CLEVELAND, Ohio -- On an jalapeno-hot morning inside Cleveland Browns Stadium, John Hughes tried matching the fervor of dozens of youth football campers, many of whom stood eye to belly button with the 6-foot-2, 320-pound defensive tackle.
With his white cap turned backward atop his unruly mop of hair, Hughes passed and punted balls, pursued kids around the field grabbing at their flags and even engaged in a little trash talk during the hour-long session hosted by Browns rookies on Wednesday.
"No way you're gonna catch me," one blonde-haired boy yelled.
Hughes smiled and darted after the youngster. Another doubter, another challenge.
From almost the moment the Browns chose the University of Cincinnati product in the third round of the NFL draft, Hughes has dealt with skepticism. He knows some fans were hoping for a play-making receiver. He has heard analysts describe the pick as "a reach," and read how the Columbus native would have been available much further down the draft board.
They are entitled to their opinions, Hughes said, and he takes no offense to them.
"It doesn't hurt because I know my capabilities and I can't wait to go out there and show them," Hughes said.
It's an attitude he's developed over the past four years while trying validate the faith loved ones and coaches have placed in him.Cleveland Browns rookies coach youth football campers Cleveland Browns rookies made a trip to Cleveland Browns Stadium to help out with the team's three-day Youth Football Camp. The camp gives the 250 participants a chance to sharpen their skills and work on basic football fundamentals. Watch video <!-- --><!-- -->
Critics are nothing new to Hughes, who scared off some major college recruiters because of suspect work ethic and academics. It wasn't long ago he had to stand before the woman who raised him and explain why he was failing math at Gahanna Lincoln High School. The disappointment in the face of a 79-year-old grandmother stings more than an irate sports talk caller questioning his credentials as the No. 87th overall pick.
Since leaving high school, coaches have witnessed substantial growth in a defensive lineman who graduated in December with a degree in criminal justice.
"John has matured on and off the field," Bearcats defensive line coach Steve Stripling said, noting Hughes' internship at a Cincinnati-area youth detention center. "I have seen him become hungrier and quicker over the last two years. He has taken on the responsibility to make himself a better player."
Hughes, 24, said he learned from his own mistakes and the those of others to evolve into a defensive lineman who registered 51 tackles -- including 12-1/2 for loss -- and five sacks during his senior season. He enters training camp next month as one of several candidates looking to start alongside Ahtyba Rubin in the Browns' defensive interior. He will battling veterans Scott Paxson and Brian Schaefering, along with sixth-round pick Billy Winn. Paxson drew first-team reps during minicamp and organized team activities.
Even before the Browns lost Phil Taylor to a torn pectoral muscle in May, they wanted to add depth at the position. Their starters were overworked with Rubin taking the second-most snaps (86 percent) among NFL defensive tackles last season.
Browns coach Pat Shurmur said it's difficult to evaluate rookie linemen prior to training camp because of the lack of contact drills. What little Shurmur has seen of Hughes and Winn he likes.
"They use their hands well," he said. "It looks like they can separate from blocks well ... I think those guys are competing to be one of our defensive tackles and that's why we drafted them."
Count Hughes among those who were a bit surprised by his third-round selection. His family had planned a draft party for April 28, a day after the Browns picked him. Hughes said he's tried to tune out the criticism, but concedes in moments of boredom he's done a few Google searches on the Internet.
"It's not easy because it's everywhere," Hughes said of draft analysis. " It is motivation, but I just try to avoid it when I can. Usually, when I type in my name, the [late] film director John Hughes pops up anyway."
The rookie paused.
"I'm a fan of his 'Home Alone' movies."
He is thrilled to once again be playing so close to home, affording his grandmother, Esther Hughes, the opportunity to attend games. She just retired two weeks ago, Hughes said, from driving school buses.
"She worked her entire life and I never heard her complain once," he said. "She always stayed on me. She kept me on the right path even when I sometimes strayed."
Time will tell if the Browns or the skeptics are right about Hughes. Until then, he'll just keep tracking ball carriers at the stadium whether they're pros in hip pads or seven-year-olds with flags streaming behind them.
CLEVELAND (AP) Brandon Weeden nervously spun the baseball in his right hand.
''I can't remember the last time I threw one of these,'' the Browns rookie quarterback said sitting in the Indians' dugout. ''It's so small. It feels like a BB.''
For one day, Weeden returned to his baseball roots.
Weeden, a former minor league pitcher in the New York Yankees' organization, threw out the ceremonial first pitch Wednesday night before the Indians faced the Cincinnati Reds in the finale of a three-game series. Weeden was anxious to get in some warmup tosses before the taking the mound and showing off his strong right arm.
Once it was his turn, Weeden fired a pitch at Indians pitcher Nick Hagadone that was high and off target - but had plenty of speed.
