Postcard from camp: Browns
SI.com has dispatched 10 writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. For the complete schedule of postcards, click here.
Setting the Scene
The Browns training center is in Berea, Ohio, just off the runways of Cleveland Hopkins Airport south of Cleveland. The Browns have camp on their natural grass fields behind the complex, with enthusiastic fans encircling the rectangular camp fields on three sides. The players stay at a Middleburg Heights, Ohio, hotel about five minutes away, but don't try to get a room there or invade the players' space to play a game of ping pong on the table just off the lobby. The hotel is off limits to everyone but Browns' personnel.
1. Shaun Rogers looks good. He passed his pre-camp conditioning test Wednesday morning and weighs 359 pounds, a few doughnuts lighter than he ever tipped the scales last year in Detroit. He's talking like a reborn guy who won't be the kind of one-good-game, one-game-off player he was in Detroit. After morning practice today, I told him I was impressed at how he continually broke free of scrums at the line of scrimmage to sprint after the ballcarriers downfield. "If that's all it takes to make you happy,'' he told me, "I know I can do that.'' The Browns are pretty happy with him so far.
2. Kellen Winslow sounds good. Didn't you think Winslow -- who has had two invisible years and two very productive years, and who unsuccessfully pressed the Browns in the offseason for a new contract -- would come to camp with an angry chip on his shoulder? I did.
Here's the deal: He still wants a new contract, badly, but the Browns are balking because they're not sure what kind of shelf life he has at the physical position of tight end. Also, they probably feel they have to pay Braylon Edwards first because his contract expires after the 2009 season, a year earlier than Winslow's. "I'm under contract, and it's my job to help the team win,'' he told me placidly after practice Thursday. "They don't need me to be a distraction.''
3. The expectations here are out of sight. Whether it's the Portland (Ore.) chapter of the Browns Backers feting Derek Anderson earlier this month in rural Scappoose, Ore., or a capacity throng of 2,524 people ringing the first summer walkthrough practice of the year Thursday, or the chants of "Super Bowl! Super Bowl'' at the first practice, there's something different here. Such is the excitement following the Browns' playoff-less 10-6 season last year. It's called the weight of expectations. "We feel it,'' said Edwards. "It's the way it should be. We expect to make the playoffs, the same as they expect.''
New Face, New Place
Wide receiver Donte' Stallworth. He's become a more vital piece of the puzzle than the Browns thought when they signed him to a contract guaranteeing him $10 million last winter. That's because 2007 starter Joe Jurevicius (2007: 50 catches) is likely out until at least Week 7 after a recent surgical knee cleanout. Question is, can Stallworth make it through 16 games? He's already resting a sore hamstring. What the Browns could do is play Winslow as the third receiver -- a la Dallas Clark in Indianapolis -- with Steve Heiden or rookie Martin Rucker as the traditional blocking tight end to round out the passing game.