The Suburbanite
  • Browns notebook: Players wonder what changes will come with new ownership

  • he Browns are nervous about how things will change now that Jimmy Haslam is moving into the owner’s chair. Linebacker Chris Gocong has at least an inkling of what to expect.

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  • How would you feel if the place where you worked had been taken over by a total stranger?
    Many employees in the Browns complex are nervously addressing that question.
    That includes the football players.
    Former Eagles president Joe Banner is part of the Jimmy Haslam group. Banner is expected to assume a prominent role with the Browns.
    Whereas Banner’s background is in business, current president Mike Holmgren grew up with football.
    It is possible they could co-exist, but Holmgren signed on with the Browns after Randy Lerner granted him sweeping powers. Holmgren’s contract could be tricky for Banner, even if Banner wants him to stay.
    Linebacker Chris Gocong, in his third year with the Browns, played for the Eagles for four years when Banner was president.
    “He helped bring the Eagles to what they are,” Gocong said. “He’s a great businessman. We’ll see what he can do here.”
    Lerner has owned the Browns since 2002. He was closer to some players than others.
    “We said hello in the halls,” Gocong said. “It’s not as if we were text messaging.”
    Scott Fujita, another veteran linebacker, knows Lerner as well as any of the players. During a moment in training camp last year when fans and the media were away, Lerner brought his son, Max, to the edge of a practice. Fujita came over during a break in drills and chatted with the Lerners.
    “I enjoyed getting to know Max quite a bit,” Fujita said Thursday. “I went to one of his football games.”
    Max Lerner was a freshman quarterback for Cleveland St. Ignatius in 2011, at one point dueling a Lakewood St. Edward quarterback whose father is Pat Shurmur.
    Recently, Holmgren surprised a small crowd when he revealed said, “Randy and Max have moved back to New York.”
    Tight end Evan Moore is among players who had wondered at the timing of the “Browns for sale” story, since it coincided with the start of training camp.
    In the same breath, Moore said, “That’s above my pay grade.”
    The timing of the “for sale” news now is clearer.
    Temper, temper
    A large crowd watched the Browns go at it in full pads Thursday.
    “It got hot,” head coach Pat Shurmur said. “There was some pounding.”
    There was no live tackling, but strong safety T.J. Ward must have missed the memo.
    In an 11-on-11 session, tight end Dan Gronkowski caught a short pass. Most of the players eased up and began to return to their huddles, but Gronkowski turned upfield. That’s not unusual, because coaches frequently lean on the man with the ball to “explode” and “finish.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Ward surprised Gronkowski by stepping up, lowering a shoulder, and knocking him off balance. Gronkowski, a much bigger man than Ward, bounced up and barked at Ward.
    What did he say? Hope you enjoy your lunch?
    “Something like that,” Gronkowski said with a little grin.
    Gronkowski got in a little dig.
    “It was definitely a little more intense today,” he said, “after the tight ends gave it to ‘em yesterday.”
    Tight end watch
    • Starting defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin and backup tight end Evan Moore were back in uniform after nursing minor injuries. League safety rules require them to sit out team drills for three days before returning. “If we had to play today,” Moore said, “I’d be fine.”
    • Benjamin Watson will be the starting tight end. Jordan Cameron, a 2011 Round 4 pick, intrigues the brass and will make the team. That could leave veterans Moore, Gronkowski and Alex Smith competing for two remaining tight end spots.
    Extra points
    • Based on the way the wideouts were being used in Thursday’s practice, Greg Little and Mohamed Massaquoi would be the starters if the season kicked off now. Massaquoi is looking more confident and polished as camp wears on. He seems to be forming a bond with quarterback Brandon Weeden. “We’re pushing each other,” Massaquoi said. “It’s a lot more competitive camp this year. It’s probably as crisp a camp as I’ve been around.”
    • Why did running back Trent Richardson sit out bits of practice? “He had a headache,” Shurmur said. “He was out there the whole time. He’s fine.”
    • Shurmur is fired up about rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson. “He’s established himself in a way where we’re excited to see how much progress he can make,” Shurmur said
    • Safety Usama Young was in uniform but did not practice Thursday. “I’m a little banged up,” Young said an hour after practice.

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