BEREA, Ohio -- It's no secret the Browns records in season opening games has been abysmal. They have been 1-13 since the team returned in 1999, including losses in their last eight seasons. The last win in the first game was a 20-3 win over the Ravens under Butch Davis.
Rob Chudzinski said his approach is simple.
"Every game in this league is important," Chudzinski said. "We approach this game just like we do every other game. That's how we'll go about it this week. It will be the most important game we play this week and once we're past that, we'll approach every week the same way
Chudzinski was on the staff with Davis when the Browns put a lot of focus on the season opener in 2004. It resulted in a win, but the Browns went on to have a 4-12 season.
"That's the danger in putting all your eggs in one basket," Chudzinkski said. "As I recall, we won that game, but we didn't win a lot. I've been on teams that might have lost the first game and went on and won 13 games after losing the first one. The key is the approach that we're talking about and that is this game is the most important game we're playing this week. It's the approach we're taking and we've talked all along with our guys that what we're doing is the most important thing at that particular time whether it's OTAs, minicamp, training camp, whatever the practice is, whatever the meeting is, that's the most important thing and that's the focus."
In 2007, the Browns lost the opening game 34-7 to the Steelers and ended up finishing 10-6.
Brandon Weeden thinks the first game can set the tone for the season.
"Obviously, I'm very aware of he opener situation," Weeden said. "I know it's been a while and D'Qwell (Jackson) and Joe (Thomas) are the longest tenured guys here and they haven't won one. As a player, you always want to start off on the right foot. You want to get momentum going into week two and propel you in the right direction. For these fans, we'd love to win the opener at home and just give them something to be excited about moving forward."
However, Weeden agrees with Chudzinski's assessment that too much emphasis on the first game can be detrimental.
"You can't because it's a long season," he said. "As a player, this is a very long season. You can't put all your eggs into one basket, but you give it all you have. Win, lose or draw, you have to move on
because it's such a long season. You can't take weeks off because these football teams are too good. We're going to prepare and spend as much time as we can and go out and play and plays as well as we can and hope to give ourselves a chance to win."
Joe Haden is looking for his first win on opening day with the Browns.
"It's really not a must win, but good stuff really starts happening when you win the season opener," Haden said. "We're going out here and trying to win the first one and like coach said, if we can win the first one and if we can get it started like that, momentum is such a big thing to win the first game.
"It's not a kill shot (if we lose), but we still have to get over that hump and start to win games," he said. "We always talk about it but everybody is ready and wants to win this game. The last thing you're going to see is lack of effort."
One of the big factors whether the Browns will not only win the first game, but have a successful season will be the play of Weeden. Chudzinski said his second-year quarterback is right where he should be as he enters the season.
"I think he's right on track," Chudzinski said. "He needs to continue to progress as any player would with the experience level of where he's at. Guys tend to get better with the more experience they have.
"I'm looking forward to seeing him," he said. "I think he's come a long way as a player and has grabbed a hold of the offense and I'm looking forward to seeing him out there on Sunday."
Chudzinski was asked what is the biggest jump before the first and second years for a quarterback.
"I think just the familiarity with the game, what it takes to play in the NFL because there's a huge difference between playing in college and the NFL," he said. "What it takes to be better at this level and being in the system and knowing what it takes to be better."
Weeden feels the experience of playing last season has helped him.
"I think it is experience," he said. "You can't simulate reps in practice. You can't simulate reps in games. It's just part of playing this position because you don't get hit in practice. It's just a little different feel in the pocket. It's just experience and confidence knowing you know how to approach it, you know how to prepare by watching tape and doing those things. There are several things and if we go backwards, that's not a good thing. As a player, you want to get better every year. Everybody says you're biggest jump is from year one to year two. I think that goes from the experiences you had the previous year."
Weeden agreed with Chudzinski that he is on the right track.
"I think so," he said. "It will be good to get out there when it means something. In the preseason, we did some good things and had a lot to learn from but, I'm on track. I'm definitely not pleased and satisfied, I want to continue to get better but that comes with playing and studying and keep continuing to learn this offense."
Weeden is excited about the prospects of the offense in 2013.
"We've come a long way," he said. "We've added some pieces to make us stronger. We have a great core of veteran guys that have set the foundation moving forward. I think I've gotten better. It comes with reps and it comes with experience. That Philly game, it comes so fast and that was my first time in the fire and you get better each time you get reps. I'm excited starting year two."
First Game: In addition to the 13 rookies preparing for their first NFL game for the Browns, Chudzinski will be coaching his first game as head coach.
"I'm excited for this week because up until this point, it's been about the roster," Chudzinski said. "Now, this is our team and I'm excited about opening up in FirstEnergy Stadium.
"I know it will be rocking and it will be great to see the fans again and get them out there," he said. "It will be an electric atmosphere."
Mingo in Pads: LB Barkevious Mingo was in full pads at practice and was taking part in individual drills during the part of practice open to the media. Chudzinski was asked if he will play this week against the Dolphins.
"We'll wait and see."
Pinkston to IR: Chudzinski explained why OL Jason Pinkston was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return with his ankle injury.
"From a rehab standpoint and a healing standpoint, it coincided a little bit more with the designation with the designated for return injured reserve," he said. "It made sense. He will be returning about that time and you're always looking for guys and need guys up front, from my experience, so it allowed us to have an extra (roster) spot."
By rule, Pinkston would miss the first eight games and could return for the ninth game on Nov. 3 against the Ravens.
OL Shawn Lauvao is on the 53-man roster and Chudzinski ruled him out for this week's game, but said he would be evaluated for next week.
"I think he's still on schedule," he said. "He'll be out this week and we'll just re-evaluate him next week."
Lauvao was the only player not on the practice field during the session open to the media.
Old Friend: Former Browns CB Dimitri Patterson is starting for the Dolphins. He was released late last season by the Browns with no explanation after missing several games with an ankle sprain. He immediately signed with the Dolphins. The other starter is CB Brent Grimes, who the Browns pursued during free agency.
"They picked up Grimes and Patterson and they're playing very good football," Chudzinski said.
Kickoff Returns: Chudzinski wouldn't name the kick returner for the opening game, but said that they will take a look at newly acquired running backs Bobby Rainey and Dennis Johnson this week. Both are returners and Johnson holds the SEC record for returns in college at Arkansas. DB Johnson Bademosi is listed on the depth chart as the kickoff returner.
"We''ll take a look at both Johnson and Rainey and see where they are," he said.
Rainey and Johnson will back up RB Trent Richardson, but Chudzinski said that RB Chris Ogbonnaya gives the team flexibility at the position.
"Rainey has been in a similar system, we still have a lot of flexibility with (Obognnaya)."
Warfield to be Honored: Former Browns Hall of Fame wide receiver Paul Warfield will be honored with the "Paul Warfield Project: "A Hometown Tribute for a Hometown Icon" on Thursday Sept. 12 at 6 pm and Friday Sept. 13 at 7 pm at Warren G. Harding High School.
Warfield played at Warren Harding before going to Ohio State and his Hall of Fame career with the Browns and Dolphins.
"It's a long time coming," former Browns News/Illustrated Publisher and event organizer Ray Yannucci said.
The bronze life size statue will strictly come from community donations. A community dinner will be held after the dedication ceremony and tickets can be purchased for $10 at the Warren G. Harding High School ticket office, Buena Vista and Franklin Pharmacy.