No coach in the AFC North was looking forward to today's start of the offseason workout program more than the Browns' Pat Shurmur.
It was at this time last year when Shurmur was a rookie coach who had no one to coach. The NFL lockout meant no conditioning program, no introduction to the playbook and no minicamps. Shurmur didn't meet several of his players until they reported to training camp on July 29 and he held his first practice the next day.
The Browns struggled to adjust to Shurmur's offense, and Shumur looked unprepared at times during the season. This shouldn't be used as an excuse because other coaches taking over teams like San Franicsco's Jim Harbaugh and Denver's John Fox still guided their teams to the playoffs. But the shortened offseason definitely played a factor in Cleveland's problems last season.
"I guess I understand and realize how important these [offseason workouts] can be so you can get your system in place and refined," Shurmur said a conference call Monday. "The players have a chance to work together and start to develop a winning chemistry. And when you get through this body of work, you have a couple of weeks off and you try to repeat the football part of it in training camp as you prepare for the season."
This offseason will be an adjustment for every team, not just the Browns. Under new rules in the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, offseason programs have been reduced from 14 weeks to nine per team.
The offseason is now divided into three phases:
In the first phase, which lasts two weeks, most NFL teams will be restricted to strength and conditioning work.
Phase Two of the offseason, which lasts three weeks, allows players to be on the field for drills but there can't be any offense vs. defense sessions.
Phase Three can last four weeks and can include as many as 10 organized training activities and one mandatory minicamp. Hitting isn't allowed during the offseason. No pads are worn and players can wear helmets on the field only during the final offseason phase.
Shurmur said he has no problem with the restrictive rules. "I think there is enough time here to get what you need to get done, to get ready for training camp," he said. "I'm good with it."
This could be another season where the Browns are getting a new starting quarterback ready. But Shurmur didn't want to talk about that. During the conference call, a reporter asked Shurmur about the Browns' interest in Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. "No draft questions," Shurmur said. "I'll leave that for Tom [Heckert, Browns general manager]."
Shurmur, though, feels a full offseason will be beneficial to a team that finished the season with six straight losses.
"For me, I just have a better view of what our team is and the areas that we need to improve in to get ourselves in a position to play in the playoffs and compete to play in the big game," he said. "That's what we're looking to do."