Sounds like Antonio Brown is having a nightmarish travel day.
The star Pittsburgh Steelers receiver planned to attend Thursday's session of organized team activities, and though I'm hearing he should still make that session, travel issues are making things difficult.
Here is Brown's account...
sometimes you have a bad day because your jet won't start, then they tell you the mechanic's wife just went into labor.
..also, you hungry
— Antonio Brown (@AntonioBrown84) May 25, 2016
Hook a guy up with a teleport machine. I need to get to Pitt. It's time.
— Antonio Brown (@AntonioBrown84) May 25, 2016
I have my football tucked and I've decided to go Forest Gump mode. I'm running cross country from LA to Pitt. If you see me, wave hello.
— Antonio Brown (@AntonioBrown84) May 25, 2016
Brown told ESPN last week that he would participate in Steelers workouts after attending the "Dancing With The Stars" season finale on Tuesday night in Los Angeles. Brown was a contestant and lost in the semifinals.
"I'm excited to see how we jell together," Brown said last week. "I'm excited to go toward one goal, see how the new guys plug in, create the best team we can create."
Brown will resume duties as the Steelers' No. 1 receiver, and he'll proceed to catch a gazillion passes from Ben Roethlisberger. The chemistry shouldn't be too hard to re-establish.
CINCINNATI -- Four road games, a night game and meetings with three 2015 AFC playoff teams. The Cincinnati Bengals face all of that within the first six weeks of the season, making it among the toughest stretches of the year.
And it has just gotten a whole lot tougher.
With news early Wednesday morning from Adam Schefter that tight end Tyler Eifert could miss the first couple of games this season after undergoing ankle surgery Wednesday, an already young, transitioning offense faces a stiffer challenge at the start of the year. The Bengals already had to replace two of their top pass-catchers from 2015. Now they must also figure out who will replace their most prolific pass-catching scorer early. Eifert had a team-high 13 touchdown receptions last season.
If Kroft didn't already know, his time in the limelight has arrived.
By the end of last season, Kroft had emerged as a legitimate backup to Eifert. Although he appeared in all 17 games (including the Bengals' playoff game against Pittsburgh), it wasn't until Week 12 that Kroft started popping up as an offensive playmaker on the stat sheet. His first career catch came that Sunday afternoon, when he hauled in a 4-yard pass as part of the Bengals' 31-7 win over the Rams.
Kroft worked his way up from one reception in the Week 13 win over the Browns to four in the Week 16 loss to the Broncos. In the Bengals' two final road games (at San Francisco in Week 15 and at Denver a week later), Kroft caught seven passes off nine targets. He also had 77 yards receiving and a touchdown in those two games.
Overall, Kroft had 11 catches for 129 yards and a touchdown last season.
Much of the late rise in Kroft's production was the result of more sideline time for Eifert. The veteran tight end dealt with a concussion and a stinger toward the end of the season.
Where did Kroft come from?
The first of two third-round Bengals picks in 2015, Kroft was a Rutgers standout who was forced into changing his playing style throughout college. Former Bengals receiver Mohamed Sanu, also a Rutgers product, vouched to coaches and scouts about Kroft's ability and his personality away from the field.
More of a pass-catching tight end as a sophomore (leading the team with 43 catches and 573 receiving yards), Kroft had to hone his blocking skills as a junior. That was when a new offensive coordinator with a run-heavy scheme took over. At the end of that season, Kroft entered the draft. Kroft received the 2014 Loyal Knight Award, an honor that goes to the Scarlet Knights player "who has displayed great character in sacrificing personal goals for the good of the team."
Kroft has adapted to change before, and he'll have to do it again this fall. Only this time, he shouldn't be sacrificing catches and yards.
PITTSBURGH -- Football has never been the issue for Le'Veon Bell.
When he’s on the field, there might be no one better.
Bell seems to recognize the gravity of the next few months. He’s looking to shed the injury-prone label after finishing back-to-back seasons with a knee issue. He’ll be a free agent after the 2016 season, and he can ensure his future with the Pittsburgh Steelers via a long-term contract. He can also reclaim his place as a fantasy football machine with an early-season splash, less than a year after major knee surgery to repair a torn medial collateral ligament.
