July 31, 2014

Second-year guard Garrett Gilkey is preparing to be a starter

Garrett Gilkey

The logo on his shirt is that of a Cleveland Browns dog with a barbell in it’s bared teeth trying to chew through it. Underneath are the words Cleveland Browns Strength.

This image stands in sharp contrast to the smiling man wearing it. Garrett Gilkey is upbeat, polite and doesn’t seem to have a mean bone in his body. He is in a fight, however. A fight for a starting spot on the Browns offensive line.

[Read more...]

Running down the Cleveland Browns and the rest of the AFC North with @SteelersDepot – WFNY Podcast – 2014-07-29

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Dave Bryan of Steelers Depot is one of the most well-informed people when it comes to the AFC North. Steelers Depot might cover the Browns mortal enemy in football, but it’s really well done. Whether he’s breaking down players or their contracts, Steelers Depot does it right. So today we talked about the Browns, the Steelers and the rest of the AFC North.

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LeBron James, Johnny Manziel, boring Tribe and more with Chad Zumock – WFNY Podcast – 2014-07-28

WFNY Podcast LogoChad Zumock joins the podcast for the first time. Here’s what we talked about.

  • Chad talks about his relationship working with Jim Florentine
  • We talk about LeBron James coming home and Chad reporting sports
  • Johnny Football vs. Brian Hoyer
  • Cleveland Browns training camp and zip lines
  • The boringness of the Cleveland Indians
  • Is baseball boring in general now?
  • The steroid era
  • The Jim Thome Statue

And much much more.

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Jerry Jones almost drafted Johnny Manziel

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Johnny Cleveland was this close to being Johnny Dallas. We know that the Dallas Cowboys selected guard Zach Martin with their first-round pick, but team owner Jerry Jones says that that almost wasn’t the case. Jones went into detail on how tough of a choice it was during Sunday’s edition of NFL Network’s Inside Training Camp Live, saying that Johnny Manziel was very close to being a Cowboy.

“I want you to know that almost as I was handing in the card, it was that close to putting that Manziel card in. It was that close,” Jones told NFL Media’s Rich Eisen and Michael Irvin from Cowboys camp in Oxnard, California. “I looked over to my son, Stephen, our chief executive officer, and I said ‘I took the right pick.’ … He was the top player by three players on our board at the time that we were sitting there looking at him.”

The Cowboys have Tony Romo in place and may have made the better move in finding him some protection, but there’s no denying that Jones’ penchant for flash matches that of the player who ultimately went No. 22 overall to Jimmy Haslam and the Cleveland Browns. Since arriving to Cleveland, Manziel has been a mixed bag of hard work and off-field headlines. He’s firmly entrenched as the No. 2 quarterback in Browns camp, but occasionally shows flashes of the player he was at Texas A&M.

Listening to Jones, it appears that he’s anticipating much more in the way of growth and that Browns fans will have a special player to cheer for over the course of the next several years.

“Manziel is special,” added Jones. “I know him personally. I know that he is going to be a success in the National Football League. And it was a hard decision. And it is one that I will probably for the rest of my career think about.”

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Browns issue statement on status of Jason Pinkston

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Jason Pinkston was not in camp yesterday with the Browns. As the day wore on and as media asked media relations folks first, coach Mike Pettine second and GM Ray Farmer third with very little comment, it turned into a small issue. Pinkston is one of the nicest and most outgoing Cleveland Browns on social media and in person. Fans were deeply concerned about him when he was dealing with a blood clot in his lung a couple years back. And it made sense that there’d be more concern today when he wasn’t there and there weren’t any answers as to why.  Today we have a bit more clarity as the Browns say Pinkston “has not been medically cleared.”

That comes on the heels of Pinkston’s own statement via Twitter yesterday after the Browns basically issued “no comment” across the board.

I don’t fault the Browns for saying “no comment” by the way. This group that currently runs the Browns has been far more giving and open than previous management groups. They don’t seem to want to pretend that they’re running hyper-secret military operations. All that said, when it comes to health-related things governed by the actual law, I don’t blame them. Even today as they haven’t given us any detail, at least we know that Pinkston hasn’t been medically cleared.

