King: Weekend Browns Notes

Thoughts and observations from Steve King as the regular-season blast doors come down in Berea...

What Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers was doing on the exercise bicycle all through training camp and the preseason is anyone's guess.

Was he really hurt? He sure didn't look like it with the way he moved around freely, with nary a sign of pain anywhere, throughout these weeks.

Was he being punished for mouthing off or breaking some other team rule? There seems to be no evidence of that.

Or was Browns head coach Eric Mangini, trying to make it up to the Pro Bowler for his part in making the start of their relationship pretty rocky late last winter, throwing him a bone by letting him test out of all that hot, sweaty work? After all, everybody already knows what Rogers can do, so did he really need to bang heads in 85-degree heat on a Tuesday afternoon with some offensive lineman who wasn't going to be with the team come the regular season?

Who knows what the real answer is to why Rogers hit the bike as much as Lance Armstrong? Who knows if we'll ever know for sure? Probably not.

But the fact of the matter is that Rogers, looking healthier than ever, was going through all the individual drills with his teammates on Monday in the first half-hour of practice that was open to the media. And as the Browns began preparing in earnest for Sunday's regular-season opener against Minnesota – though they probably have been preparing for the Vikings in some way, shape and form for months – it is believed that Rogers participated fully in everything. The exercise bicycle was no doubt parked and gathering dust.

The game against the Vikings counts in the standings, which means the game that was going on between Rogers and Mangini – whatever it was, and why it was being played – no longer counts for anything and has to end.

And so it has, apparently.

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NOT SO FAST, MY FRIEND: Mangini recently had an extra section of chain-link fence, with black covering on it, installed on top of the fence/covering already there that lines the west, south and east sides of the practice fields at Browns headquarters. This new section at least partially blocks the view from the upstairs rooms of the two- and three-story houses on Pearl Street to the west. But you can see through the covering if you look hard enough, so you have to wonder how long it will be before the ever-secretive Mangini, especially considering the fact he is trying to conceal the identity of Sunday's starting quarterback, has a covering installed that is much less transparent. But in the meantime, fans, don't get any cute ideas about trying to steal a quick glimpse for yourself by sneaking in somewhere along the fence. Remember, the team's senior vice president in charge of business operations, and the man who still oversees team security, is Lew Merletti, the former longtime head of the Secret Service who has some of his former agents working under him here. Thus, you can bet that fence line on all three sides around the complex is being monitored almost as if it were the White House. And if Merletti and his people see anything fishy going on, they will be quick to investigate it.

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MORE OR LESS: Wide receiver/returner/special teams coverage man/chief bottle washer Joshua Cribbs, who hinted at the start of camp that he might boycott the season if his contract wasn't reworked, seemed to indicate he will show up on Sunday. However, he also appeared to have left himself a little wiggle room to opt out, if he so desires. We'll see. But the Browns obviously need Cribbs if they have any chance of winning against a very good Vikings club.

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POOL PARTY:  Safety Brodney Pool, who missed the last two preseason games after apparently suffering a concussion, met the media for the first time since getting hurt and said he should be ready for the Vikings. "I've been doing a lot of film work to keep up with my assignments," Pool said. He also said he's not worried about getting hurt again, which makes one a bit uneasy. Pool has had concussion problems previously, so he should be more careful than ever now. His long-term health is way more important than any game.

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PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT SQUAD: The Browns signed – or, in this case, re-signed – six players to the practice squad, all of whom were released Saturday evening on the final cutdown. They are cornerback Brandon Anderson from the University of Akron; wide receiver Lance Leggett, who also spent all of last season on the practice squad; outside linebacker Titus Brown, who was really impressive earlier in the preseason; offensive lineman Pat Murray; running back Chris Jennings; and defensive lineman Brian Schaefering. Keep an eye on Jennings. He really lit it up against the Bears with game highs in rushing yards with 59 and receptions with six. If Jerome Harrison, who missed the last three preseason games with an undisclosed leg injury, is not able to go on Sunday and Mangini wants to make sure he's well-fortified at running back to try to control the ball against the explosive Vikings, then he could de-activate Harrison, cut somebody from the roster and sign Jennings to take that player's place. In that way, the Browns could split up the carries between Jamal Lewis, rookie James Davis and Jennings. The Browns have two openings left on the practice squad. If they clear waivers, then look for safety Bret Lockett and outside linebacker Marcus Benard, both rookies, to be signed to fill those spots. (Ed. Note; Bret Lockett has been signed by the Patriots to their active roster.) They, too, were among those released on Saturday, and with the way they had played in camp and the preseason, you can bet Mangini hated to part ways with them.

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WHOOPS: Phil Trautwein, the Will Farrell lookalike offensive lineman signed after he was cut loose by the St. Louis Rams, twice tripped over the blocking pads while going through the agility drills.

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AGELESS WONDER: Defensive back Marquis Floyd, also signed on Sunday, may be the oldest true rookie the Browns have ever had. Floyd, who turned 29 last March 17, spent last season on the practice squad of the Seattle Seahawks, who released him Saturday, and before that had played in two indoor leagues.

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AGELESS WONDER II: With the release of wide receiver David Patten, kicker Phil Dawson became the oldest player on the roster. Dawson, the lone player left in the NFL from the Browns' 1999 expansion team, is 34 years, 8½ months, having been born on Jan. 23, 1975. Patten just turned 35, having been born on Aug. 19, 1974. But, according to Mangini, Patten could be back, maybe sooner rather than later – if he stays on the market that long – so Dawson's reign as elder statesman could be short-lived.

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AND FINALLY …: This will be just the 13th time overall – and but the second time in the expansion era – that the Browns have played the Vikings in the regular season. They last met on Nov. 27, 2005, with Minnesota winning 24-12 at the Metrodome with the help of a costly fumble late by Cleveland quarterback Trent Dilfer. The Vikings, who hold a 9-3 lead in the season series with Cleveland, are just one of two teams the Browns have not hosted in the expansion era. The last time they played in Cleveland was way back on Dec. 17, 1989 when the Browns stayed in the playoff hunt by winning 23-17 in overtime on a touchdown pass from holder/quarterback Mike Pagel to tight end Travis Tucker on a fake field-goal attempt. The Green Bay Packers are the other team the new Browns have not met in Cleveland. That will end on Oct. 25 when the Packers visit. This will mark the second time the Browns and Vikings have met in the opener, and the first one also occurred in Cleveland. They played Sept. 4, 1983 with Minnesota winning 27-21 in the last opener for quarterback Brian Sipe as a Brown before he bolted to the USFL after the season. The first time the Browns and Vikings ever met was on Halloween – Oct. 31 – in 1965 in Cleveland. Minnesota dealt the Browns one of their three regular-season losses, 27-17. Scenes for the movie, "The Fortune Cookie," starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, were shot during the game.


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