All that comes with a caveat: He must play smart. The delicate balance many running backs struggle to find is remaining powerful and punishing without being reckless, especially coming off a complicated injury.
Bell aims to find it.
“My luck hopefully should change this year and I’m on the field and there’s nothing freaky,” Bell said. “Obviously, just take care of my body and do the little things right.”
Bell said he used to be naive, thinking that NFL players wouldn't target him during games. But he thinks the Bengals certainly did after Vontaze Burfict’s sideline tackle in Week 8, and he added that they weren’t the only ones. That’s why his mindset has shifted.
Naivete won’t change the way NFL defenders play. The game is labeled as safer, but some of the hits can still be felt from the press box.
Bell’s past knee concerns were more freak injuries than warning signs, he said. Based on Tuesday’s offseason workout, Bell doesn’t look like a player with knee problems. The Steelers will be cautious with him, but he moved fluidly in individual drills.
“I’m going to be physical,” Bell said. “I just know when I’m on the sideline, I can’t expect somebody to push me out of bounds. I’ve just got to take everything. I can’t take nothing for granted. Either get out of bounds or continue to finish the play.”
Bell has the rushing mentality only a few have, and Adrian Peterson is one: Tell me I can’t rush for 2,000 yards, and I’m rushing for 2,000.
Pittsburgh's offense isn’t really built for a 2,000-yard rusher, not with QB Ben Roethlisberger and WR Antonio Brown healthy. The pass-first offense works for this group, but Bell is too good a pass-catcher to hide behind the line of scrimmage. Assuming he returns healthy, Bell can line up all over the field -- including in the slot -- and be effective. A 1,000-receiving-yard season is attainable for him.
As a sign of good faith, the Steelers might reward Bell with a new deal before he’s asked to put up those numbers. His medical history could complicate negotiations, but both sides have incentive to get something done.
But a contract hasn’t been discussed yet, a fact Bell doesn’t seem to mind. He’s intent on letting that play out while he rehabs.
And he’s coming for all the numbers.
“I’m out here with no knee brace on or anything, didn’t wear a knee sleeve or anything. I’ve been training my knee for everything I’m about to go through, so when September gets here I’ll be even better than I am now,” Bell said. “That’s even crazy to think about. But I’m excited.”
CINCINNATI -- We're now one significant step closer to the start of the season.
With the arrival of organized team activities (OTAs) Tuesday, the Cincinnati Bengals are joining the rest of the league in transitioning to full-team practices. The 10 practices the Bengals are holding across the next three weeks are still voluntary, but expect the Bengals to have close to perfect attendance for them.
As those practices kick off Tuesday, here are a few players who could benefit from the extra springtime work:
CB William Jackson III: The first-round cornerback had an impressive showing during the Bengals' rookie camp two weeks ago, but now he has the chance to practice with veteran cornerbacks like Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick, and against Pro Bowler A.J. Green. Those times when Jackson gets Green one-on-one definitely could provide a confidence boost if the rookie can keep up with the veteran receiver. These next few weeks are Jackson's chance to prove to older teammates he belongs.
WR Tyler Boyd: Much like Jackson, Boyd is in the "show me" stage of his very young career. The pressure to perform may be a little more intense for this rookie, though, considering many are viewing him as the possible answer to the Bengals' No. 2 receiver quandary. Behind Green, uncertainty reigns at the receiver position. The Bengals' returning receivers besides Green had just three catches between them last season. Their free-agent addition, Brandon LaFell, is coming off a down year in New England, and for now, it's hard to say what he will be able to provide Cincinnati. LaFell likely will start off OTAs as the No. 2 receiver, but Boyd has every chance -- starting now -- to push past him.
LB Marquis Flowers: On the defensive side of the ball it's been easy to forget about Flowers, the third-year linebacker who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury. Mostly used on special teams as a rookie, Flowers will be hoping to compete this offseason and preseason for action at linebacker, too. Noted for his coverage ability when he was being drafted, the former college safety could definitely help the Bengals as they start polishing packages that focus on the coverage of tight ends and running backs. This is a big offseason for Flowers.