Weeden and the Browns' other rookies were on the field for batting practice before they watched the final interleague game between Ohio's two major league teams from a suite.
Earlier in the day, the group toured the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and were given a behind-the-scenes visit of the museum's archives.
''It was cool,'' Weeden said. ''We saw one of Elvis Preseley's guns and the jacket Michael Jackson wore in the ''Thriller'' video.''
As the Indians took BP, Weeden autographed a few baseballs for fans and said being on the field brought back some memories of his days in the low minor leagues. The 28-year-old was drafted by the Yankees in the second round in 2002. He went 19-26 in five seasons before giving up baseball and enrolling at Oklahoma State to re-start his football career.
''I don't miss it,'' Weeden said of the minors. ''If I had made it all the way up here (the majors) I'm sure it would be a different story.''
Josh Cribbs got paid big bucks by the Cleveland Browns because of his special teams play. Despite career highs in receptions and receiving yards in 2011, look for Cribbs to focus on his returns again in 2012.Jeremiah: Pressure points Daniel Jeremiah studies the NFL landscape to determine which team, coach and QB are under the most pressure. More ...
That would leave Cribbs in a No. 4 role, getting occasional snaps as a receiver and runner. The Browns want Cribbs to see "heavy duty" time on special teams.
This might not please Cribbs, but it makes sense for the Browns. Both Cribbs and Devin Hester in Chicago have tried to prove they are every-down receivers to middling results. The Bears are still working on their "Hester Package", but the Cribbs package should simply be on returns.<!-- end page:applyDecorator -->
Actually, I think Josh will LOVE this. I have seen him on more than one occasion mention that he wants to put more time in to get back to being dominant on Special Teams. He eluded to the fact that working so much with the offense has eroded his skills as both a returner and cover guy. This will be great for his chances of getting another contract from the Browns after this season. He MUST return to his roots and dominate, otherwise, he most likely will be playing his last season in the Orange and Brown...
That would leave Cribbs in a No. 4 role, getting occasional snaps as a receiver and runner. The Browns want Cribbs to see "heavy duty" time on special teams.This might not please Cribbs, but it makes sense for the Browns.
This will be great for his chances of getting another contract from the Browns after this season. He MUST return to his roots and dominate, otherwise, he most likely will be playing his last season in the Orange and Brown.
Roll Tribe rollyea buddy... All Ohio World series!
yea buddy... All Ohio World series!Always been a dream of mine!!
The I71 Series!
All Ohio World series!The !-71 series! I can't even imagine....It used to get pretty wild out on that stretch of highway in the late 80's when the Browns and Bengals were battling for the AFC Central title. But a World series would be unprecedented. Talk about fun! That would be like sports euphoria in Ohio.....
Might as well have it coincide with the rise of the Cleveland Browns, and an undefeated 1st season for Urban at Ohio State, just for good measure....While we're at it, throw in 4 top draft picks for the Cavs with those picks in the top 35, that carry them to a championship level team!!
Here is the schedule:
July 28 -- Helmets: 8:45–11:15 a.m.
July 29 -- Full pads: 8:45–11:15 a.m.
July 30 -- Full pads: 8:45–11:15 a.m.
July 31 -- No practice
Aug. 1 -- Full pads: 2–4:30 p.m.
Aug. 2 -- Full pads: 8:45–11:15 a.m.
Aug. 3 -- Full pads: 8:45–11:15 a.m.
Aug. 4 -- Full pads: 8:45–11:15 a.m.
Aug. 5 -- No practice
Aug. 6 -- Full pads: 2–4:30 p.m.
Aug. 7 -- Full pads: 8:45–11:15 a.m.
Aug. 8 -- Shells (Family Night at Cleveland Browns Stadium): 7–8:30 p.m.
Aug. 9 -- No practice
Aug. 10 -- Browns at Detroit Lions (first preseason game): 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 11 -- No practice
Aug. 12 -- Full pads: 2–4:30 p.m.
Aug. 13 -- Full pads: 8:45–11:15 a.m.
Aug. 14 -- Shells: 8:45–11:15 a.m.
Aug. 15 -- No practice
Aug. 16 -- Browns at Green Bay Packers: 8 p.m.
Aug. 17 -- Practice closed to the public
Aug. 18 -- No practice
Aug. 19 -- Full pads: 2–4:30 p.m.
Aug. 20 -- Practice closed to the public
Aug. 21 -- Full pads: 8:45–11:15 a.m.
Aug. 22 -- Shells: 8:45–11:15 a.m.
Oh yes and combined Brandon Jackson had 9 touchdowns and 2173 combined yards in his 4 seasons with the Green Bay Packers...
I have been wondering why a lot of people from Holmgren to fans have been praising Brandon Jackson so heavily.When was the last time we had a 3rd down back that averaged over 500yds and 2 TDs per season? Look at the "average back" of the NFL and...yes...he will be average. Now take out the starters and he is anything but average.