Reporting Daryl Ruiter
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) - Another year, another training camp in the books for the Cleveland Browns.
As with every other year, the 2012 version was filled with bombshells, surprises, disappointments and of course – injuries.
Camp started with the stunning news that the team was being sold and ended with Joe Haden being thrown out of practice by coach Pat Shurmur.
Here’s a recap of the news, notes and story lines from this years training camp.
Biggest Bombshell: The Browns have been sold.
After spending part of the summer denying rumors that the franchise was for sale, Randy Lerner announced on the first full day of practice – July 27 – that he was in negotiations with Jimmy Haslam III who wanted to “make an investment in the Browns.”
7 days later Haslam was introduced at a press conference after coming to terms on a deal to purchase the team for over $1 billion.
The sale of the team has put the immediate futures of president Mike Holmgren, general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur in jeopardy.
More Bad News: Cornerback Joe Haden faces a 4-game suspension for failing a drug test this offseason. When that will be handed down remains to be seen as the league office continues to review the situation.
Shurmur threw Haden out of the team’s final practice of camp Wednesday for bringing rookie receiver Travis Benjamin down by the back of his jersey during a no-tackle practice in shells.
After Haden returned for the afternoon walk through Shurmur said, “Joe and I talked. Everything is fine and it’s a dead issue,”
Haden had a spectacular camp.
Youth Movement: A sizable portion of the Browns 2012 draft class will see significant playing time in 2012 and looked pretty solid throughout camp. As many as 6 could end up starting at some point this season.
No surprise that the first 3 selections – RB Trent Richardson, QB Brandon Weeden and RT Mitchell Schwartz will start.
Third round pick John Hughes likely will start with the injuries up front on the defensive line – namely the loss of Phil Taylor for the first half of the season.
Both fourth round picks, WR Travis Benjamin and LB James-Michael Johnson had impressive camps. Johnson should start week 1 regardless of injuries or suspension while Benjamin figures to provide Weeden with a weapon down field.
Sixth round pick Billy Winn won’t start unless Ahtyba Rubin’s injury lingers but he will figure into the regular rotation up front on the D-line.
Both seventh round picks LB Trevin Wade and FB/TE Brad Smelley have been impressive.
Supplemental draft pick Josh Gordon is raw but his physical ability and talent is undeniable. Gordon could end up being a steal when it’s all said and done.
Injuries: As many as 15 players missed practice at any given time throughout camp.
TE Ben Watson (undisclosed), S Usama Young (hamstring), DT Phil Taylor (pectoral surgery) WR Carlton Mitchell were all regulars on the daily Berea bike brigade. Watson, Young, and Taylor remain out while Mitchell has returned.
LB Scott Fujita (general soreness) and CB Dimitri Patterson (right ankle) sustained their injuries during the preseason opener at Detroit and have yet to return to practice as well.
On Aug. 4, the Browns lost linebacker Chris Gocong for the season. With Scott Fujita suspended for the first 3 weeks, the loss of Gocong is a major blow to the linebacker corps.
They lost the No. 3 overall pick in the draft for the preseason when Trent Richardson underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Aug. 9. The team says that Richardson is ahead of schedule and they remain hopeful that he will be on the field Sept. 9 against Philadelphia.
On The Bubble: RB Chris Ogbonnaya, who sustained what appeared to be an ankle injury during Monday’s practice, got hurt at the worst time and may have lost an opportunity to stay.
Veteran RB Brandon Jackson may have come off of the bubble with Ogbonnaya’s injury but they could elect to continue the youth movement and keep rookie free agent Adonis Thomas.
WR’s Carlton Mitchell – he spent almost the entire camp riding a bike, Jordan Norwood – really flashed in 2 preseason games and rookie free agent Josh Cooper who has good and bad days but only 1 will stay.
S Usama Young has missed most of camp with a hamstring injury. Young, who was signed to a 3-year, $6 million contract last year, was hurt during the 2011 camp and never reclaimed the starting job from Mike Adams. 2011 seventh round pick Eric Hagg will start this year and the emergence of David Sims and solid play of Ray Ventrone could make him expendable.
Pleasant Surprises: RB Montario Hardesty is healthy and has looked sharp during camp and the preseason. Rookie CB Trevin Wade has jumped out in the secondary and done a fantastic job at nickel filling in for Dimitri Patterson. The health of Patterson remains up in the air. LB Craig Robertson has made the most of his opportunities and is in position to make the team as has S David Sims.
Most Intriguing Unanswered Question: What to do behind Weeden.
Seneca Wallace and Colt McCoy are ‘competing’ to be the backup. It’s assumed that Wallace has the leg up because of his 10 years of experience in the system as well as his ability to handle the lack of practice reps.
Shurmur has made it no secret that his desire is to continue to develop Thaddeus Lewis as well. Getting Lewis through waivers and onto the practice squad isn’t likely considering the Browns plucked Wallace off of waivers from St Louis last year.
Not many teams keep 4 quarterbacks and with all of the injuries, it is a luxury that the Browns can not afford so Wallace, McCoy or Lewis will be gone when the final 53 is set in stone.
The Fans: The passions of Browns fans never ceases to amaze. Despite coming off yet another 4-12 season and facing the third most difficult schedule in the league, the excitement for this season is off the charts.
The Browns drew 37,136 fans during 14 open practice sessions – an average of 2,653 average per session which was an increase of 1,047 fans per practice from a year ago. 19,412 fans attended Family Night at Cleveland Browns Stadium on August 8, up from 12,354 at the same event in 2011.
Yep, just your average year in Berea for the Browns in August.