[Also See: WFNY's profile of Jason Pinkston from August 2013]

See how to make a Johnny Manziel jersey out of your old Tim Couch

Cleveland Browns fans are ready for football, and apparently in the recycling mood. One fan decided that the best way to show his support for Johnny Manziel was to convert an old Tim Couch jersey with a bunch of pasted on money signs. I love the enthusiasm and can appreciate a bit of creativity, but this is a bit embarrassing, I think.

[Also see: Brian Hoyer won’t be held back in training camp]

Brian Hoyer won’t be held back in training camp

In the talk about Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer, the one thing that has been talked about the least is Brian Hoyer’s ACL injury. With all the excitement that Johnny Football brings and with there not being any news of “setbacks” for Brian Hoyer – at least so far – it’s easy to sometimes forget that he needed a major surgery last year after being injured in Buffalo. The injury non-story will continue to be just that, it seems according to head coach Mike Pettine.

That’s great to hear of course. Whether Johnny Manziel beats out Brian Hoyer or not, it’s in everyone’s best interests if he’s forced to beat out a healthy, ready-to-compete version of Hoyer. Then again, if quotes are any indication, Brian Hoyer is always ready to compete. On Friday, Hoyer talked a bit about his confidence and what this competition will be like for him.

“I am confident that I am that guy, but in the same sense, I know that if it comes down to the fact that Johnny does beat me out, I will have given everything I have and he will have totally earned it,” Hoyer said. “That’s what you want, and like I said, for me, all you want is and opportunity and a chance to earn the job. That’s what I’ve been given, and for me, it’s about going out every day and proving that I can be that guy because I believe that I am.”

The fact that he believes he can be that guy should be bolstered by the fact that he won’t be held back due to his surgery last year.

[lso See: Browns think Johnny Manziel has regressed in practice, worry about partying]

Anthony Lima talks about LeBron, Johnny Manziel and local sports media – WFNY Podcast – 2014-07-23

WFNY Podcast LogoAnthony Lima joined Craig to talk about local sports media, LeBron James, Johnny Manziel.

Anthony Lima and what it was like to break the LeBron news live on the air.

The Plane, Zydrunas and more on the reporting of the story

The risks of being wrong and getting punished

Opie and Anthony and losing your job for what you say on twitter

The pitfalls of a public life on twitter

Check out this episode!

Cleveland Browns Film Room: A look at Pierre Desir

Over the next couple weeks on WFNY, I will be breaking down the film on all seven draft picks of the Cleveland Browns. As fans, we often rely on mainstream draft analysts to give us certain traits and characteristics that we use to form our opinions. Rather than simply tell you positives and negatives, the goal of this series is to better inform you by showing evidence, in GIF form, of the skills each prospect possess and areas they each must improve upon.  Past film rooms: Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel, Joel Bitonio, Christian Kirksey, Terrance West.

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Each NFL Draft class brings in a melting pot of former college athletes from all kinds of backgrounds. Some grow up in the classic middle-class, two parents house-hold with the picket fence that the media glorifies. Others struggle their whole lives to not just make it to the NFL, but the survive. Despite the struggle many prospects go through, rarely is this fight to make “The League” more obstacle-laden than the journey of rookie cornerback Pierre Desir.

[Read more...]

Joe Haden shoos away kid in a Hines Ward jersey

Joe Haden was (probably) kidding, but he shooed away a child in a Hines Ward jersey who was in line for an autograph. As we all know, you should report child abuse and I’m not talking about Joe Haden. To think that some awful father in Northeast Ohio would put his kid in a Stillers jersey for an event featuring Joe Haden is just criminal.

Sumlin brushes off Manziel questions at Texas A&M media day

Johnny ManzielJohnny Manziel questions aren’t all that relevant to Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin now that Manziel has been drafted by the Browns. Of course, that didn’t stop him from getting some Manziel questions just the same.

I’m not surprised at all that Sumlin got the questions and good for him for not entertaining them. What Manziel does right now is not his concern anymore for the most part.

Sumlin’s done his time under the Manziel microscope. I’m not saying he didn’t benefit from Manziel’s time at the school, but remember he had to answer for every little body-language “incident” over the past few years like this one when it was suspected that Manziel wasn’t minding his coach’s instructions on the sidelines.

