By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor
You look for changes, and they aren’t there. Not in terms of attitude. Not in terms of demeanor.
Brandon Weeden pretty much carries himself the way he did as a rookie last year. He was the Browns’ starting quarterback then. He fully intends to be the Browns’ starting quarterback this season. And, for the record, he was the one taking first-team snaps Tuesday during the first of the team’s organized team activity practices.
All of the recent discussion that Weeden will face stern competition from the much more experienced Jason Campbell doesn’t seem to faze him in the least.
“It hasn’t changed my approach,” Weeden told me during an appearance Tuesday on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford.” “My mindset going into this whole thing was do my part to get better and, ultimately, make this be my football team and be the guy. That’s the way you’ve got to go about it.
“I mean, at this position – which, to me, is the hardest position in sports – you can’t be looking over your shoulder all the time. You’ve got to worry about what’s most important, and that’s me getting better, building on what I did last year, and continue to grow as a player. And, if I can do that, and not really worry about what’s going on around me, and kind of have that tunnel vision, that’s going to make me a better player and that’s going to make this team better.
“And that was kind of my mindset this offseason when I was able to kind of reflect on what happened last year and the negative spots. There were some bright spots (too), and really take those and run with them and build on them coming into this year.”
Sound like a guy who feels threatened by the possibility of losing his starting job?
Weeden appears to be fully confident and comfortable with his place on the new-look Browns. The fact there is a whole different set of decision-makers in Berea that he must impress seems to be an afterthought. He conveys the sense that he has more important things to think about.
And what Weeden cares about the most is what he needs to do to make major strides in the offense of coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
Step one involves, well, his steps.
“Your feet make you an accurate thrower,” Weeden said. “They allow you to have better timing. So whether it’s drills, working out with (strength and conditioning coach Brad) Roll, jumping rope on my own, whatever it might be, I have to get my feet right and get my feet underneath me. That allows me to throw the ball more accurately.”
Step two is drinking in all of the knowledge he can from veteran teammates. And that includes as Campbell, who Weeden clearly views as far more of a mentor than a competitor.
“He’s been in the league for nine years,” Weeden said. “He’s a very savvied guy that’s beneficial to me. He helps me. We’ll talk through things. He’s a nice guy to have for me to bounce ideas off of or talk through things. As a young guy in this league, I think that’s nice for myself to be able to have a guy like that. That’s extremely helpful.”
So is hanging out with Davone Bess, the veteran wide receiver the Browns acquired in a trade with the Dolphins during last month’s draft.
Weeden said that he and Bess are usually the first two players to arrive at the Browns’ training facility. After easing themselves in the hot tub, they start talking football. And Bess is usually the one that begins the conversation.
“Not many guys are like that,” Weeden said. “He wants to talk Xs and Os and he wants to talk (about) what he can do to help me and stuff like that. That’s just his veteran leadership and that’s his veteran understanding of what it takes to be good. As a quarterback, you’ve got to love it.”
You also love having a reliable target. Weeden got his first chance to work with Bess on Tuesday. He liked what he saw.
“He’s a stud,” Weeden said of Bess. “He’s one of those guys that runs extremely good routes. He’s very savvied, understands defenses, where to find the holes, and understands how to run routes. He’s one of those guys that you kind of rely on. You know he’s going to be in the right spot. He works extremely hard.”
Step three in the process of Weeden’s improvement as a quarterback is thriving within the more accelerated pace of the Browns’ offense.
“I love it,” he said. “Coming from what I did (Oklahoma State), we played extremely fast, so I’m used to playing in an up-tempo (offense). You hear Chud over there, saying, ‘Let’s go, pick up tempo, you’ve got to get moving.’ And that’s kind of the mindset we have to take.
“If we can keep playing that fast and still think and react and make the plays that we need to make, and be lined up in the right spots, that’s tough on defenses. And I think, if we can practice that way, that’ll just help us on Sundays. They preach that and they harp on it for basically however long we’re out there. That’s the main focus, just getting lined up and playing fast, and I thought, overall, we did that (Tuesday).”
Weeden isn’t the only one who is thrilled with the more aggressive approach to the offense and the additional opportunities to throw deep.
As he walked on the field Tuesday with wide receiver Greg Little, Weeden said, “Man, what do you think?”
“This is fun,” Little replied.
What’s the definition of fun?
“Usually, as a receiver and a quarterback, that’s dropping back and slinging it around a little bit,” Weeden said. “And that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to throw the football down the field. We’ve got guys that can go get it, guys that are making a ton of plays on the outside, so as a quarterback, yeah, it’s fun to come to work every day.”
Sound like a guy worried about losing his starting job?
Didn’t think so.
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