DE Margus Hunt: Few players on Cincinnati's roster are in Hunt's position. The defensive end is entering a contract year and the former second-round pick has been mostly underwhelming in his time in stripes. Injuries have certainly played a role in that. As he begins the fourth year of his rookie deal, Hunt needs to consistently flash in practices from now until the end of the year. Before injuries slowed him the past two seasons, coaches kept saying they thought he was closer and closer to finally putting it all together and having a promising career.
K Jonathan Brown: Remember this guy? A tryout player who made it past rookie camp, Brown still has a ways to go before he makes an NFL roster. He's currently the Bengals' third kicker. Maybe Cincinnati won't be his home long term, but in this camp he will have a chance to impress coaches enough that they'll have him back for training camp. If that happens, he'll be able to put some kicks on tape this preseason and perhaps catch the attention of another team. When he was signed earlier this month, Brown said the Bengals were the only team that reached out to him.
"I suspect he's a pretty good tackler," Harbaugh said with a smile while looking at Tomlin, who was seated in the audience. "We never exactly saw the tackle. But he thought about it."
Harbaugh then turned his back while on stage to imitate Tomlin, who was fined $100,000 by the NFL after he took a step back into the field of play and slowed down Jones. It stopped a potential touchdown for Jones in a 22-20 Ravens victory.
After that game, Harbaugh said he never thought "there was intentionality there personally."
Harbaugh also poked fun at Tomlin's dismissive handshake from four years ago. After a last-second win by the Steelers, both coaches met at midfield, where it looked like Tomlin rushed the handshake and Harbaugh appeared upset by that.
"For 3½ hours, we're battling each other," Harbaugh said. "And then for about 30 seconds on the walk across the field, sometimes we're still battling one another, right? This guy's got a great handshake."
This wasn't even the most hostile handshake between the coaches. Harbaugh relayed a story from 2008 after the Ravens had lost to the Steelers for a third time that season.
The last thing Tomlin told Harbaugh after they shook hands was: "I'm just sorry we didn't get a chance to play you four times."
"I thought to myself, 'Wow, that's strong.' I was impressed," Harbaugh said. "One of these days, we'll get you three times. I know we will."
Harbaugh and Tomlin were supporting the charity "There Goes My Hero," which promotes increasing the registry for bone marrow donors.
In addressing the rivalry, Harbaugh said it's such a fight that you don't want to like the other guy.
"Then you just respect them so much," Harbaugh said. "You get to know them and you end up loving one another."
Can a team go into a season with four rookies and a converted quarterback playing wide receiver?
Hue Jackson may believe so. Because the release of Brian Hartline seems to indicate Jackson firmly believes in the team's rookies. Add in that the coach has been impressed with Terrelle Pryor and the team may have Pryor along with rookies Corey Coleman, Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins and Jordan Payton among the wideout group.
At this point, that's speculation and guesswork, and much can change -- including Josh Gordon possibly being reinstated. But at this point the team seems committed to the rookies.
If you'd have asked which of the returning receivers the new Cleveland Browns regime would let go of first, the last pick would have been Hartline.
Instead, he's the first.
Hartline fell victim to the numbers game at receiver, something that was unthinkable the past two seasons when receivers in the offseason were treated like they had the plague. But when a new coach is involved in the drafting of four receivers, it's a safe bet that at least three and probably all four will make the team.
Pryor may be the one to benefit most from this decision. He has impressed the coach in offseason work, and his versatility may be something Jackson likes -- and wants. Pryor still has to prove in games, though, that he has fully made the transition from quarterback to receiver.
Hartline is a pro's pro. He was invested in playing for his home team (he grew up in Canton) and was extremely active in community activities.
He started slow in 2015, his first year in Cleveland, but finished strong -- with 30 catches for 341 yards in his final four games. (Given Hartline's production, hands and dependability, it seemed like there would be a spot for him.
But new coaches want their own guys.
This was an on-field personnel decision, not a cap move.
ESPN Stats & Information reports the Browns have $41 million in cap room, so had the team wanted to keep Hartline and his $3.75 million cap cost, it easily could have done so.
Instead the team moved on.
And the "rebooting" of the Browns continues.
What Forsett learned in the process was that even bars can't shut out the popularity of the NFL. In a blog posted Monday, Forsett wrote that inmates at the California facility told him he was on their fantasy football teams last season.