“For people to say ‘You know what, he’s not listening to his coach and there’s no discipline on this team,’ they’re not around this football team,” Sumlin said. “They’re not around this program. A lot of people who have made statements about that weren’t anywhere near the sideline. I haven’t heard one guy or any person who was near that sideline, who heard (what) was said, speak up about what happened. So, you can get different perspectives sitting in a studio or behind a television than you would have gotten live. That’s where we are with that. “

With that in mind, you begin to understand why he might relish the opportunity to pass off all the Manziel questions to the Cleveland Browns from now on. Coach Pettine, the media would like a word or 200 with you.

The return of LeBron James plus Johnny Manziel and Josh Gordon – WFNY Podcast – 2014-07-07

WFNY Podcast LogoAs I said in the podcast, I have a new album coming out this week. My band name is The Company Line and the album is called “Losing My Voice.” It’s available right now for pre-order on Amazon. It’s supposed to be on iTunes and Spotify as well. Please search it out. Please listen to it. Please tell a friend. Please enjoy it.

Here’s the story behind the album.

Here’s a track from it.

Now on to the Podcast.

It was a wild weekend on Twitter with all the sports news. TD and I ran it down.

  • LeBron James coming back to Cleveland?
  • Dan Gilbert’s plane!
  • The practical issues surrounding the Miami Heat rebuilding
  • LeBron facing Pat Riley and what that might be like
  • New song from Craig’s band The Company Line
  • Josh Gordon getting pulled over for speeding and DWI
  • Johnny Manziel rolling up dollar bills. Is it a story?
  • Michael Brantley makes the all-star team
  • The Indians should trade Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Masterson

 

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Josh Gordon reportedly arrested last night in North Carolina

Josh Gordon faces suspension from the NFL already, and it seems that his appeals process might have hit another bump in the road last night. According to (the) Twitter, Gordon was arrested last night in North Carolina.

Obviously without knowing what the charges were, it’s hard to have much of a reaction. I mean if he was nailed for drug possession or public drunkenness or public urination, the reactions are going to be very different. It could have been just driving way too fast. So, I’ll reserve judgement.

The only thing that I will say is something that I’ve said for years and years. It’s my own personal cliche, but I think it’s apropos.

Not getting arrested is the easiest part of my day. It’s simple for me, and I don’t think I’m bragging when I say that.

Jordan Cameron to “drive a hard bargain” during contract talks

Gordon and Cameron

While the Cleveland Browns are still looking to lock up their No. 1 draft selection in cornerback Justin Gilbert, all eyes will be aimed directly at tight end Jordan Cameron who will reportedly “drive a hard bargain” when it comes time to ink an extension.

Cameron is coming off of a season where he hauled in 80 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s also coming into a season where he’s hired super agent Tom Condon (his third agent this offseason) and will be the focal point of an offense that will be without Pro Bowl receiver Josh Gordon for an undefined amount of time. He’ll be leaving a system that was extremely friendly to tight ends (thanks, Norv Turner!) and entering one that is predicated upon the run game. This said, Kyle Shanahan has molded career years out of tight ends like Owen Daniels, Chris Cooley, Fred Davis and Jordan Reed—the most recent finishing with 45 catches, 499 yards, and three touchdowns despite missing the final six games of the season.

Sure, Cameron could be tagged in 2015 rather than going through all of the bound-to-be-painful extension talks. But it goes without saying that Cameron, who lined up in the slot many times this past season, will keep an eye on the ruling over New Orleans and their tight end Jimmy Graham. The Saints tagged Graham as a tight end, but the NFLPA is arguing he should be paid as a wide receiver after lining up in the slot or outside on 67 percent of his 2013 snaps. The tight end tag is worth $5.3 million less than the wideout tag.

Cameron will likely look to better the deal signed by Jared Cook a little over a year ago, as the tight end inked a deal with the Rams for four year and $35 million, with $19 million guaranteed. He is set to make just $645,000 as he enters the final season of his rookie contract.

