Pettine 'pleased' with padded practice

BEREA, Ohio -- To some, beautiful music is made when orchestras fill concert halls and play symphonies from the greatest composers of all time.

But for Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine, a football traditionalist in every sense of the phrase, beautiful music is made on the practice field.

Although Pettine appreciated all of the efforts the players gave during the offseason program and first two days of training camp, for him, there was something missing. But on Monday, that something missing was heard, loud and clear, as the Browns were allowed to put on the full pads and have more contact during practice.

"It was a good start," Pettine said. "I thought our guys were flying around. A lot of teams will just tag off during 11-on-11, or even the nine-on-nine work that we did, but we want to get in the habit of 'thudding.'

"I think tackling is the hardest thing. You can't simulate it in practice. You can tackle a bag, or you can tackle each other and simulate it, but there's no substitute for live tackling, and for obvious reasons, you don't want to do that, so I think 'thud' is the next best thing where, if I have an aggressive angle to a ball-carrier, I'm going to go thud him up, and wrap him, drive him back and let him go and let those guys finish their runs. I think that's important. The better we can get at that at practice, I think it'll pay dividends in games."

Pettine said the players "did a good job of taking care of each other," but did need to remind the players about the importance of avoiding big hits on teammates, or taking them to the ground in non-live tackling drills.

"For the first day in pads, I thought our guys were solid," Pettine said. "I thought they did a good job of taking care of each other. I still don't want to go to the ground. We're not going to cut block, and we don't want to tackle guys to the ground.

"We're always preaching in the meetings about being a good teammate. As much as you want to finish a guy, that's something you don't want to do when you're all wearing the same logo. Overall, it was a good start to our padded work. I say that, but my opinion might be totally different 45 minutes from now."

Pettine emphasized the point of taking care of each other when wide receiver Nate Burleson made a catch over the middle of the field and spun directly into a hit from Browns safety Johnson Bademosi.

"It's football, and sometimes, instincts just take over to kind of drop the shoulder, but we don't want to do that to each other," Pettine said. "That still falls to competitive not combative. That stuff's not going to help them make the team.

"We want to be tough. We want to be nasty, but we want to play within the rules, and we certainly want to protect each other when we're practicing."

Although not happy with some of the contact, Pettine will have a live tackling drill on Thursday, and then, again during the team's scrimmage at Family Day at Akron's InfoCision Stadium this Saturday.

"Every team I've been with, we've done it at some point," Pettine said of live tackling drills in training camp. "We've done it on our goal-line, short-yardage day, which I believe will be this Thursday coming up.

"We will be live this Thursday for certain periods of the practice, but right now, when we're in 11-on-11, and we do the inside run drill, that will be 'Thud,' where we're going to front guys up, but then, drive them back and let them go. We will tackle to the ground for periods on Thursday, and then, during the scrimmage."


Pettine grew up the son of a legendary high school coach in Pennsylvania, and practice was quite a bit different under Mike Pettine Sr. During his tenure at Central Bucks West High School, Pettine Sr. won multiple state championships and more than 300 games with teams built on toughness developed through physical practices.

"As Rex likes to call him, the 'Real Coach Pettine,' when he would come into town, I usually get about a page of notes a day sitting on my desk, but he's enjoying it, sits in on the film sessions," Pettine said. "It's been great having him here."


Browns wide receivers Travis Benjamin and Charles Johnson had their 2013 regular seasons cut short due to torn anterior cruciate ligaments, but both men went through rehabilitation for the knee injuries and were on the field for the first two days of practice.

However, when the pads came on, Benjamin and Johnson sat out.

"(It's) just their fifth day of work," Pettine said. "We wanted to go ahead and force them a day off. Some of those guys, they practice so hard that they're almost their worst enemy. There'll be some guys we just keep an eye on during practice, the amount of reps that they're getting.

"We can back them down. We have real-time information that we know to back them off. Other guys will have a set day. Given receivers and how much they run, two guys coming off ACLs, we wanted to be cautious."


Even without Benjamin, Browns special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor had a wealth of kick returners during Monday's practice, including first-round pick Justin Gilbert, but according to Pettine, having their rookie cornerback return kicks is not necessarily in the long-term plans of the team.

"Ah, not at this point," Pettine said. "I think he might be an 'in case of emergency, break glass' kick-return guy. It's tough. I think I'd hold my breath or watch with one-and-a-half eyes covered if he was returning the kick.

"It's much more intriguing for Chris Tabor than it is for me. He's rolling guys now. Travis was a big part of the return game last year, so I think he feels good about his depth there. That question will get answered as we get closer."


Following Monday's practice, Pettine addressed what he saw from quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel when he watched the tape of Sunday's on-field work. While Pettine said Hoyer "was sharper" than he was Saturday, he did admit that "Manziel was inconsistent."

"I just think it's true of any rookie trying to learn an offense, especially just the difference in offenses there, and it's not just with him," Pettine said. "I think it's with all players. Some plays, you're going to have some good ones. You're going to have some bad ones, and you hope you can minimize the bad ones.

"If you have a learning moment on a certain play, you learn it, you tuck it away, and you don't make that mistake again. We tell our players that they're responsible for all of the coaching points at their position. Even if Johnny made a mistake, Brian needs to make sure he tucks that away and learns from it as well, so that's true at all positions."


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