BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns wrapped up their offseason program with the third and final day of mini-camp practices on Thursday, and the next time the players will hit the field will be at the end of July for the start of training camp.
First-year Browns coach Mike Pettine wants his players to absorb the playbook and study film of practice and their schemes on both sides of the football during their six-week vacation so they can hit the ground running next month.
"We feel we've built a good foundation," Pettine said. "I went over in the meeting about some of the numbers that occurred in the weight room, some of the things we were able to do there; just the amount of inventory, the volume that we put in -- offense, defense and special teams -- spoke to that.
"We built a good foundation, but the key thing for a mature team is to take this break and keep on a rise. We can't afford to take a step back and really be back at the beginning when we get to training camp. It was a challenge for the guys to stay in shape. Their playbooks will be available to them throughout this break, as well. We should be able to get ahead mentally for training camp."
In building that foundation over their 10 weeks of the offseason program, which included 10 organized team activities practices, two mini-camps and one rookie mini-camp weekend, Pettine and the Browns' coaches learned the strengths of his team.
"They know how to work, and this is a smart group," Pettine said. "I think we've handled some pretty complex stuff that we've thrown at them. That's our job as coaches to kind of keep throwing at them and see what is our cumulative intelligence.
"I thought we've done a good job of handling that stuff. There are some guys that are better than others, but I think for the most part, they've impressed us as a staff with their work ethic and their ability to handle the volume of information."
While the veterans fulfilled all of their responsibilities by Thursday, the rookies will have another week of work with the coaches before going to the NFL Rookie Symposium, which will be held June 22-28.
While Browns coach Mike Pettine admitted he will be out of the office for much of the next six weeks, he will be "nervous" every time his phone rings.
"I think it's nervous anytime your entire team is dismissed," Pettine said. "As a coach, you hear your phone ring and you kind of look at it with one eye, hoping it's not an issue coming up. We talked to them about it, that we wanted to make sure they handle themselves well. The advice, like I said before, was learn the system, stay in shape and stay out of trouble."
COACHING AGAINST EXPERIENCE
When Pettine takes the field against the other three teams in the AFC North Division, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens, he will match up against two coaches -- Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin and Baltimore's John Harbaugh -- who have won Super Bowl championships and a third in Marvin Lewis who has led the Bengals to three straight trips to the postseason for the first time in their franchise's history.
But when the regular season opens up against the Steelers at Heinz Field on Sept. 7, Pettine will not be comparing resumes.
"We talked about it in the meeting today with the players because the same is true for them as it is for us: you get confidence through preparation," Pettine said. "I truly trust in our staff that our team is going to be prepared, that the players themselves will be prepared and that's how you're confident.
"I've been in this league for 12 years now. I've seen a lot of games won and a lot of games lost. I can't really concern myself with who's on the other sideline. It's what we're doing and the decisions that we make that are the most important."
GAINING AN EDGE
Since the day Pettine was hired to coach the Browns back in January, he has talked about the need for an aggressive, intense defense that pursues, and disrupts, the rhythm of quarterbacks across the NFL. However, he will not risk giving up big plays for the sake of being aggressive.
"What we've been able to do is formulate a style where we're going to pressure, but we like to use the phrase that, 'It's going to be more calculated than reckless,'" Pettine said. "We're not going to blitz just to blitz. There are going to be times where it's going to look like a blitz but it really isn't.
"We're going to blitz a defensive back, but he's only the fourth rusher, so we get the best of both worlds. We have a chance to get a free runner or to keep a running back in or to cause a hot throw and still have seven in coverage behind it.
"I'd like to think that the way that we move around and disguise and we mix up the blitzes with the non-pressures that it gives us the best of both worlds that we don't end in a situation where it's reckless, where we have some great plays and then, we turn around and give up a long one."