"I was like, WHAT, you all have fantasy football in here!?," Forsett wrote. "It brings a new perspective to a season-ending injury when you have an inmate telling you he had you on his fantasy team ... and I know I didn’t get any points for this guy. You know I had to apologize."
Forsett fell short of fantasy expectations last season. He was limited to 641 yards rushing and two touchdowns because he broke his arm in Week 11.
For those wondering about Forsett's 2016 fantasy outlook -- including those in San Quentin -- he is ranked as the 29th-best prospect by ESPN.
"It was a surreal experience that these guys know who you are and are playing fantasy football (I guess they get some type of good behavior privileges)," Forsett wrote.
Forsett toured the prison as part of the San Quentin Squires Program, which involves underprivileged middle school and high school students. They were allowed to go into cells and walk among the prisoners in the recreation yard.
The message, according to Forsett, is that one bad decision can land you in a place like this.
"The inmates really encourage them to avoid this life path," Forsett wrote. "Some of them -- I’m talking murderers in there for life -- shared their stories and made sure that the kids understood that jail is not a cool place to be. It’s sort of like a 'scared straight' approach, but not entirely. It was more like a 'you don’t have to do what I did' warning message."
Forsett, who has spoken at jails and juvenile detention centers in the past, described this as a life-changing experience.
"I’ll definitely be back," Forsett wrote. "I’m always about inspiring and encouraging people, regardless of their background or circumstances. When I’m speaking, I try to impact and inspire everyone, from inmates to corporate execs. It doesn’t matter who you are; everyone deserves some inspiration."
BEREA, Ohio -- Duke Johnson put it simply.
"We are here to give him whatever he wants," Johnson said last week at the team's open practice as part of organized team activities.
The "he" he refers to is new coach Hue Jackson, who showed a hefty dose of confidence in the Cleveland Browns returning running backs by not using one of the team's league-high 14 draft picks on a back.
It's a risk -- to everyone but Jackson.
"From top to bottom," Jackson said, "I think we have some good candidates here."
It did not necessarily show in 2015, when Isaiah Crowell averaged 3.8 yards per carry and totaled 706 yards. In two seasons, Crowell has 706 and 607 yards, statistical oddities but not Pro Bowl numbers. Johnson caught 61 passes as a rookie, but averaged 3.6 yards per carry."
Those are hardly the numbers of a feared hydra.
But Jackson has been talking up his backs without hesitation, telling 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland that the talent of Crowell and Johnson "is extreme."
Jackson will not hesitate to gush, but he backed up his words by committing to this pair -- with options sprinkled in. Glenn Winston and Raheem Mostert are back, and Jackson brought in Terrell Watson, who spent his rookie season on Cincinnati's practice squad.
Consider Watson -- 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds -- a legitimate dark horse. He led all of college football with 2,153 rushing yards in 2014, and set several Division II records at Azusa Pacific. The fact that Jackson saw him every day last season cannot hurt his cause.
For now, though, the job(s) are for Crowell and Johnson to lose.
In Cincinnati, where Jackson was offensive coordinator, Jeremy Hill gained 794 yards, Giovani Bernard 730. The two combined for 13 rushing touchdowns (Hill had 11) and 64 receptions (49 for Bernard). The previous season, Hill had 1,124 yards, Bernard 680, with 14 combined touchdowns and 70 combined receptions.
Jackson makes no secret he believes the team has to run the ball effectively to win. Cincinnati's two backs last season had 377 carries, 88 more than the Browns' pair. The Bengals ranked seventh in the league in rushing attempts, the Browns 27th.
Crowell can see a different approach already.
"I feel like we have a lot of different runs," he said, "and I also feel like [I see] him demanding to run the ball violently."
Crowell is the inside guy who came in as an undrafted free agent and played well enough that the Browns released Ben Tate during the season and traded Terrance West after the following training camp.
Jackson was among those watching Johnson's pro day at the University of Miami before the 2015 draft. His quickness allows him to run outside and be a weapon in the passing game. His 61 receptions set a Browns rookie record for a back, and were the second-highest total by any Browns rookie. Only Oakland's Amari Cooper -- a receiver -- had more receptions as a rookie.
Jackson sees Johnson as an every-down back. The previous coaching staff actually felt the same. They started training camp intending to make Johnson the starter. But a hamstring pull set him back, and then he was sidelined by a concussion.
