BEREA, Ohio -- The restrictions have come off of Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer.
After months of rehabilitation from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and waiting all throughout the offseason in order to participate in full-team workouts, Hoyer was full go on Saturday, and has since taken first-team repetitions during the 11-on-11 drills in the first three practices, something he was not permitted to do during organized team activities and mini-camps in the spring.
"At this point, I don't even think about it," Hoyer said of the brace he wears on the repaired right knee. "It's something that I've become used to. For me, it'll be something that I wear the whole year, not just for the stability of the knee getting hit from the side, but I think that it's something that I can benefit from. For me, I'm not the most mobile guy anyway, so it doesn't really affect me that much.
"It's a little bit of a different motion, but I don't think that it's something that I'm trying to catch up on. It's kind of like riding a bike. The footwork is a little bit different, that's all, as opposed to being in the pistol. I felt that I got to my tracks on the run game really well and the play-action passes. Even in the spring doing seven-on-seven, I did everything all from under center so it's not something that I'm concerned about."
Although only three days into a three-week training camp. Hoyer has made an impression on first-year coach Mike Pettine.
"It doesn't look like it fazed him," Pettine said of Hoyer's work in 11-on-11 drills. "We simulated that some. He did have some bodies coming close to him, not too close, in the spring. It was really being under center was what was new for him. That's probably better to ask him that question, but just from the outside looking in, I thought he handled it well.
"I don't think he's going to let us back him off. That's something I'll get with (trainer) Joe (Sheehan) as we get going, and we kind of see how the knee reacts. Typically, there's a chance you get, whether you start to get some swelling, some symptoms from it once the workload gets heavier, and it's day-in and day-out unlike the spring. We'll certainly monitor it, and if we need to back him off, then, we will."
Hoyer's torn ACL was different than the typical one experienced by most quarterbacks. Typically, when a quarterback suffers a torn ACL, it happens on a hit to his lead leg when he is dropping back to throw a pass.
In a Thursday Night Football win over the Buffalo Bills last October, Hoyer scrambled out of the pocket in the first half and was injured while trying to slide to avoid a hit. He did not avoid the hit from Buffalo linebacker Kiko Alonso, and his knee folded awkwardly under the weight of his body.
"For me, actually, it's not even in my mind," Hoyer said. "It's kind of a natural feel where I need to step up, move, whatever. I've done so many drills like that working to get back and strengthening this leg in kind of a way (like) that the functional movements that I would be doing out on the field.
"Whether it's dropping back with resistance or dropping back and working on movements and things like that, I've been doing that for a long time. Now, it's just navigating around the rush and feeling it. Even that, the first time that you get back out there and there's a real rush coming at you, you have to get used to it. No matter how many times you've done it, it's still kind of the nuances of not seeing the rush, but feeling it. There were a few plays out there where I had to step up and it's kind of a natural reaction."
After the injury, Hoyer attacked his rehabilitation and was well ahead of schedule in the process, which allowed him to participate in individual drills during the offseason program of 10 organized team activity practices and two mini-camp sessions.
"Brian easy to root for, absolutely," Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said. "Is there a better story? He's a hometown kid. He's coming off an injury. We all want him to play well. He's a quality guy and a class act, so we want Brian to play well. We'll want Johnny (Manziel) to play well and Tyler (Thigpen) and Connor (Shaw) to play well. It's an important position."
Hoyer, a North Olmsted native and graduate of St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, worked hard through the rehabilitation process not only because he loves the game of football, but because he is playing for a team he grew up rooting for.
"Playing for this team was my dream as a child, but also being from here doesn't make me the best quarterback for this team," Hoyer said. "I want to earn it out on the field, and it's great to have the support of fans. I saw someone that I played youth baseball with over there. It's really cool for me, but like I said, it's really about focusing on what's going out on the field each and every play.
"The opportunity is there for me. That's my goal, and that's so far in advance that I can't even think about it. I'm thinking about our install for tomorrow that we're putting in tonight. I believe that I'm capable of being the starter at quarterback for this team, and that's what I'm working towards every day.
"When it comes down to it, all that matters is what happens on the field. No one is going to cheer for a good guy if they're 4-12. It's good to know that people respect me and my character, but for me, when it comes down to it, it's all about what happens out on the field."