It’s finally here. The end of July (almost) and the start of training camps around the NFL. The Pittsburgh Steelers kicked off camping season on Monday or Tuesday, but who really cares about those terds anyway. Cleveland Browns camp starts today. And guess who will be there? No, not Drew Carey playing pricing games with fans on the salaries of the players. It’s Joe Thomas and Eric Wright. Both signed contracts yesterday or this morning and will be on the field at 3:30 when the first drill of the season is run. Hopefully this year no one will be hurt on the very first play. If they can get by that one play, the Browns are already ahead of where they were last year.
Getting Thomas and Wright to camp on time was essential. It was much more important than Brady Quinn. Quinn reporting to camp on time or not, he wasn’t going to start until at least November anyway. And depending on how the season goes, and how Charlie Frye or Derek Anderson is playing, he might not even play this year. But what he will miss is valuable learning experience.
Thomas is the key to what should be a greatly improved offensive line. By being in camp on time, it should guarantee he is the opening day starting left tackle. Kevin Shaffer, a solid but not outstanding player, would have been in that position if Thomas wasn’t at camp. Now he will have a chance to move to another position on the line, possibly right guard, or the Browns can dangle him as trade bait. Cleveland could use help on the defensive line, cornerback, linebacker or even another veteran wide receiver. I’ve always thought you can never have too many linemen, especially with the Browns luck, but with LeCharles Bentley coming back that makes 10 offensive linemen on the roster. Trading one for help at another position would be worth while.
Wright coming to camp on time is huge because he could, and should, be the starting cornerback opposite Leigh Bodden. Supposedly he was very impressive at mini camp and with the limit talent the Browns have had at that position, he should step in and make an impact right away.
With Thomas and Wright signing contracts and reporting camp all the pressure is on Quinn to do the same. Quinn shouldn’t want to be the lone draft pick not in camp. He needs to realize he was the 22nd pick, not a top 10 like he thought he was going to be. With that comes less money than he expected to get. Accept that, Brady. Get to camp. Brady’s a smart boy and I think because of Thomas and Wright, his holdout will be less than what some people were predicting. Some reports said Brady would holdout most, if not all of the preseason, and possibly the entire season. That would be the dumber than sticking a paper clip into an outlet to see if the electricity is on. Quinn will sign with in a week.
With the opening of any training camp, with any team, there is hope for the season. Of course, most of it is false hope that will be proven as such by Week 4. The Browns, however, have plenty of reason for hope and optimism. A very highly rated draft and getting all picks but Quinn in on time for camp was a great start. However the biggest reason for positive thinking this year is the way two players have recovered from what should have been career ending injuries.
Bentley has dumbfounded doctors with his ability to recover from four knee surgeries. His return to the field should be an uplifting sign to the rest of the team. The same can be said about Gary Baxter.
If Baxter can make history and recover from his double torn patella tendons, it would give the Browns two incredible comeback stories. Everyone thought their careers were over and now they are back on the field. If either can return to anywhere near the form they were before their injuries, the Browns are in good shape.
Baxter would give the Browns three solid cornerbacks. He could play the nickel back role until his recovers 100%. Between him and Wright, they would be a great combo behind Bodden. Not don’t forget Devon Holly had 5 picks last year.
Bentley would give the team great flexibility on the line. If he knows the play book well enough, he could come back at center and Hank Fanely would be his back up. Or he could come back at right guard until he is ready for the center position. Either way, the Browns are better off with him on the field.
So today is a day to be positive. I know we try it every year with the Browns and every year we are disappointed. At least this year, heading into camp, there are more positives than negatives. All but one draft pick is signed and two players not suppose to ever play again are ready to make an impact. As Browns fans, we got to take what we can get, and I’m definitely taking this. Things are good right now. At least until the first snap of contact drills.
On yesterday’s Simpsons column, one more episode to add to my list. I watched it yesterday and couldn’t believe I forgot about it. The one with the gay guy John.
“I like my beer cold, my TV loud and my homosexuals flamming.”
The list keeps growing.