The overall season was disappointing for the running game, but the Browns and the backs can point to the final four or five games when a greater commitment to the run led to more production.
Crowell averaged 5.2 yards over the final five games, when he had three of his four touchdowns. Johnson averaged 5.6 yards in the final four.
The numbers are skewed somewhat by a 223-yard day for the pair against San Francisco, but players have built momentum for the following season off less.
"I wish we could have had more of that during the whole season," Crowell said.
This season, they will get their chance.
The Baltimore Ravens begin their organized team activities this week, and they find themselves in a situation unlike any other team in the league.
The Ravens are the only team that's expected to be without their starting quarterback for all of the OTAs this spring.
For the first time in nine years, quarterback Joe Flacco won't be on the field for the Ravens' offseason workouts because he's recovering from season-ending knee surgery. Flacco recently said that he has made "big improvements" in his rehab, and coach John Harbaugh said last month that Flacco remains on track to return for the start of training camp in late July.
While missing all of the offseason workouts isn't devastating for a starting quarterback, it's the time when they can form a rapport with their targets, especially new ones. As former Ravens coach Brian Billick often said about OTAs: If they weren't important, teams wouldn't schedule them.
"At the end of the day, training camp is going to be enough time," Flacco said last month. "I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get a ton of time before that. So that's going to be enough time. You'd like to get as much as you can, but that'll be plenty to get going."
Other than Flacco, Denver's Mark Sanchez is the only projected starting quarterback scheduled to miss time this spring. He recently underwent surgery on his left thumb and is expected to miss the first week of OTAs.
The other starting quarterbacks who dealt with injuries and surgeries this past year -- Dallas' Tony Romo (collarbone), Indianapolis' Andrew Luck (kidney, ribs and shoulder), Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (knee scope) and Cincinnati's Andy Dalton (thumb) -- are all expected to be full-go at spring workouts, according to ESPN NFL Nation reporters.
Bell posted a video over the weekend of him balling on some dudes in a pickup hoops game. This competition isn't exactly Thunder-Warriors caliber, but that's not the point. Bell seems to be moving around well.
— Le'Veon Bell (@L_Bell26) May 22, 2016
Bell is active on social media and has posted several items that signal a productive recovery from a torn MCL and other damage on his knee. He suffered the injury in Week 8 on a tackle attempt from Vontaze Burfict.
The next four months will tell more about Bell's recovery as football training intensifies, but these videos are a positive sign.
On a lighter note, Bell could get his hoops teammates more involved in the next video (we kid, we kid).
Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown are healthy, happy and ready to connect a gazillion times over the next eight months. This much we know. This lethal combination is one reason why the Pittsburgh Steelers' high-powered offense won't flinch over a few questions about its roster. Completion after completion, they are always there.
But while Brown and Roethlisberger reconvene this week and running back Le’Veon Bell progresses on his knee rehab, the plans for replacing suspended receiver Martavis Bryant will take shape over the next few months, starting Tuesday at organized team activities.
The Steelers will fill this need by committee. They won't replace Bryant's dynamic playmaking with one person. They will need Markus Wheaton, Ladarius Green and Sammie Coates to do it, plus more help.
Wheaton's next step: Wheaton has played the complementary role. He has played the slot receiver role. Now, in a contract year, he's got a legitimate chance to be a No. 2 receiver. Wheaton has good speed, and the Steelers will want him to utilize it more often when shaking defenders and making aggressive plays on the ball. Wheaton's sluggish start to 2015 while Bryant was suspended for four games can't happen again. Don't be surprised if Wheaton plays frequently on the outside this year. That's natural to him, but Bryant's presence forced Wheaton inside.
The new vertical threat: The Steelers' reconfigured tight end position could feature less singular all-around play, which was Heath Miller’s signature, and more specialized play. Fifth-round pick Jesse James can man the traditional inline tight end role, used for primary blocking and over-the-middle catches. Meanwhile, new tight end Green offers explosion. That's why he got a $4.75 million signing bonus to come to Pittsburgh. He's 6-foot-5 and fast. If you don't have Bryant's skill set any longer, try to find something close to it. In this case, the Steelers found that at tight end. Think vertical with Green. He can stretch the field. He says he has improved as a blocker -- and blocking is necessary in this offense -- but that's not why the Steelers signed him. Green injects more athleticism into the position. Let's see how the Steelers utilize Green and James in red zone packages. They might roll both out together because of their length.
