BEREA – It wasn’t perfect, but Pat Shurmur was pleased with his first practice as Browns coach.
The four-month NFL lockout deprived Shurmur of the entire offseason. The full squad didn’t report until Friday, then the players were on the field Saturday morning for a two-hour session to start training camp.
“For our first day I think it went fairly well,” Shurmur said. “We didn’t jump offsides a bunch, we were generally in the right formations, pretty decent execution on both sides. A good start, but we’ve got a long way to go before we get where we want to be.”
Of course, these are the Browns, so what would a first day be without some unexpected bad news. No. 1 receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (foot) and starting left guard Eric Steinbach (knee) didn’t practice, and starting tight end Benjamin Watson left with an apparent concussion.
Massaquoi appeared healthy earlier this month when the players gathered for workouts in Austin, Texas. But Saturday his left foot was in a cast that extended to his calf. He declined to talk to a reporter.
“Mo’s got a little foot deal that he came in with and so we’re just kind of going to evaluate that as we go,” Shurmur said. “Steinbach has a little bit of a knee issue. Same type deal. Nothing that we feel is serious.
“We just want to make sure they’re right when we put them out there. We feel like we can get them out here sometime soon, so we’ll see.”
Quarterback Colt McCoy worked throughout the offseason with Massaquoi, who had 36 catches for 483 yards and two touchdowns last year.
“I just know that he’s going to be out for a little bit,” McCoy said. “That’s unfortunate. But when we worked this summer, he is in great shape, he’s running crisp routes and when he gets that taken care of, I know he’s anxious to get back out on the field.”
Watson, who led the Browns in 2010 with 68 catches, went low over the middle for a McCoy pass during an 11-on-11 drill and appeared to take a knee to the back of his head. He stayed facedown on the grass while trainers talked to him, eventually got up and walked slowly into the building with trainers. Shurmur said Watson was being evaluated.
Brian Robiskie and Joshua Cribbs lined up as the first-team receivers, and Pat Murray, in his second year, replaced Steinbach at left guard.
But Shurmur’s first day on the job was about more than injuries. It was a lifelong dream realized after spending the last 12 years as an offensive assistant for the Eagles and Rams.
“I was able to move around more of the field than I normally did, which was fun,” he said. “But once you get into the practice and through the individual and into the team phases, I felt I was standing in about the same spot.”
Shurmur laughed because he doubles as the offensive coordinator. So during team drills, he was calling the plays and directing the huddle.
He repeatedly told the players to stop “milling around and get in the huddle” as he works to increase the tempo of the offense. He even spent a play as a defensive back, covering Robiskie.
Shurmur hadn’t met some of his players until Friday and addressed the whole team in a meeting.
“There were a lot of messages because it was the first time I saw them, but one of the things was that we’re moving forward and respect for what’s happened before us.
“In the NFL, there’s always change, whether there’s some change, a little change, a lot of change, and I asked the fellas to embrace it and move forward.”
Veteran linebacker Scott Fujita had his first sit-down with Shurmur on Friday afternoon.
“We go way back,” Fujita joked. “He just has a good temperament about him. I like the things he says, he says the right things. He carries himself really, really well. He’s confident and he kind of sets everybody at ease.
“To come in at a first practice like this today, after basically 12 hours of install, and for it to run as smooth as it did, I was pretty impressed with that. I think he came in yesterday, he was simple, his message was clear, it’s about being efficient, it’s about being sharp and it’s about doing the right thing. And I think guys respect that and guys came out ready to work.”
TAYLOR HOLDING OUT
Defensive tackle Phil Taylor, the 21st pick in April’s draft, hadn’t agreed to a deal and was the lone rookie absent from practice. He’s expected to start and was replaced by unknown Scott Paxson with the first team. The Browns traded for Brodrick Bunkley later Saturday to provide depth and competition at tackle.
The new agreement between owners and players caps the amount of money a team can spend on its rookie class and discourages holdouts. The holdup likely is that Taylor wants all four years of his contract to be guaranteed, while the Browns are countering with three.
“Trust me. If it was up to me I would. Sry! But when the time comes it’s on!!” Taylor tweeted.
“We obviously would love to have him here,” Shurmur said. “I know they’re working very hard to get a deal done.”
COLT’S NEW START
McCoy said the first day of his second training camp was a much different experience than his opener as a rookie. He was No. 3 on the depth chart last year and is the starter now.
“Last year, I really tried to prepare like I was a starter anyways, but coming in as a rookie that’s really hard to do, especially when you don’t get reps,” he said. “I’d like to say that my mentality hasn’t changed that much but it has.
“I feel like I’m in good shape. Offensive line, receivers, running backs, I feel like overall everybody’s in good shape, ready to work, so for me that’s good. I need all the work I can get, but I felt like day one went pretty good.”
As a member of the players union’s executive committee, Fujita logged a lot of hours during the lockout. He’s glad it’s over.
“It was a long process, it wore me out at times, especially those last couple weeks,” he said. “But that part of it’s behind me now and I’m just focused on the here and the now and getting this team to be as good as possible moving forward.”
Fujita’s work isn’t completely finished. The Browns voted Friday to recertify as a union and the NFLPA was re-established Saturday. The owners and union can now begin to discuss specific issues necessary to complete the new collective bargaining agreement, so Fujita will still be involved in the process.
Some observations from practice:
** The offense wore brown jerseys and the defense white, a departure from years past.
** No music played, a noticeable change from Eric Mangini’s tenure as coach.
** The quick passes of the West Coast Offense were obvious. The quarterbacks made it a point to get rid of the ball.
** Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson intercepted McCoy on a pass over the middle in seven-on-sevens.
** Running backs coach Gary Brown made rookie fullback Owen Marecic do a blitz pickup drill three times to get it right.
** Cribbs dragged his feet to make a nice catch on the sideline and beat Darian Hagan deep for a touchdown from quarterback Jarrett Brown.
** Rookie receiver Greg Little made a good catch with Joe Haden all over him, then dropped a simple crossing route.
Plenty could change in camp, but these were the initial first-team units.
Offense: QB McCoy, RB Peyton Hillis, FB Marecic, WRs Robiskie and Cribbs, LT Joe Thomas, LG Murray, C Alex Mack, RG Shawn Lauvao, RT Tony Pashos, TE Watson.
Defense: DEs Jabaal Sheard and Brian Sanford, DTs Ahtyba Rubin and Paxson, LBs Fujita, Jackson and Chris Gocong, CBs Haden and Sheldon Brown, S T.J. Ward and Mike Adams.
Running back Montario Hardesty (knee), Pashos (ankle), Fujita (knee), Brown (shoulder), Jackson (pectoral) and linebacker Kaluka Maiava (knee) were injured at the end of last year but were back for practice Saturday.
** Veteran offensive lineman Billy Yates re-signed with the team.
** Linebacker Marcus Benard and defensive lineman Brian Schaeffering signed their tenders as exclusive rights players.
** Defensive tackle Travis Ivey didn’t practice with an apparent upper-body injury.
** The Browns officially announced the signing of 21 undrafted rookies and they practiced.
** Camp will open to the public today for practice from 8:45-11:15 a.m.
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