BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns were offered the opportunity to appear on the HBO program "Hard Knocks," and have their entire training camp chronicled for NFL fans, and teams, to see during the summer.
However, first-year Browns coach Mike Pettine, who was a part of the program twice during his tenure with the Baltimore Ravens (2001) and New York Jets (2010), said the team exercised its right to turn down the program and go about training camp as if it were business as usual.
"Just being a first-year head coach, I just really wanted to get through that first season's training camp," Pettine said after the Browns' first of three practices during this week's mandatory mini-camp. "This was a decision that was made long before the draft. It was just something that I felt in my gut. I just didn't want to be a part of the first year.
"I saw the positives of it, but I think there's some negatives to it, as well. Just not having a good feel for our roster, as far as the chemistry and the personalities and all of that, that's kind of going into some uncharted territory to agree to do that right out of the gate. I think that's why the league gives the teams that are the first-year (head coaches) the right to not be a part of that pool of teams they can potentially require to do it."
Although Pettine believes "Hard Knocks" is fun to be a part of, he said "it can" be a distraction and makes things more difficult for a coaching staff.
"I just always felt if there's anything that causes us to think for one second about something other than preparing our football for the opener, than that's probably not a good thing," Pettine said. "There are some distractions involved with it. I see the other side of it, the positives that can be there, but from a staff standpoint, that's something that we have to factor in."
Pettine said the Browns were offered the opportunity to appear on "Hard Knocks" before they drafted quarterback Johnny Manziel in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. However, he is not sure if the team was approached again after drafting the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.
"That I don't know," Pettine said. "I'm not sure. I, personally, was not approached about it. It wouldn't shock me if we were asked about it again, but we weren't going to stray from our initial answer."
First-year Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins had been through the "Hard Knocks" experience during his time with the Cincinnati Bengals. After such an experience, he is happy the Browns turned down the opportunity to be featured on the program.
"I think it was a great decision," Hawkins said. "It does get a little distracting. There's just so much other stuff going on that you have to do. Guys are in there worrying about football and learning plays.
"Guys are trying to make the team, and I think sometimes, what I noticed in Cincinnati was a lot of the young guys were playing to the cameras. They're setting up stories and they're too naïve to see it, and it's kind of taking away focus for them, so I think it was a great decision for guys to turn that down."
RATCHETING UP THE INTENSITY
As compared to the 10 practices the Browns conducted during organized team activities, Pettine saw an increased intensity throughout the course of Tuesday's mandatory mini-camp practice in Berea.
From the tempo of the plays to the effort of the players, Pettine embraced the increased level of competition.
"I could feel it just being by both huddles, and just the conversations between the huddles were less than pleasant a little bit more so today than during OTAs," Pettine said. "Our guys love to compete, and that comes out. You can tell that.
"Anytime it's a situation like we did at the end where it's an unscripted period and it's a move-the-ball -- I'm sure we'll do some two-minute work before this camp is done -- where those can get ratcheted up even higher."
During the course of Tuesday's practice, the Browns ran through drills without one of their draft picks, offensive lineman Joel Bitonio, who has been unable to practice for nearly three weeks. However, Pettine is expecting to have Bitonio back in the fold for training camp.
"He does have an ankle injury," Pettine said. "I don't know the specifics of it. I just know it's enough to hold it out of this camp, and I know that he'll be ready to go day one of training camp.
"Really, the only guys that are potential holds late would be (wide receiver) Travis (Benjamin), and that would be more of just to give him a little bit of extra time. He could start on PUP (physically unable to perform), but everybody else should be good to go for the beginning of camp."