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Browns practice (finally) gets spirited

BEREA, Ohio -- Donte Whitner plainly admitted what the naked eye showed: Monday's first practice in pads for the Cleveland Browns was uninspiring.

"Below standard," Whitner said.

But one day after it seemed like the Browns missed a memo about being fast and aggressive, they were active, noisy, aggressive and chippy. Guys went to the ground, pads were audible and taunts were present. It was much more spirited and energetic than it was 24 hours earlier.

Soon after linebacker Eric Martin taunted the offense after flinging Dion Lewis to the ground -- a supposed no-no -- Ben Tate flung the ball at Ahtyba Rubin when Rubin was too physical for Tate's taste.

"That's OK," Whitner said. "Throwing the football at someone never killed anybody."

It still led to a scrum and a dog pile that involved a large percentage of the team that didn't seem to bother anyone.

"That was a big [fight]," Whitner said. "That's how we like it really. We don't want any soft guys around here."

"You don't want one side of the ball to get bullied by the other," coach Mike Pettine said. "There has to be some pushback."

Martin Wallace got into two scuffles, one at the end of the dog pile and the other shortly after Lewis had been thrown to the ground again. Soon after the second flinging, Wallace was mixing it up with Armonty Bryant.

"It's the price of doing business," Pettine said.

Interesting, because a day earlier he had said he wanted his team to be competitive, not combative. And he had criticized safety Johson Bademosi for lowering his shoulder after a reception.

"Everybody thinks that fighting is bad, but fighting is not bad when guys have helmets on and you're not throwing punches," Whitner said. "It's guys getting frustrated, both sides of the ball getting heated, both sides of the ball getting physical. And that's what we want."

Pettine ended practice with a competitive drill. The offense has to move 20 yards, and it's best-of-5 to see if it makes it or if the defense wins. In this case, the defense dominated, winning three of four. As a result, the defense gets to wear orange "pride" jerseys on Thursday, which may not sound like much but is meaningful.

"Yeah it means something," Whitner said. "It kind of gives you the feel of a real football game. Toward the end of the game when the game is tight, your muscles get tight, you start to tense up a little bit, you understand that something is on the line and one play can cost you the game. It kind of gives you that feeling a little bit."

Clearly simply winning that competition matters. Pettine is not the first coach to institute a reward for a drill, either. Whitner said Jim Harbaugh had something similar in San Francisco.

"I know it's kind of weird," Whitner said, "but the winner had to run gassers. He wanted to see how bad you really wanted to win."