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Browns seem ready to go with QB McCown

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BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown might make history if, after six mostly futile stops along his NFL career, he finally establishes himself as a legitimate starter at age 36.

McCown is looking poised and ready to lead in his first season with the Browns after playing for the Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and, most recently, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with whom he finished 1-10 last season.

Despite what happened in 2014, the Browns signed McCown to a four-year contract in February and made him the starter from the beginning. He has been poised since the start of training camp.

McCown played only briefly in the Orange and Brown scrimmage in Columbus on Friday, but rifled a 47-yard pass to tight end Gary Barnidge and then used play action before throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Brian Hartline. He hit Barnidge in practice Monday on a deep throw over safety Tashaun Gipson.

“He throws a great football,” Hartline said. “It’s easy to catch. He’s fun to play with. You guys see how he communicates out there, talking to everybody and getting things situated. He definitely makes it easy on a lot of other guys.

“Josh is very intellectual, on and off the field. He really cares about the success of the football team and the success of every individual. He’s really doing a great job.”

McCown has 17-32 record for his career. Coaches are doing their best to prop up McCown and he is doing his best to forget last year. He said rejuvenated might not be the right word to describe him, but he definitely doesn’t carry himself like a quarterback who won only once in 11 tries last year.

“There is a great passion and energy with the city (of Cleveland) and the fans,” McCown said. “To walk into that locker room every day is such a joy.

“We have great guys. We have a bunch of young guys that are all wired the right way. They want to win and they come to work every day with that mindset. It’s hard not to have a lot of good energy when you come to work every day.”

The offense has looked good in past training camps. Then it faces a different defense and reality sets in. But McCown has provided hope that he can win, and it appears the fog is lifting from his backup, Johnny Manziel.

Manziel had more playing time than McCown in the scrimmage, as planned. Significantly, he did not flash the money sign after throwing a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end E.J. Bibbs or after an 18-yard back shoulder touchdown pass to backup receiver Josh Lenz.

Manziel appears to be relaxed and comfortable compared to a year ago, and it shows in the way he plays. Head coach Mike Pettine noted Manziel doesn’t look “antsy” in the pocket, the way he did last year.

And Manziel continued to hit his targets in practice Monday.

“I was really looking forward to getting out here and getting into a live setting,” Manziel said. “I think it went well for all the guys. Josh did a good job with the ones and Connor (Shaw) and Thad (Lewis) did a good job with the threes.”

Teammates and coaches say Manziel is a completely different person from the rookie who last year made more news for his partying than he did for what he did on the football field.

Manziel said things that bothered him last year do not ruffle him in his second season.

“I’m definitely not getting caught up or enamored with the whole starter/backup role,” Manziel said. “When it comes down to through the preseason, if I can do what I need to do and show I’m improving, and then coach Pett and everybody else makes that call.

“I think last year that was probably a little bit of my problem, getting caught up in the starters with the reps with the ones. I’ve never been a backup before. If I show I’m getting better and go out in preseason and play well, who knows what will happen?”

–Terrelle Pryor’s attempt to convert from quarterback to wide receiver has taken a hit. He left the field last Wednesday because of hamstring tightness and has been unable to practice. Pryor and rookie WR Vince Mayle could be competing for one roster spot.

–CB Justin Gilbert is still struggling to live up to being the eighth overall pick of the 2014 draft. Even when veteran CB Joe Haden was given a day off to rest, Gilbert was stuck behind Tramon Williams at right cornerback. CB Pierre Desir, a fourth-round pick from Division II Lindenwood last year, was the left cornerback. A hamstring injury to Desir has opened up playing time for Gilbert.

“I just have to keep going in, working hard daily and proving that I really want to be a part of this team, and be out there and be able to make plays for this team,” Gilbert said. “Just come to work every day with that attitude.

“I’m not really paying attention to (Desir being ahead). My head’s down. I’m just driving forward, and before you know it, hopefully my name will be called.”

Gilbert took reps as the kick returner in practice Monday.

–Pettine concedes he doesn’t know whether his kicker for 2015 is on the current roster. Travis Coons and Carey Spear were in the camps of the Titans and Eagles, respectively, last year, but neither has kicked in a regular-season NFL game.

Coons kicked field goals of 47 and 53 yards and Spear kicked a 34-yard field goal plus three 33-yard extra points in the scrimmage. Both are looking forward to the preseason games starting Thursday at home against the Washington Redskins.

–A crowd of 49,793 attended the free scrimmage on Friday at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. The Browns are strongly considering moving at least a portion of training camp to the Ohio capitol as early as next year.

–LB Barkevious Mingo, the sixth pick of the 2013 draft, is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery that probably will force him to miss the entire preseason.

Mingo sustained a torn labrum in his right shoulder on the second play of the 2014 regular season. He suffered a bruised lung on kick coverage in the second game of the preseason his rookie year.

“You always (feel sorry), especially for a guy that works that hard, that is that quality a character, an individual that it’s important to him and he puts the time in,” Pettine said.

“Unfortunately, you have some guys that get some unfortunate injuries but you root for guys like that to come back and play well.”

–RB Shaun Draughn showed up at practice Sunday with a cast on his left wrist and hand because of a thumb injury.

–RB Terrance West, the Browns’ rushing leader last year with 673 yards, returned to practice on Sunday after being sidelined because of a calf injury.

–Rookie RB Duke Johnson is still down because of a pulled hamstring. Pettine has ruled out Johnson for the preseason opener against the Redskins Thursday.

–LT Joe Thomas sustained a right knee injury at the end of practice Monday. Pettine doesn’t believe it is serious, but Thomas will undergo more tests.

–FB Malcolm Johnson returned to practice Monday after missing five days because of a shoulder injury.

–WR Dwayne Bowe is sidelined because of a hamstring injury and is unlikely to play in the preseason opener against the Redskins on Thursday.

–DB Robert Nelson has been unable to practice because of a hamstring injury. He is competing for a backup spot and a role on special teams.

–Desir is nursing a hamstring injury and is unlikely to play against the Redskins.

–DE Billy Winn is week-to-week because of an ankle injury.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Veteran right guard John Greco is trying to hold off a push from rookie Cameron Erving. Erving has worked with the second unit most of camp, but on Sunday Erving was with the first team at right guard and Greco was the second-team center. Greco is a crafty eight-year veteran. Erving is a better athlete. This one could go on throughout the preseason.


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