A renewed Coates: After making minimal impact his rookie year, Coates intensified his training, lost some weight and earned the coaches' trust during the offseason. The next four months will be big for his development. Where Coates can separate himself is with big plays, which the offense needs without Bryant. He was a deep-ball specialist at Auburn, and though he wants to be a complete player, his biggest strength is winning downfield with his rugged running style and his size/strength combo. The Steelers will give him every opportunity to earn a solidified role. Year 2 should show a more polished receiver than last offseason, when at times Coates looked hesitant, maybe a little lost.
The deep ball to DHB: The team quickly signed Darrius Heyward-Bey to a three-year deal after learning of the Bryant suspension, which shows the trust Roethlisberger and Todd Haley have in him. He's not a game-breaker, but he's a solid option and there's still speed inside those legs. Heyward-Bey is a productive downfield blocker too. Early in the year, he'll likely get adequate reps as the team searches for a rotational rhythm. Haley isn't afraid to mix and match personnel groupings to strike the right balance. Heyward-Bey will be involved, but if he outplays Wheaton and Coates, that's not a good look.
Don't sleep on Eli Rogers: The Steelers were high on him before a preseason knee injury forced him to injured reserve. He's not a lock to make the team but might earn snaps from the slot with shifty play. He understands the nuances of the position and felt underutilized coming out of Louisville.
Eugene Monroe's campaign for medical marijuana extended beyond the NFL on Friday.
The Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle treated 45 homeless veterans battling drug and alcohol addiction to a fishing trip. Monroe chartered two boats for The Baltimore Station, a residential treatment program that has been helping veterans for 25 years.
After the trip, Monroe posted on Twitter: "Let's get these Veterans healthy #cannabis treatment!!!"
— Eugene Monroe (@MrEugeneMonroe) May 20, 2016
The trip was quite a success, as the group caught the day's limit of 90 fish before noon, according to Fox Baltimore. The Baltimore Station was going to use the fish for meals throughout the weekend.
Today's biggest catch! pic.twitter.com/5vFGf4mFA9
— Eugene Monroe (@MrEugeneMonroe) May 20, 2016
Monroe has been vigorously lobbying the NFL to approve medical marijuana for the past three months. He recently donated $80,000 to researchers at Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania for studies to examine the impact of cannabinoid therapies on current and NFL players. This comes a few months after he gave $10,000 for marijuana research.
In a Friday interview on National Public Radio, Monroe was asked whether his coaches and teammates have been supportive of his outspoken stance on medical marijuana.
"My teammates are extremely supportive," he said. "We want a healthier option. We don't want to be like some of our former colleagues who have gone on and exposed their great deal of strife that has come into their life because of addiction to these opioids. That addiction, that doesn't stop when the game is over for them. It transfers into their life when they retire from the game as well."
Monroe's status with the Ravens this season has come under question after Baltimore used the No. 6 overall pick in April's draft on offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley. Ravens officials said last month that there is room for both Monroe and Stanley on this season's team because Stanley could play left guard if he loses the competition at left tackle to Monroe.
The Ravens can create $6.5 million of cap space if they trade or release Monroe, who is scheduled to make $6.5 million in base salary this season -- $1 million more than anyone else on the team.
BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson implored the media this week not to make snap judgments on players or systems based on two organized team activity practices (the media was able to watch the second).
We shall honor that request. But we shall also make the following observations, with this proviso: Jackson is right. It is wise not to read too much into OTA practices.
Here are five thoughts coming off the first OTA:
Temper the optimism. This May-June period is the second-most optimistic period of the year for Browns fans, the first of course being the draft. The annual May/June optimism makes immediate Pro Bowl players out of new acquisitions and brings excitement beyond the stage the team is in. OTAs are exciting only to teams that do not win. Winning teams use OTAs to refine and assess. The Browns use it to learn and start over. OTA's are far different from training camp, which is far different from preseason games, which is far, far, far different from regular-season games. May phenoms can turn into September cuts. Best to keep the May/June optimism to a minimum, and instead demand results in November and December.
