September 19, 2014

Medina
Mostly sunny
70°F

Browns: Brandon Weeden handling adversity

BEREA — Quarterback Brandon Weeden doesn’t slam his helmet after an interception, and he doesn’t throw his wedge or bury it in the turf after a shank on the golf course.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. He just feels there’s a better way to deal with adversity.

“I gave up a lot of home runs, and what can you do about it?” he said Sunday, referring to his days as a minor league pitcher with a career 5.02 ERA. “That’s the way I look at it. Yeah, it sucks. Move on and worry about getting the next hitter.”

Don’t be fooled. Weeden competes, and can run hot.

He was known to occasionally drill the next batter after allowing one of those home runs.

“Absolutely,” he said with a big smile. “Never in the head. In the ribs.”

The most intense focus of training camp is on Weeden. He’s coming off a disappointing rookie season, is in a make-or-break year and will play the largest role in the Browns’ success or failure.

First-year coach Rob Chudzinski has seen enough to know that Weeden throws the ball well enough to win. The questions he wants answered involve intangibles, and Chudzinski has mentioned multiple times the need for his quarterback to rebound from the inevitable failures in a game and season.

“The most important thing for any quarterback in this league is to be able to handle adversity,” Chudzinski said. “Maybe they’re having a bad throw, a bad day and seeing how they come back, because that’s so much of this game.

“What is it, 60 percent of games come down to a margin of seven points or less? So it comes down to the end of the game. It doesn’t matter what kind of game you have had, you have to be able to play in those situations.”

Weeden has had plenty of opportunities to bounce back during his short time with the Browns. He went 5-10 as a rookie with 14 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and a 72.6 rating (fourth lowest in the league). He showed some fourth-quarter moxie with important throws at Baltimore, at Indianapolis, at Oakland, at Dallas and vs. Baltimore at home, but too many of the games ended in losses and mistakes mostly overshadowed the positives.

The adversity isn’t about to stop. Weeden has a new regime and coaching staff to convert, and has had several missteps in the first four days of camp. But after a jittery start to Day 1, he found his groove. And after the defense owned Friday, he had better days over the weekend.

“Progressing,” he said when asked to describe his camp. “Obviously there’s mistakes there, but me and Jason (Campbell, his backup) were talking about it. If you’re going to make mistakes, this is the time to make mistakes. You can learn from ‘em and build on ‘em and you get coached up.

“I think overall I’m getting there. I need to keep working and keep progressing and continue to learn this offense, learn why we’re calling stuff.”

Sunday was the first day in full pads, so the intensity was raised. Much of the day was spent in the red zone, where the field is congested, the decisions must be sharper and the throws tighter.

Weeden barely missed connections with tight end Jordan Cameron and running back Chris Ogbonnaya, misfired on a throw to receiver Davonne Bess and was intercepted on a smart play by cornerback Joe Haden.

Now the good. He connected with running back Trent Richardson for a score on a swing pass, found Josh Gordon down the seam for a touchdown and scrambled into the end zone when no one was open.

His best play came on the “most important” one. After Chudzinski announced to the crowd the scenario was fourth down for the game from the 5-yard line, Weeden zipped a touchdown to Gordon on a post.

“He’s a big target in the middle of the field,” Weeden said. “Perfect coverage. Perfect play call. That’s how you draw them up. I wish they were all like that.”
Chudzinski said he’s still learning Weeden but has seen growth — on the field and as a leader.

“I’ve seen a big improvement in Brandon in those ways,” he said. “It’s important that from a quarterback standpoint that you understand and know what to do, that you’re out playing, being productive and then on top of it, being that leader, taking charge and doing those type of things. It’s important for that position.”

Weeden feels more comfortable in the leadership role with a year under his belt, and he’s always felt he had the perfect disposition for the job.

“To me, it’s the hardest position in sports,” he said. “There’s so much stuff that goes on. But I think to be a good quarterback in this league, the good ones have a short memory. If something bad happens, you have to move on to the next play. It’s not really saying something. It’s really your body presence, how you’re acting, how you walk into the huddle the next play when something does go wrong and those guys will have confidence in you.”

Weeden said that’s always been one of his strengths. He doesn’t overreact, or let stuff linger.

On the football field, baseball diamond or golf course.

“In golf, I don’t throw clubs,” he said. “Clubs are too expensive and I like my golf clubs too much.

“As far as playing quarterback, you’ve got to go out and complete a ball the next play to get going. I don’t know if it’s my personality because I’m so laid-back. But, yeah, it sucks, I hate it. But I don’t want the other 52 guys to see my reaction, getting (ticked) off, throwing my helmet. That’s not what you want. Move on to the next play. Wash your hands and move on.”

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.