(Photo: Pioneer Press/Sherri LaRose-Chiglo)

Johnny Manziel defiant: “I’m not going to change for anybody”

Despite the fact that many many players who have far more experience and success in the NFL are commenting that Johnny Manziel is going about his business the wrong way, he stands defiant. Beat reporters were on hand with NFL rookies as they go through their rookie symposium in town this week.

Again, I wanted Johnny Manziel on this football team because I thought he was the best quarterback in the draft based on his abilities. I knew there would be some other parts of the Manziel experience that might be an issue, but I’m surprised just how often he appears to be partying in an epic fashion.

Again, I hear about all the hard work he does on the field. I don’t think he needs to spend every waking moment wrapped up in a playbook. And maybe it is just a publicity problem and Johnny Manziel is just more in the public eye. But the more and more evidence we get including pictures of him drinking personal bottles of champagne and slurring into fake phones made of cash, it’s hard to think what he’s doing can be justified as just making the most of his time off as he gets away from the game.

It’s not the end of the world. He’s not the devil. Maybe those of you who say I’m out of touch are actually right and he’s just growing up under a spotlight. It’s just that I think we can all agree that it’s not exactly as we’d draw it up for the guy we want to lead our favorite football team to success sometime in the near future.

Rex Ryan takes a shot at Mike Pettine for talking to media

Pettine presser

Certain people always find a way to have their names in headlines, even when things are supposed to be slow. New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan is one of said people, his latest coming in the way of a few shots taken at former colleague and current Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine.

Pettine was recently the subject of a well-written profilish piece written by Monday Morning QB’s Greg Bedard. (If you haven’t read it yet, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for.) Within the story, Pettine was quoted throughout, dropping all sorts of science—scheme, philosophy, the NFL Draft, you name it. But in a passage about his playbook and how he goes about educating his players, the rookie head coach dropped this gem:

“The initial playbook itself is actually quite thin, and that’s by design. I don’t put a lot of graduate-level information in it. We know in places like New England, it’s only a matter of time that they somehow mysteriously end up with our playbook.”

Pettine added that Ryan used to hand out his defensive playbooks “like candy,” and that they would always, somehow, find their way into the hands of Bill Belichick. Ryan, needless to say, was not too pleased with this nugget of information.

“Everyone needs to talk to Mike Pettine because he’s got all the answers,” said Ryan. “I don’t understand what he’s trying to gain by it. He needs to learn to be quiet.”

This take by Ryan was just the spark. The inferno would take place when a few thirsty media members added some fuel to the mix, calling Pettine names like “ultimate snitch,” and that he was the one to leak all information to the New York media during the Tebow-Sanchez season.

Taken in context with the entire story, it would appear that there was little in the way of malice with Pettine’s comments—he simply does not provide much in the way of depth when the roster is still at 90 players. There is little to gain on providing propriety information to individuals who may not be with the team come late-August. Could Pettine have chosen another team or simply spoke in generalities? Probably.

While it’s unclear as to the cause, Ryan claimed that his relationship with Pettine is “in a bad spot.” This mid-week barb isn’t likely to mend the fences any time soon.

 

Johnny Manziel, World Cup, USMNT, and more with Tom Reed – WFNY Podcast – 2014-06-19

WFNY Podcast LogoTom Reed was kind enough to join me today to talk about the World Cup, the Browns and much more.

  • Jozy Altidore’s injury
  • Landon Donovan left off the roster
  • The matchup with Portugal
  • The ugly win over Ghana
  • Who will replace Altidore and what will Deuce be like with his broken nose?
  • Johnny Manziel and Mike Pettine’s reactions to him

Lastly, Tom had a book recommendation from one of his former colleagues. It’s The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt by David Giffels.

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WFNY’s State of the Browns: Wide Receivers

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The wide receiver position has become a big question mark for the Browns ever since reports of a possible Josh Gordon suspension. Gordon notwithstanding, the Browns have had a very eventful offseason in regards to the position. In the start of the free agency period, the Browns signed Andrew Hawkins from the Cincinnati Bengals. Later in the offseason, they added Nate Burleson from the Detroit Lions. Post-Gordon, they finished off the wide receiver position by adding Miles Austin from the Dallas Cowboys, Anthony Armstrong, and multiple undrafted free agents. The Browns are clearly looking for depth at the position because of the looming suspension of their Pro Bowl pass catcher.

