Coach Mike Pettine feels the Browns are "off to a good start" in the offseason program.


BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine finally got to do what he signed up to do back at the end of January, coach a football team. And the early indication was that the Browns are heading in the right direction.

Pettine and the Browns held a three-day voluntary mini-camp during which the team saw the return of quarterback Brian Hoyer from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on a limited basis and got its first glimpse at what their five Pro Bowlers from a year ago will look like in new systems headed up by Kyle Shanahan on offense and Jim O'Neil on defense.

"I think we're off to a good start," Pettine said. "We had, in the very first meeting, just laid out some objectives that we wanted, and one of the biggest ones was to establish the tempo, how we're going to get out of the huddle, how we're going to fly around on both sides of the ball."

According to Pettine, the Browns' first-year head coach, much of the three days of on-field work focused on learning how to practice at full speed, while at the same time, remaining safe with only helmets and shell padding underneath their jerseys.

"I think a lot of it is teaching them how to practice at a certain pace and a certain way to protect each other and be good teammates so we're not on the ground a lot and there's not a lot of contact," Pettine said.

"When you learn to practice that way, you can get a lot done in shorts. I think there's a lot of teams that don't get a lot done because they don't have a good feel for how to go at full speed and still protect each other.

"It's the continuation of learning the system, learning the drills, getting to know their coaches, what the expectations are. As I told them when we were just breaking down, 'We're getting ready to swim across the Atlantic, and we've just taken one step in.' We've got so far to go, but it was a good first step."

In addition to learning how to practice with the tempo and speed that Pettine wants, the players got extended on-field work. Because of their coaching change, the Browns got the extra two weeks of work and a second mini-camp session to catch the players up to speed on what will be expected of them in training camp and during the regular season.

"This is one of the most up-tempo mini-camps I've been a part of, now going into my ninth year in the National Football League, and I think this is what we need," new Browns safety Donte Whitner said. "Even our offseason conditioning was taking us back to college. There were a lot of half-gassers, a lot of running, a big emphasis on being the most well-conditioned football team, so that, in the fourth quarter, when you're tired and you can't really think well, we'll be one of the best teams. We'll be well-conditioned, mentally and physically.

"You have to practice like a winning football team. Winning football teams, they come out and they practice the same way each and every day. They really focus on the fundamentals, the details within the scheme and the technique at your individual position. Then, they run to the football. They practice getting turnovers. They practice communicating, and that's the way a winning football team practices. The last two days, we've been doing that. It has to get a little better, but we're prepared to make that step."

According to Whitner, the offseason workouts and mini-camps are about "learning terminology without having to think about it in order to play really fast," so that they can affect the quarterback and not let him "read the mail before you open it."

"When you affect quarterbacks in the National Football League, you affect offenses," Whitner said. "When I say affect quarterbacks, I mean showing them one thing and having enough guys out there that know how to show different blitzes and different coverages, but also, be able to turn that into something else. It's going to take a little work to get there."

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