Josh McCown is the best quarterback right now. Judge it on individual ability and arm strength, and Robert Griffin III leads the pack. Judge it on reading defenses and throwing the ball from the pocket and McCown leads. He has been in the league so long and learned new offenses so many times that this transition might be less challenging for McCown than it is for other players. One year ago, Browns players marveled at McCown's ability to pick up the offense. He's doing the same now. The question is whether McCown can actually win the job given the team's signing of Griffin, who was the choice of the new coach. It certainly seems that the job is Griffin's to lose. The other question about McCown is the same as it's always been, and the same as it is for Griffin: Can he stay healthy?
Terrelle Pryor has made strides. Pryor looks far more comfortable at receiver than he did last season, and his skills seem to be the kind that Jackson likes. Pryor is a big guy who can run and who can be moved around the offense. The Browns signed Pryor just before training camp last season, then he was sidelined by injury. The team never got to really see what he could do. Now he's healthy, running well and catching the ball. It's way too soon to say Pryor has made the transition — Pryor has yet to play in pads against Joe Haden in press coverage — but as Jackson said: "He's flashed the last several days."
The practice was energetic, and coaches were loud. This is not a quiet staff. The head coach races around the field, making corrections and giving encouragement. After Isaiah Crowell caught a short throw and ran down the field, Jackson called him to his side from 30 yards away, put his arm on Crowell's shoulder and gave him tips on how to make the play work better. Receivers coach Al Saunders is like the Tasmanian devil. The days of quiet practices seem to be over.
Jackson's effervescence boils over. The coach challenged his rookies to work to get in better shape, but his outlook usually is sunny. Consider Alvin Bailey, an offensive lineman snatched by the Browns after Seattle did not make him an offer as restricted free agent. Bailey started eight games in three seasons in Seattle, one in the NFC Championship Game. Said Jackson: "[Bailey] was at Seattle and did a tremendous job for them." Being positive isn't necessarily a bad thing. Players do pay attention, even though they say they don't. It's just interesting.
For every good deep throw Griffin made, there were overthrown outs -- as in several feet over the receivers' heads.
This wasn't exactly a textbook display of passing-game football, but coach Hue Jackson wasn't concerned -- even if Josh McCown got the ball downfield to receivers better than Griffin did.
"We're not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we don't need to be right now," Jackson said. "We need to work at it."
The "perfect" reference was interesting, because Griffin strives for perfection.
"If you ever get to the point where [you think], 'Hey, that was good enough,' then you're really not trying to perfect your craft," Griffin said.
Griffin is learning a new offense and a new team, as well as new terminology. Jackson said it will take time, and this was just the second day Jackson had his team on the field. Jackson added that he throws a lot at his players early to see what they can handle. When he finds out, he pares it back.
As for the errors, Jackson said he wants to avoid "catastrophic mistakes."
"Because that means we're not growing," he said.
He chalks the smaller errors up to it being "football."
"RG III doesn't have any accuracy issues," Jackson said. "The defense sometimes is in the right spot."
What Griffin has had are processing issues -- whether he can process the reads, defenses and route adjustments as he drops back to throw. That's a necessity in the NFL, and Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden were not successful in making Griffin into a pocket passer in Washington.
Jackson believes he can help, and Griffin seems to have embraced the chance Jackson has given him. He sprints downfield after completions to run with the receiver. He races from one drill to the other. At one point in an early quarterback drill, he lined up on defense to give Connor Shaw a better look at a play.
And he wasn't biting when asked about a story on ESPN's The Undefeated that went over Griffin's days in Washington.
"Man, I'm so far removed from Washington now and focused on this opportunity here in Cleveland that I don't even worry about those things anymore," Griffin said.
He also had an intriguing answer when asked how he gauges his progress.
"I haven't played in a year," he said. "So I really wasn't able to get a gauge on where my game had evolved from my first year in Washington to last year. I just want to get out there, have some fun, play ball, get completions and win football games.
"At the end of the day all of us are focused on winning."
Jackson said it is way too soon to ask about or discuss things like depth charts and starting positions. He said he wants this time to be about challenging players to see what they can or can't do.
"I think there's a tall challenge ahead," he said. "We're starting at the bottom and we've got to climb our way to the top. We're just going to keep grinding through it."