Browns Coverage

 

Weeden ready to lead his teammates

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell threw passes side by side as the Cleveland Browns opened their first minicamp of the season. The 29-year-old Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in last year's draft, is the incumbent and started 15 games last year.

 Campbell, 31, was signed as a free agent on March 26 after appearing in six games last season with the Bears. Eighteen quarterbacks have started games for the Cleveland Browns since they returned to the NFL in 1999.

 Weeden plans on keeping the job. "I want to compete, and having Jason here is better for everyone involved because we'll push each other,'' Weeden said. "This is probably the biggest year of my career because I've got to show that I can play at this level and make adjustments. "Now that it's my second year here, it's my time to take control and be the guy. They're not going to stick me out there if they don't think I'm the guy who can win games.''

 New Browns coach Rob Chudzinski is overseeing the three-day voluntary minicamp at the franchise's training facility after being hired as Cleveland's 14th full-time head coach on Jan. 10.

 The minicamp opened one day after FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents executed four search warrants at the Knoxville, Tenn., headquarters of Pilot Flying J, whose CEO is new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III

. At an afternoon press conference in Knoxville, Haslam acknowledged that the investigation could cast a negative light on his NFL franchise. "First of all, I apologize, because the last thing we ever want to do is put any kind of blemish on the city of Cleveland, which we've grown to love, or the Browns,'' he said. "We'll manage things down 

 Haslam said he has spoken with Browns CEO Joe Banner, team president Alec Scheiner, general manager Michael Lombardi, and Chudzinski about the situation. But the first-time head coach said he wasn't concerned about it affecting his work. "Obviously, I don't know too much about what's going on with that,'' Chudzinski said. "I've got enough on my plate. Nothing has changed about what we're doing here.''

Haslam echoed that sentiment, relaying his conversation with the Browns' football braintrust. "They said, `Is everything OK?' and I said, `Hey, we're great,''' Haslam said, adding that he plans on traveling to Cleveland "to participate in draft preparation'' on Thursday and Friday.

 The Browns' draft preparation will likely include lengthy discussions about quarterbacks Geno Smith of West Virginia, Ryan Nassib of Syracuse, and EJ Manuel of Florida State. Cleveland has the No. 6 pick in the first round, and Banner has repeatedly avoided naming Weeden the franchise's long-term solution at the position.

 Weeden, though, remains unfazed by it all. During the winter, the former New York Yankees farmhand worked out with another pro baseball-to-football quarterback in Chris Weinke, honing specific skills. "Chris and I have a lot in common, so it worked out well,'' Weeden said. "We spent a lot of time speeding up my feet and eliminating the pat (of the football) that I fell into last season. Those things should improve my accuracy, which I know has to get better.''

Thaddeus Lewis is the only other quarterback on the roster, but has just one NFL game under his belt. Weeden passed for a Browns rookie-record 3,385 yards, but only completed 57.4 percent of his throws and tossed 17 interceptions to 14 touchdowns.

 "I'm not going to comment at all on what happened last year,'' said Chudzinski, who replaced Pat Shurmur after Cleveland's 5-11 campaign. "I will tell you what I see when I look at Brandon. He has some tools, a good arm, and the ability to get the ball down the field. I'm looking forward to working with him.'' Weeden took all of the snaps with the first-team offense during the two-hour practice, while Campbell worked with Cleveland's second unit.

 The session was held inside the Browns' field house. Chudzinski cautioned not to read too much into their assignments, stressing "we're early in the process.'' "Jason will get some reps with the ones along the way, as well,'' he said. "There's not a lot to see yet on the field because we've only put in a portion of the offense. But I have been impressed with all three quarterbacks with the way they've picked up things and have been able to verbalize them in meetings.''

Campbell, who said he would speak to reporters Thursday, has 14,682 career passing yards and has completed 60.9 percent of his throws. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Campbell also stands two inches taller and is 10 pounds heavier than his competition. "I'm glad to have Jason on board because he's a veteran guy who can help the Browns,'' Weeden said. "But I'm also glad he's here because he's a good dude. We met last year in the preseason when we played Chicago, and I really liked the guy.''

 NOTES: All NFL teams that make coaching changes are given one bonus minicamp in the spring, which the Browns chose to hold at their team training facility. ... RB Trent Richardson declined comment on a civil lawsuit in which he was named last month. According to the document filed in Cuyahoga County, two plaintiffs claim they were verbally and physically abused at Richardson's home on Dec. 9, 2012. "I can't say nothing about that,'' he said. "I wish I could, but I can't.'' ...

Starting LG Jason Pinkston has been medically cleared to resume physical activities, but Chudzinski said he will be brought back slowly. The third-year pro fell ill during Cleveland's game against Cincinnati on Oct. 14 and was diagnosed with a season-ending blood clot. ... Three NFL veterans - WR Legedu Naanee, WE Seyi Ajirotutu, and DB Chris Rucker - are participating in minicamp on a tryout basis. ... WR David Nelson should be ready for the start of training camp, according to Chudzinski. Nelson tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in Buffalo's 2012 season opener, requiring reconstructive surgery, and signed with the Browns on April 8.

 

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