BEREA, Ohio -- For Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer, being able to play football again has been a blessing.
Hoyer has not taken a meaningful NFL snap since suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a Thursday night game against the Buffalo Bills last October, but the Cleveland native, and St. Ignatius graduate, feels ready to take first-team repetitions during organized team activities.
"It's just good to be back out there, good to be in the huddle calling plays with those guys," Hoyer said after Wednesday's practice. "It's good to get a feel. I know it's a little bit different of a mode, but it's just good to be in the huddle.
"I'm begging for more. As soon as you get a taste, you just want to get back and do the whole thing. I understand their precaution, but at the same time, I want to be out there doing my job. I don't think about my knee at all. I worked really hard to get to this point, so I could just go and play football.
"The only thing that is a reminder is this brace. It slides every now and then, and I've got to pull it up. Other than that, it's just getting back to having a little bit of the pass rush and react. It even cements a little more how I feel pushing up in the pocket and doing things like that. So far, so good."
Hoyer wants to take full-team repetitions during organized team activities so badly that he joked that the coaching staff may need to put a restraining order on him for the constant barrage of text messages they have received over the past few weeks of the offseason program.
"I'm texting them all and just asking them," Hoyer said. "I'm going to continue to do it. For me, I'm going to press to the fullest and they can hold me back. That's their job, but I'm going to make sure they know I'm ready to go."
Although Hoyer is running around on a surgically repaired knee, his coach and teammates have not seen a difference from what they watched on film or experienced in the huddle last fall.
"He shows up here every day ready to work and it's the classic gym rat: first one here, last one to leave," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "He's grinding. I don't think this is anything, as he's already talked about, this wasn't unexpected to him."
Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas added, "He looks really good. It seems like he's done a great job so far for us. I think he's still a little bit limited out there, but he definitely looks like he's doing a great job.
"Brian's always been a competitor. I think whether he's got the job outright or is competing for the job, he's going to be the same person. He's got an excellent work ethic, and I think he knows what it takes to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. He's going to be the same guy, no matter what."
Hoyer has even impressed his newest of teammates, including safety Donte Whitner.
"He knows what he's doing," Whitner said. "A lot of quarterbacks just drop back and they know where the routes are, but they don't really know anything about the defense, the weaknesses of the coverages.
"These guys not only know the offense, but they know the weaknesses of the coverages and what you're trying to do to them, and that's how they can pick you apart. He's not at that level yet, but he knows a lot of things."
To his teammates, Hoyer appears to be the same player that started three games, all victories, for the Browns last fall because he is approaching the quarterback competition with veteran Tyler Thigpen and first-round draft pick Johnny Manziel the same way he always has, even though he enters training camp as the starter.
"I think it does feel a little bit different, but my mentality has never changed," Hoyer said. "I've always thought of myself as a starter and prepared that way because you never know when that opportunity's going to come.
"I didn't know in week three last year that I was going to be the starting quarterback of the Browns, but I felt like I always prepared myself for that moment. Really, that's the only way to go about it."
BOYS BEING BOYS
During the course of Wednesday's practice, a skirmish broke out between an offensive and defensive lineman while they competed against one another in a drill. According to Pettine and Thomas, those types of situations are related to competitive nature more than anything else.
"We tell our guys we want to be competitive, not combative," Pettine said. "That it's a fine line, and we want our guys right up to that line. It is an emotional sport, and in some guys, sometimes, it'll trigger a response that, as a staff, you don't necessarily want. We want our guys out there competing, and that's what this game is all about. In the offseason, we want guys competing for jobs and going hard against each other."
Thomas added, "It's always good to see guys competing. I've never been through an OTA or a training camp where there weren't multiple fights. That's just part of the business when you've got O-line guys and D-line guys bumping."
RUBIN MISSES PRACTICE
Veteran defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin was not at practice on Wednesday because of undisclosed reasons. Pettine briefly addressed Rubin's absence following practice.
"I'm not going to go into the details, but he's got something," Pettine said. "Again, this comes back to the injury thing that the NFL wants us to report on injuries that we consider serious. To me, serious is something that will cause him to miss the start of training camp. I'll just leave it at that it falls under that category."