First day of Browns camp: Functional, but without buzz


BEREA, Ohio — Subdued.

That’s the best way to describe the opening day of Cleveland Browns training camp.

This camp-without-buzz opened to fans lining the sidelines and chanting some players’ names when they emerged from the team’s facility.

But there was no outward cheering for Johnny Manziel -- though there was great appreciation for him spending a fair amount of time after practice signing autographs. There was no lack of energy, but there was no great excitement at plays, and no great chatter on or off the field.

As first practices go it was functional, but abbreviated as coach Mike Pettine limited the scheduled 2½ hours of work to two hours to help ease players into things (That timeframe brought on-air groans of jealousy from ex-NFL defensive back Jerod Cherry of ESPN-Cleveland radio WKNR; Cherry played in the two-a-day era.)

Pettine dubbed it a good start, but even he might admit that most coaches would say they had a good start after Day 1 of camp.

Something was missing.

There was little buzz and a clear lack of a vibe. There was no spark, and little excitement. The biggest outburst from the fans came when Terrelle Pryor finished a short catch by running to the end zone as the defensive back more or less stopped. Pryor did the right thing, and it was a good play. But the biggest moment of excitement came from a quarterback turned receiver who admitted he is facing a tough task.

Lack of buzz and attention might not be a bad thing. Pettine’s theme this season is “words Into action,” so perhaps the team is simply being more businesslike.

And perhaps the buzz from drafting Manziel has simply dissipated following his disappointing rookie season and subdued offseason.

One year ago, national media and TV trucks flocked to Berea for the opening of camp. In 2015, the only flocks were seagulls closer to Lake Erie.

It’s not like the opening of camp should bring bells, whistles and fireworks. This one just seemed unusually quiet, more like a practice during minicamp or in the middle of October than the exciting start of a new season.

Is it the result of an offseason when people predicted little or nothing from the Browns in 2015? An offseason that resulted in the suspension of the team's best receiver and the first-round quarterback from a year ago relegated to backing up a 36-year-old who has never played a full season of 16 games?

That’s a valid view, even if it is the glass-half-empty take.

The half-full view says a start without buzz is, in some ways, refreshing.

The Browns have talked a good game for years, then gone out and laid the proverbial egg during the season. They did some talking before this season, but Pettine started camp by putting his foot down about actions meaning more than words.

This led to a functional, but subdued first day.

The next real gauge will be Saturday, when players don pads.