Here is a look at the Browns wide receiver depth chart heading into training camp.  [Read more...]

The best CB tandem, coaching flowcharts and like father like daughter …While We’re Waiting

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Another week gone by and it is my turn in the rotation for www. Let’s kick things off with some Browns optimism.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of NFL.com’s Adam Schein before. But if the Browns’ defense comes close to what he thinks it will be, I’ll be pretty happy. There is no doubt that the Browns upgraded at cornerback in the offseason, and as much as I respect D’Qwell Jackson as a person, I think Karlos Dansby will be a bit of an upgrade in the middle. I’m not sure that Pettine will turn Paul Kruger into the sack specialist that Schein thinks he will be, but I’d love to be wrong.

This line was interesting to me- “And it should surprise nobody that Pettine plucked Justin Gilbert, the elite corner in the 2014 draft class, with his first selection as Browns coach. I think Cleveland could have the best cornerback combo in the NFL this year. Seriously.”

The best CB combo in the NFL this year? Sign me up for that one. I’m in. Take it. A definite defensive identity? Take that as well. I love me some great defense. The video in that piece is just kind of a silly Q&A with Joe Haden, but has an interesting factoid or two.

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The amount of truth in this statement by ESPN’s Chad Ford may be an overlooked part of why Mike Brown was fired after just one year-

“Just because Griffin wants to take Embiid No. 1 doesn’t mean he’ll get his wish. Two years ago, Gilbert and head coach Byron Scott overruled Grant on draft night and selected Dion Waiters over Grant’s choice, Harrison Barnes. Last year, it was Mike Brown who helped push Bennett to the top of the Cavs’ draft board.”

Here’s the deal, we know that Mike Brown watched a lot of Bennett while he was out west and Bennett played for UNLV. We were told by Chris Grant last year that Mike Brown had seen him play a lot and really liked what he could do. If Bennett was more Brown’s pick than anyone else, AND he failed to coach him to an acceptable level of play for a first rounder, let alone the top pick overall….

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My tweet of the night comes from one of my favorite musicians David Crowder. He was answering some questions from fans when he got this Harry Potter related question and gave his response. If you aren’t familiar with the series, well just move on to the next item.

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I’m a father who has only a daughter. As such, I can relate to this story even if I’m not a major league ball player. Kudos to Marla Ridenour for this one. And honestly, I can’t believe it took this long for someone to think of this.

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We’ve heard about coaching trees before, but a coaching flowchart? Only four steps to go from Naismith to Popovich? Well, makes sense why his team is fundamentally sound I guess.

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alhambraI will end with another mini-game review. The latest added to the collection is a game called Alhambra. It is a game that we’ve had our eye on as a family for a while now, but just never pulled the trigger. I’m glad we did.

In Alhambra, you are adding buildings and gardens to your palace/complex/Alhambra. (Hence the name.) You collect different currencies in order to pay for these buildings, as each builder wants to be paid in their native currency. Once the group has the hang of the different types of things you can do on your turn, it moves pretty quick.

It has an element of luck to it, but it is also very strategic and somewhat puzzle-y. The game is for 2-8 players, and is one of the rare games that actually works well with two players. A lot of games designed for more than two are kind of awful to play with just a pair, but this one works. It works well with 3 or 4 as well. Haven’t played or watched with more than that many yet.

It is designed for ages 8 and up. I think that is a good age limit. Obviously the more a child can handle some abstract thinking , the better off they will likely be.

If you have a family and like some of the more family friendly games I’ve suggested before, I think you’ll like Alhambra as well.

John Turner discusses his time covering Johnny Manziel in high school – WFNY Podcast – 2014-06-17

WFNY Podcast LogoJohn Turner of The Sporting News was kind enough to join me and talk about his time covering Johnny Manziel way back in high school. We talked about just how good and competitive Johnny Manziel is. We talked about his off-field antics.

We also spent some time talking about the existing sports media culture including “gotcha!” headlines and slideshows.

Even though he’s a Detroit fan, you should give him a follow on Twitter.

 

Check out this episode!