The offseason questions can stop for Browns coach Mike Pettine, as the 2014 football season has arrived.
BEREA, Ohio -- From alcohol-fueled partying around the country and two traffic violations, one of which that led to an arrest for driving while impaired, on the heels of a reported failed drug test, some of the Cleveland Browns' most recognizable players, namely rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel and All-Pro/Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon, made headlines for all of the wrong reasons during the offseason.
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However, on the eve of the Browns' opening practice of training camp, rookie head coach Mike Pettine is happy for a return to football.
"That's the best part about training camp," Pettine said after conditioning tests Friday. "It's all about football. I think that's really been the theme for our meetings. For as much as that's happened in the offseason, both positive and negative, now's the time for football. You can just feel the energy in the building, and I think the guys came in very focused and ready to go."
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The Browns begin preparations for the 2014 regular season with Saturday morning's practice at the Berea headquarters, which will host two sessions open to fans over the weekend.
Following Sunday's practice, Pettine anticipates competition will ratchet up to a new level, as the acclimation days afforded to the players under the collective bargaining agreement will be complete and coaches can then hold fully padded practices.
"I want to get to Monday and get the pads on and not just see this team, but hear this team get after each other," Pettine said. "We've talked about it from the beginning about being a tough team, mentally tough and physically tough.
"To compete in the AFC North, you have to be that way. My dad, I asked him when he was coming up for training camp, and he wanted to know when the pads were coming on because he was tired of watching flag football."
While the pads will be on come Monday, Pettine and his coaching staff will closely monitor, and restrict, the tackling that will be involved in practice, as well as on Family Day at Akron's InfoCision Stadium on Aug. 2.
"We won't do a lot of live work, but we'll do some," Pettine said. "The day we put in goal line and short yardage, we'll do a live scrimmage of both. When we go down to Akron, for the most part, that will be live work.
"Other than that, we prefer to try to stay up. You prefer to stay up and protect your teammates, but you've got to walk that fine line. You want your team to be ready for the opener, be ready for the physicality of the NFL, but you also want to be healthy, so it is a balance."
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CHANGES TO SCHEDULE
Pettine said Friday that his entire training camp schedule is in place, and that the practice restrictions implemented by the ratification of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFL Players' Association in 2011 have not had much of an impact.
"I think coaches have adapted well," Pettine said. "I was part of a system with coach (Brian) Billick in Baltimore where we weren't that far off from what the new CBA rules are anyway. He was much more into quality reps than quantity reps. It was about taking care of the players and getting them into November and December, and (Jets coach) Rex (Ryan) was really the same way.
"When the new CBA came into play, it really didn't affect us that much because we were already in that mode of 'let's make sure we practice efficiently. We're not going to go to two-a-days in pads.' We weren't out there for the maximum time. It was quality reps, and we made up for it with walk-through time and in the meeting room."
Following a day full of meetings, the Browns took the field for their conditioning tests.
Safety Donte Whitner was helped off the field after somersaulting at the end of a drill, and tight end Gary Barnidge was also assisted to the sidelines. However, those who struggled through Friday's test could have a chance to retake it Saturday prior to the morning practice session.
"There's a deadline for putting that (Physically Unable to Perform List) in, so we'll have a retest in the morning," Pettine said. "There's potential. There could be a few. It just depends on how tomorrow goes."