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BEREA -- With two weeks of OTA practices in the books, the Browns are off and running. Alex Mack is not.
And that's progress.
Last summer, Mack could have won the Berea Marathon with all the laps he ran for early snaps, poor shotgun snaps and other offenses punishable by the Court of Mangini. Mack found out the head coach's practice rules are for everybody, even his first-round picks.
But this spring, now that Mack is established as the Browns' starting center, he looks like a guy who's been here before.
“I don’t want to black cat him here, but he has not (taken a lap) as of yet,” Eric Mangini said Thursday.
Center isn't the game's sexiest position, but it is one of the most important. That's especially true in the AFC North Division, which is why the Browns have to be pleased with Mack's progression. There's a reason bad snaps lead to laps, and it has nothing to do with conditioning.
"It's a lot harder than it looks," Mangini said. "(Last year) we’d snap it early or snap it late or we’d snap it right or we’d snap it left. He was snapping it all over the place.”
But once Mack settled in, he started all 16 games and by all accounts played well. Mangini praised his progress on the field and in the classroom, and the Browns feel they have the kind of physical, dependable long-term answer they need at center.
"I'm comfortable with the offense," Mack said Thursday. "I'm not running tons of laps, so I'm having a good time. There's enough heat out here (without the laps)."
The respected website profootballfocus.com tracks every player on every play and ranked Mack as the sixth most efficient center in the entire league in 2009.
“I think that the experience that he got last year is fantastic," Mangini said. "To be able to start 16 games as a rookie is really hard to do, especially at that spot. Center is often underrated in terms of how much information they have to process and how important they are to setting the whole protection, the front, the running game.
"It’s critical. He did a good job with it and I think he got better as the year went on. Now, what you’re looking for is to avoid a sophomore slump, to build on the lessons of last season. He’s a lot more comfortable, it’s just different. They’re all more comfortable now.”
Said Mack: "I definitely have a better grasp on things. I'm definitely more comfortable. It's easier to work on little things, work with guys. I'm feeling good."
And a little less tired after practice.
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