BEREA, Ohio -- One of the biggest questions the entire off-season was who would be the starting cornerback opposite Joe Haden in the Browns secondary.
The Browns chose to sign unrestricted free agent cornerback Chris Owens. They tried hard to sign Brent Grimes, but were unsuccessful. The Browns drafted cornerback Leon McFadden in the third round in the April NFL Draft.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who was visiting Browns training camp on Sunday said on 923TheFan that he feels the cornerback opposite of Haden is a question because he views all three candidates, Owens, McFadden and Buster Skrine as more inside or slot cornerbacks, players used more in the three and four cornerback packages.
However, unless a trade is made before the regular season, most likely one of the three will open the season at right cornerback opposite Haden.
"It's very important to me," Skrine said. "Everybody wants to be a starter in the league. I'm going to respect the coach's decision, regardless if I start or not, but it's important."
Owens is still considered to be the favorite to open the season at right cornerback, but Skrine is making his case.
Skrine thinks his style fits right into what defensive coordinator Ray Horton wants to accomplish and he doesn't lack for confidence.
"I feel like my style of cornerback is that I like to jump routes," he said. "I like to be aggressive. Joe (Haden)is also an aggressive player who makes a lot of plays. I feel like I'm good on underneath routes. I just feel like I'm a good player.
"I'm always looking to compete and challenge every route," he said. "I just want to do the best I can."
Skrine has been able to stay on the field as both Owens (foot) and McFadden (groin) missed the first preseason game and continue to miss practice. In the preseason opening game with the Rams, Skrine scooped up a fumble when Phil Taylor stripped Isaiah Pead of the ball, setting up the Browns second score in the game.
Skrine (5-9, 185) has shown durability as he's played in all 32 games since he was drafted in the fifth-round of the 2011 NFL Draft from Tennessee-Chattanooga, including six starts in 2012. He was third on the team last year with 73 tackles, including finishing second on the team with 11 passes broken up.
Rob Chudzinski was asked if he thought Skrine could play on the outside, despite his size.
“I’ve seen him make plays and he looks good in all those areas to me.”
Skrine said he can play both spots.
"I think they're the same," he said. "The quarterback sees the slot. That's always his first move and it's the closest (to see). At the slot, you have to be a lot quicker and you have to be able to move side to side better.
"Outside at corner, you have to put your big boy pads on because there are bigger receivers out there and you have to rely on your technique, especially when you're a smaller player."
Skrine was forced into a lot of playing time in 2012 after Haden was suspended and Dimitri Patterson was injured. He was picked on consistently and drew numerous penalties including pass interference and defensive holding. However, then defensive coordinator Dick Jauron never wavered and continued to play Skrine.
The faith in him and the growing pains has helped him much. Skrine said he feels he's learned a lot from his experience last season and is ready to take the next step in his third NFL season.
"I'm become a smarter player," he said. "The game has slowed down for me. I've studied a lot of film in the off-season and a lot of it is route recognition and I can recognize a lot of routes now."
Skrine has been able to get his hands on the ball consistently in training camp. On Sunday, Skrine was one-on-one with Greg Little and he was step for step with him. When Brandon Weeden threw the ball toward the sideline, Skrine broke on the ball and should've had an interception for a touchdown. Regardless, he broke up the play and Chudzinski agrees that Skrine is getting his hands on a lot of passes.
“He has," he said. "He has really improved from the spring. He’s a young guy and a guy that just works every single day. He’s one of the hardest workers on the team and is a super competitive guy. He takes a lot of pride in what he does. You can see it show on the field. He had a number of times where he got his hands on the ball today.”
Skrine said it spurs him to work even harder when he is acknowledged by his coach.
"It lets me know that he recognizes what I'm doing and that I'm putting it all out there," he said. "Chud is always pushing me to be a better player, so it's good to hear.
"I'm not knocking our coaches from last year, but I feel we're doing well this year and that we're on the rise."
Banner Apologizes: Browns CEO Joe Banner issued a statement apologizing to the Rams for statements that former Browns quarterback and preseason game analyst Bernie Kosar made during the broadcast in the preseason opener.
Kosar said that the Rams receivers were "horrible" and also said negative things about Rams backup QB Kellen Clemens.
"We don't condone the personal and unprofessional approach that Bernie took with some of his comments during the broadcast Thursday night," Banner said in a statement released by the team. "We've spoken to Bernie, he understands that, and we would expect the situation is resolved moving forward. We've also reached out to the Rams organization and have shared those same sentiments."
Hardesty, Smelley Return: RB Montario Hardesty and FB/TE Brad Smelley both returned to practice on Sunday. Both players have missed extended time with hamstring injuries.
Hardesty is trying to make up for valuable lost time as RB Dion Lewis, RB Chris Ogbonnaya and RB Brandon Jackson have all not missed time behind RB Trent Richardson.
"Montario was back in the individual drills," Chudzinski said. "We'll see how it goes and upgrade that as we can."
Chudzinski was asked if he knows how Hardesty could fit in on the roster.
"We have an idea," he said. "Obviously, him coming bak and hopefully, that continues there is still a lot of preseason left and he will get the opportunity to show us."
Richardson, Ward in Team: For the second day in a row, RB Trent Richardson (shin) and DB T.J. Ward (hamstring) took part in team drills.
Injury Update: Still not practicing are: WR Jordan Norwood (hamstring), CB Leon McFadden (groin), CB Chris Owens (foot), WR David Nelson (knee), OL Chris Faulk (knee), OL Ryan Miller (head), OL Oniel Cousins (ankle), OL Shawn Lauvao (ankle), DL Hall Davis (hamstring) and FB Brock Bolen (calf).
Chudzinski was asked about Nelson.
"He's making progress," he said. "We'll have to see how he continues to improve."
Duffner Wins: Jason Duffner, who grew up in Olmsted Falls won the PGA Championship in Rochester, New York. Duffner is a Browns fan and was at training camp during the Bridgestone tournament week at Firestone.
Fan Fun: Chudzinski pulled two fans out of the stands near the end of practice and had each attempt a field goal with the entire Browns team around them. Anthony kicked for the offense and D.J. for the defense.
If they made the attempt the offense and defense would not have their individual meetings after practice. Both fans hit their respective kicks, which were about the distance of a PAT.
Players from both sides of the ball surrounded their representative and cheered and hoisted them up.
"The guys were pretty happy," Chudzinski said.
Chudzinski said they had a mini tryout before practice to make sure the fans could have a chance to make the kicks.
Hoosier, Mayor Visit: Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean was at practice with GM Mike Lombardi Sunday. Also, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson was on the sidelines with Jimmy Haslam.