Browns coach Mike Pettine is ready for the players to practice in pads, which will happen for the first time Monday.
BEREA, Ohio -- When it comes to football, Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine is something of a traditionalist.
Although Pettine and the Browns' coaching staff got a lot of their installation done during the two mini-camp sessions and 10 organized team activities in the offseason program, nothing replaces the experience gained from running plays in full pads, which the team is allowed to start doing on Monday morning.
SPECIAL SECTION: Cleveland Browns
"Nothing special planned for it, but I want to be able to hear the practice," Pettine said after Sunday's practice. "To me, you know we're getting after it when the pads are popping. We're getting after each other.
"It's been tough on the offense because it's advantage defense when you're not in pads. It's a little tougher to block a guy when there's less blocking surface. That, to me, is what's been missing so far, to master the physical techniques that we haven't been able to practice without pads on. Tomorrow will be the start of that."
While there will be pads popping during drills on Monday, there will be no live tackling. However, the Browns will simulate short-yardage and goal-line situations during the on-field work.
"We'll do an inside run period every day, so it essentially ends up being no wide receivers, no corners," Pettine said. "We won't get too exotic defensively. It will be a, 'Let's line up and see who can play,' and that's a drill, to me, that's the mirror drill, the counterpart to when we do seven-on-seven, pass skeleton.
"That's usually advantage offense, no pass rush, clear throwing lanes, whereas, that inside drill should be advantage defense, but it's more of a mentality thing. You want to come off. You want to block people, and we want to get off blocks, knock people back. If we want to establish that mentality, we have to do that drill."
The physical mentality Pettine wants in his players is emblematic of the style he expects to see from his team come Sundays this fall. He wants a team comprised of tough players who are able to run the football and be a physical, imposing defense, one built to withstand six games a year against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals within the rugged AFC North Division.
"I think it's been proven, and I know that you would look at what we did in the offseason, the improvement at running back and some of the moves we made up front, but we're still going to have the ability to throw the football," Pettine said. "We're not going to just put one wide receiver out there and go two tight ends.
"We want to be an efficient offense, whether it's running or passing. We're not just going to say, 'We're going to run.' You want to be unpredictable. That's when you're most successful, that you're throwing it when people think you're going to run and vice versa, but I think you have to have the ability to run the football. You get a lead, you can end the game, or when it's bad weather and you can't throw it, you have to be able to move the ball still."
In addition to showing toughness and physicality when the pads come on, Pettine wants to see how his players handle plays that they have run hundreds of times in shorts and helmets during the offseason workouts.
"We're still in the install," Pettine said. "What we installed in the spring, we circle back and we start right back at the beginning. We do have a handful of new guys, but it's still repetition. (We're) still very much in the basic.
"We haven't put pads on yet. We'll even circle back on some of these core concepts that we've put in, in shorts. You feel, 'Hey, we want to make sure we get these practiced well in pads also.' Some of the things that went in day one and two will go back into the install for tomorrow.
Seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas was held out of practice on Sunday, but it was more to give others an opportunity to play than it was because of an injury or illness. According to Pettine, Sunday will not be the only time Thomas spends on the sidelines during the course of training camp.
"Joe is just one of our veteran guys that'll periodically have a day off," Pettine said. "We didn't want to just give him all the days in shorts and then, turn around and not have him in there when we got started in pads, but when he's out there, he'll be on a pitch count, and then, periodically, we'll have scheduled days off for just being a veteran player who's shown that he's done it. It'll give some of the younger guys an opportunity."
'HAWK' MAKES PLAYS
New Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins has shown an ability to turn short passes into big gains during the first two days of training camp, and that is exactly "why he's here," according to Pettine.
"We identified that in him, and he's been an ultimate professional," Pettine said. "He's been great for the other guys in the room, and you would think he's a 10-year veteran the way he carries himself.
"We talked to the young receivers, and he's a guy if you want to pattern yourself after another guy. That's the guy. He comes out and works hard every day, on the field, off the field. It's been a very pleasant surprise. To me, when you have a guy that has that type of separation ability, that type of quickness that can turn a short gain into a long one, it can only be a plus for you."
Before suffering an irregular heartbeat and missing part of the 2013 regular season, defensive lineman Desmond Bryant was an impact player for the Browns' defensive line.
In his first three games with the Browns, Bryant registered 3.5 sacks, including two in his debut game in Cleveland. However, after experiencing what turned out to be the second and third heart issues of the last two seasons, Bryant was held out of the final four games and underwent a procedure to correct the problem.
"(He's) very important, and he's already flashed some," Pettine said. "We didn't have him for much of the spring, and that's why these past two days, he's jumped off the tape a little bit for us.
"He's another guy we'll keep an eye on how many reps he's taking, and I think it's 'Arrow Up.' I think the nice thing about that defensive line room is the depth, that we can keep a guy like Des fresh, that he doesn't necessarily have to be out there all three downs, that we can save him for second-and-long, third down and let him rush the passer."
During the course of Sunday's practice, a couple of skirmishes broke out as competition boiled over into combat. Following the breaking up of each issue, Pettine addressed the principles in the disputes.
"I use the phrase, and you guys will probably get tired of me saying it, but it's 'Competitive, not combative,'" Pettine said. "I talked to all of the players that were involved in both of them, that we don't need that. It's not good for them. It's not good for us. It's not going to help guys make the team.
"It's going to happen. I understand it, but it's a bad habit to have in practice because then, you can say, 'I won't lose my cool in a game,' and that's easy to say. That's harder to do."