virtually every offensive play that year. The Jets attempted 488 passes as a team that season, and Pennington threw 485 of them.

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SPEAKING OF QUARTERBACKS IV: Anderson was penalized Saturday for being out of the designated sideline box and tripping an official who was covering an incomplete Tennessee pass into the Cleveland bench. Mangini said after the game that he had never seen such a call before, and it was obvious he thought it was a joke. Nonetheless, he vowed he would "coach it up" with his team, and so he did. On Monday, there were sideline boxes painted on the sides of the practice fields.

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BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED: Running downfield one time after punting on Saturday, the Browns' Dave Zastudil was planted by a Tennessee player and got up woozy. So at practice on Monday, special teams coordinator Brad Seely was working with Zastudil, kicker Phil Dawson and long snapper Ryan Pontbriand on the proper technique for making open-field tackles. Dawson already knows how to do it. He was a defensive lineman in high school in Dallas.

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ARE YOU KIDDING ME?: When Branndon Braxton, staying in Tulsa, Okla.,  got a call over the weekend, he was surprised to see that it was coming from a Cleveland area code. It was from a Browns official, saying they wanted to re-sign the rookie free-agent offensive tackle from Youngstown (Ohio) Ursuline High School and Oklahoma University, whom they had waived on Aug. 20. "I had no idea they were interested in bringing me back," he said. "I thought there was a chance when I got released that it could happen, but I didn't really know. I had moved on with my life and was trying to keep my chin up. My agent was fielding calls from teams that were expressing an interest, but I didn't think the Browns would be among them. It's like somebody told me, I'm getting a second chance, and I'm going to make the most of it." Look for Braxton, who is athletic from having played basketball at Ursuline and at 6-6 and 312 has a good frame to put on weight and get stronger, to not make the final cut but to be re-signed to the practice squad as a year-long project.


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