Kicker Phil Dawson is the only player left from the Browns expansion team of 1999, so it was odd not to see him on the field Thursday as the club wrapped up the first of a pair of voluntary, three-day, full-squad mini camps.
Dawson holds a lot of the team’s kicking records and is coming off a season in which he hit 30-of-36 field-goal attempts and scored 100 or more points for the second straight time, and the fourth time in the last five years. All this for a team that, especially last season, has generally struggled mightily to score points in the expansion era.
But he sat out this camp for unspecified reasons. Whether or not he attends next week’s “voluntary” mini camp, or a mandatory camp next month, remains to be seen.
Taking Dawson’s spot was rookie Parker Douglass. Douglass, who is the team’s second player from tiny South Dakota State, joining veteran tight end Steve Heiden, broke or tied 19 of the 21 kicking records at the school in a career that ended after the 2007 season. He converted a school-record 62 career field goals in 91 attempts and also holds marks for career points (321) and consecutive field goal made (13).
Being at San Dakota State, and having played at Columbus (Neb.) High School, Douglass has plenty of experience kicking in less-than-ideal conditions. That’s given him great preparation for playing in Cleveland.
No disrespect to Douglass, but it’s hard to envision that happening. At some point, you have to believe Dawson, who has continued the lineage of great Browns kickers going all the way back to Pro Football Hall of Famer Lou Groza in that inaugural season of 1946, will return. It would be the end of an era.
Nonetheless, Douglass looked good on Thursday. His field goals were straight and his kickoffs were long. He did nothing to hurt his chances of staying around a little longer.
HOW THEY LINED UP: In addition to Brady Quinn being at quarterback, the No. 1 offense had Hank Fraley at center, Eric Steinbach and Rex Hadnot at left guard, Joe Thomas at left tackle, Ryan Tucker at right guard, Floyd “Pork Chop” Womack at right tackle, Martin Rucker at tight end, Braylon Edwards and David Patten at wide receiver, Jerome Harrison at running back and Lawrence Vickers at fullback. On the No. 1 defense, the starters were Shaun Rogers at nose tackle, C.J. Mosley and Kenyon Coleman at end, Eric Barton and D’Qwell Jackson at inside linebacker, Kamerion Wimbley and Alex Hall at outside linebacker, Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald at cornerback and Brodney Pool and Abram Elam at safety. But don’t make too much of this. A lot of players, such as running back Jamal Lewis (ankle) and defensive end Robaire Smith (Achilles), are still rehabilitating their injuries and not practicing. Lewis worked near the entrance to the locker room pulling a sled from behind with a rope that was attached to his waist. Plus head coach Eric Mangini said he and his coaching staff are looking at many players at a variety of positions to see where their best spot is. “We don’t have a depth chart, but a repetition chart,” he said.
MORE SLED STUFF: It was good to see assistant strength and conditioning coach Rick Lyle holding the sled that the defensive linemen were pushing around the practice field. When he played with the original Browns for their last two seasons in 1994 and ’95, he was one of the nicest members of the team.
PLAY OF THE DAY: It was turned in by tight end John Madsen, who made a nice one-handed grab of a short pass from Quinn. At 6-foot-5 and wearing No. 85, Madsen looked a lot like former Browns star wide receiver Dave Logan of the Kardiac Kids days. Logan, who had tremendous hands, was famous for his one-handed catches, one of which, against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Stadium in 1979, made the cover20of the Sports Illustrated NFL preview issue the following year.
RANT OF THE DAY: That belonged to defensive line coach Bryan Cox, who has absolutely no trouble expressing his opinion – in a loud, vociferous sway -- when talking to his players. At one point, he said while showing how he wanted them to position themselves in the 3-4 alignment, “I don’t know how you ran it in the past, but this is how I want to run it!”
LOOK AGAIN: Browns returner Josh Cribbs was not at practice as he continued to stay away in a contract dispute, but there was a No. 16 jersey there nonetheless. It was worn by a girl who was among the students in a class from Big Creek Elementary School in Berea who visited as guests of the club.
A NOISY PLACE: For whatever reason, music of all kinds blared from speakers during practice. It was like being at a concert, or an old Cleveland Crunch soccer game when they played during the action. And a block away, workers could he hard pounding away at the ground with heavy equipment in a major reconstruction of several roads in the area.
HAVING A BALL: Part of the team’s conditioning equipment includes two large bright red balls. They almost appear as if they were taken from the front of a Target department store.
QUOTABLES: “This gives them a chance to get to know us, and what our expectations are. And at the same time, it gives us a chance to evaluate them.” – Mangini on the benefit of this first mini camp.
“Yeah, we’ll miss him, but we still have a lot of weapons.” – Quinn on losing a prime target in tight end Kellen Winslow, who was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers three months ago.
“We have two capable guys. Other teams are going to have to worry about that.” – Quinn, referring to Derek Anderson, when asked if it was a detriment for the Browns not to have a definite No. 1 quarterback when the three other teams in the AFC North, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati, all do.
“I’m not into hypothetical's.” – Quinn when asked what he would have done if one of the various trade rumors regarding him in the offseason had come true.
“It’s too confusing. Just tell me when I’m going in.” – Anderson when asked how the reps between him and Quinn are being divided, and if they’re being split equally.
“My dog’s getting huge. He’s 55 pounds now.” – Anderson with a humorous “no comment” to avoid saying the wrong thing when asked about the quarterback controversy between him and Quinn.