BEREA — General manager Michael Lombardi spoke mostly in generalities and didn’t divulge any secrets Wednesday in nine minutes with reporters, but he was complimentary of quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Josh Gordon.
He didn’t lavish them with praise, but was more positive than when they were drafted last season by his predecessor, Tom Heckert. As an analyst for NFL Network, Lombardi called the pick of Weeden a “panicked disaster” and referred to Gordon as “a wasted pick.”
“I think everybody that practices football has really good days and they have some bad days and I think everything’s a learning experience and I think he clearly has proven in the offseason that he’s gotten better at everything they’ve asked him to do,” Lombardi said of Weeden in his first meeting with the media since May.
Gordon will serve a two-game suspension to start the season, but Lombardi hasn’t given up on him.
“I’m excited to see Josh’s development as a player,” he said. “I think he’s shown this offseason with a great attitude and I’m looking forward to being a part of that. I think he’s got to demonstrate that what he’s done is continue on. I think that’s what he wants to do. He wants to be a good player.”
What about the perception that Gordon loafs during practice?
“I think Josh, like a lot of players, has come out here to try to get better every single day and I think that’s been really important,” Lombardi said.
He and CEO Joe Banner brought in veteran Jason Campbell as a backup and to push Weeden. Weeden has taken every snap with the first-team offense throughout the offseason and training camp.
“Jason’s an experienced player and we felt like before we signed him, Coach Chud (Rob Chudzinski), Joe and everybody in the organization felt like that experience could certainly help an organization,” Lombardi said. “He’s come in here, worked hard, he knows the system, he’s getting better with every single rep.”
Lombardi raved about Brian Hoyer during his gig with NFL Network and when Hoyer became a free agent, the Browns signed him May 17. He’s third on the depth chart but could push Campbell.
“Brian’s a guy who’s been in the league,” Lombardi said. “He hasn’t played a lot, but is experienced in terms of being around it, he works hard and he’s a competitive kid. So it was an opportunity to add somebody to keep improving in that area and give him an opportunity.”
Does Lombardi view this as a quarterback competition?
“My job is to evaluate the players, Chud’s job is to coach the team and handle all that,” he said. “So I think that’s really important for him.”
Gordon sat out practice after leaving Monday with patellar tendinitis. Chudzinski said he didn’t need an MRI and expects him back within the next couple of days.
• Chudzinski said offensive lineman Ryan Miller, who suffered a concussion Saturday, was still in the concussion protocol. He’s allowed to attend meetings but hasn’t.
• Strong safety T.J. Ward was limited.
“He has a little bit of a hamstring, but nothing too bad,” Chudzinski said.
Josh Aubrey took some of his repetitions with the first-team defense.
• Running back Montario Hardesty returned and participated in team drills.
• Defensive end Desmond Bryant (back spasms) and rookie safety Jamoris Slaughter (hamstring) returned but were limited to individual drills.
• Safety Tashaun Gipson (shoulder), backup offensive tackle Oniel Cousins (ankle), fullback Brock Bolen (calf) and rookie offensive lineman Chris Faulk (knee) didn’t practice.
Lombardi touched on several other areas.
• Rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, the No. 6 pick.
“Mingo is a lot like he was at LSU, he plays hard, he’s kind of symbolic of what we’re trying to acquire here, players in terms of plays hard, plays with passion, athletic, can run,” Lombardi said. “And obviously he has a long way to go to learn his craft as a player.”
• There isn’t a rookie among the starters on the current depth chart. Would it be a disappointment if no one from his first draft class with the Browns started this year?
“Their play time is more important to me than who gets introduced,” he said. “But I think as we build this team, I think you’ll see players play, and the younger players will play and grow, and I think that’s really more important.”
A fan of Trent
Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, an analyst on NFL Network, visited with running back Trent Richardson after practice. Faulk was impressed when Richardson came back from preseason knee surgery to start Week 1 as a rookie last season.
“The position is one as such that’s it’s not about how healthy you are,” Faulk said. “It’s how unhealthy you can play at times, and that’s what being reliable at the position is.
“He’s thirsty to not just get yards and be a good player, but he wants to be great and he wants to win. And those are the things that tend to help organizations change the culture that puts a bad taste in fans’ mouths, in players’ mouths when they come in here. He understands what needs to happen in order for him to be great. It’s in him to be great. He wants it.”
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