AKRON — Coach Pat Shurmur heard the news Monday on his way to talk to 500 Browns fans desperate for a football fix.
The owners had won the latest court decision, and the NFL lockout will continue. The next court date is June 3.
Shurmur could’ve locked the door to his office and screamed. He could’ve called his wife and whined. That’s not his style.
“I wouldn’t say I’m tearing my hair out,” Shurmur said at Tangier Restaurant at the annual Akron Browns Backers banquet. “There’s plenty to do. When you’re a new staff, when you’re trying to get your systems up and running, there’s plenty to do, so we’re using that time to just make sure that what we’re doing is right.”
More than four months into his first head coaching job, Shurmur has yet to truly coach. The offseason and lockout have kept him from any extended contact with the players, and he’s yet to hold his first practice.
“I wouldn’t say it’s business as usual, but I would say we’re very busy,” he said. “We’re kind of trying to cross all the T’s and dot our I’s and make sure that when the players come back and we get a chance to work with them, we’re up and running at full speed.”
The consensus around the NFL is that the Browns, and teams like them, will be particularly hurt by the work stoppage. They have an almost entirely new coaching staff, are overhauling the offensive and defensive systems and will have a revamped roster.
“I’m confident, and maybe it’s my young enthusiasm, but I really feel good about what we’re going to teach and I really feel great about the guys we have, the coaches that are going to teach it,” Shurmur said. “And from what I’ve learned about the players that were on this team, there’s a lot of guys willing to learn that are going to pick it up fast.
“What I see is 32 teams playing on a level playing field. Every team, even if you’re an established team, somewhat re-creates itself each year. There’s going to be learning for everybody.”
Shurmur would’ve already held offseason workouts and a full-squad minicamp if not for the lockout. Instead, about a dozen offensive players, led by quarterback Colt McCoy, have met twice to work out and practice together.
“I think it’s terrific,” Shurmur said. “Some of our players have obviously taken leadership roles in making sure the guys get together, some of our key players.”
He isn’t concerned about injuries being suffered without the supervision of coaches and trainers.
“They know how to take care of themselves. They’re all professionals,” he said.
McCoy has been the CEO of the workouts, which have earned the nickname “Camp Colt.” He is trying to give the offense a head start in learning the West Coast system Shurmur will install.
“I think they have a feel for some of the concepts that we’re gonna run, and they’ve been given some information so that they can decipher what we’re looking to teach when they get here,” Shurmur said, referring to the playbook. “From what I’ve seen, he’s really done a good job of trying to get the players together, work out and really do as much as we can do until we get them back into Berea.
“When you talk about a quarterback working with receivers, it’s about timing and execution. So it’s getting used to one another, the depth that the routes are being run, the timing that the quarterback is throwing it with. All those things are very important, and they can do some of that stuff on their own.”
The workouts last week were at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, just seconds from Browns headquarters. Shurmur resisted the urge to watch — and coach.
“Tempted, but we made a decision we’re going to follow the rules, so it was not something that we wanted to jeopardize getting ourselves in trouble,” he said.
The draft at the end of April was the last NFL business until the lockout is settled. The Browns addressed many needs, but have at least a few left over if/when free agency begins in anticipation of a 2011 season. Safety, defensive end and change-of-pace running back likely top the list.
Shurmur wasn’t giving away secrets but said the team will “aggressively pursue” the free agents they’ve targeted.
“I think you can maybe guess which direction we’ll go,” he said. “We know the players we might go after.”
Shurmur has yet to meet some of his players face-to-face. He’s watched about as much old film as he can.
“It’s fun for me to try to get to know the players without really knowing them,” he said. “So that when we get a chance to work with each other, either confirm or deny what I think.”
Shurmur signed helmets and balls before the banquet, then gave a speech after being introduced by former coach Sam Rutigliano. When he was done, Shurmur called an audible and took questions.
This was the latest stop on the banquet circuit.
“Every time I interact with the fans of Cleveland, I get a history lesson,” he said. “I’ve become a good listener. The pride is infectious and intoxicating.
“Everywhere we go, there’s such passion for the Browns and it’s really exciting to be the new coach.”
Even if he hasn’t done much coaching yet.