|National Football League|
Bad news arrives with Browns rookies at minicamp
By TOM WITHERS
BEREA, Ohio (AP) On a day of renewal and optimism in Cleveland, coach Pat Shurmur had to first dispense the bad news.
It's always seems to be something with the Browns.
Moments after running back Trent Richardson, quarterback Brandon Weeden and the Browns' other rookies took the field under a cloudless sky to open a three-day minicamp, Shurmur announced that massive defensive tackle Phil Taylor would need surgery to repair a torn chest muscle and could miss the upcoming season.
"It was just one of those things that happens," Shurmur said Friday. "It's unfortunate."
And more bad luck for the Browns, who have had more than their share in recent years.
Taylor tore his left pectoral muscle while doing bench presses in the weight room on Thursday. His injury is potentially devastating injury for a Cleveland defense that ranked 30th in the league against the run last season.
Shurmur said Taylor will have surgery next week, when the team will have a better sense of how long they'll be without the 6-foot-3, 335-pounder.
With the opener against Philadelphia four months away, Shurmur didn't want to rule Taylor out for the season.
"It's too early to speculate," he said. "Typically with these surgeries, the rehab is months so I don't want to say exactly. I don't want to cancel him out for the year, no."
Typically, torn pectoral muscles take at least sixth months to heal. Browns inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson missed most of two seasons after tearing his pectoral muscle on both sides. Jackson had two surgeries but bounced back and led Cleveland in tackles last season.
Taylor, the No. 21 overall pick last year, started all 16 games as a rookie. He finished with 59 tackles, four sacks and improved Cleveland's defensive front. The Browns selected Cincinnati defensive tackle John Hughes (third round) and Boise State's Billy Winn (sixth round) in the draft and may have enough depth to get by in the short term without him. But Taylor was viewed as one of the team's core players and his loss is just another obstacle for a franchise that has had just two winning seasons in the past 13 years.
Taylor was inside the team's training facility but wasn't available for comment. On his Twitter page, he wrote: "Just a bump in the road. Got (to) work hard and come back (hash)Strong."
Shurmur tried to put a positive spin on the injury.
"It provides opportunity for other guys to fill in," he said. "We never want to lose a player. Unfortunately, at this point, Phil has to deal with what professional athletes have to deal with sometime and that's going through a surgery, going through a rehab and then coming back stronger than ever. His mood is good, he understands it and we'll get him fixed up and get him back."
The injury cast some darkness over a day the Browns hope is the beginning of a new era.
Richardson and Weeden, the club's two first-round picks and potential stars, came as advertised in their first workouts as pros.
Wearing No. 33, and with his tinted dreadlocks tumbling out from under his new orange helmet, Richardson showed the quickness, strength and lateral moves that made him an All-American at Alabama. Following the morning workout, Richardson, whom the Browns traded up to select at No. 3 overall, said he aspires for greatness.
His college career is over. It's time for a new challenge.
"I am going to hold my expectations high, real high, very high," he said. "The expectations that they have for me now, I don't think it is high enough for me and I am going to go higher and I am going to go to the extreme. You never set your expectations at a limit and that is just me being a man and being a competitor and an athlete.
"You should always have your expectations high. Being the third pick in the first round, having all of the success at Alabama, for me from this point on I am not going to speak much about what I did at Alabama because that is old. I did that at Alabama. I am trying to make a name for myself in the NFL now."
It was at his pro workout day at Alabama in March when Richardson literally bowled over the Browns with his skills. During a blocking drill, he flattened Browns running back coach Gary Brown, who reminded the rookie back about the incident during Friday's afternoon practice.
Brown picked up a blocking pad and asked Richardson a favor.
"Please don't knock me down," Brown said, smiling before bracing himself and absorbing a two-handed punch by Richardson.
Weeden put his big arm on display with several passes, slinging tight spirals all over the field.
"He has a strong arm," Richardson said. "I was about three yards away from him and he threw it hard and I had to put my hands up real fast. I can see why he played baseball."
A former minor league pitcher in the New York Yankees' organization, Weeden seemed comfortable during both workouts but had a few fumbles on snaps from center. He lined up almost exclusively in the shotgun last season at Oklahoma State, but said he doesn't mind being closer to the line of scrimmage.
"I'll be honest, I like being under center more because I can see more of what's going on, and you get the ball immediately," he said. "If I had to pick one of the two - not that I don't like being in the shotgun - but I like being under center."
Weeden will be under the microscope in the months ahead.
"That's the approach we are all going to take," he said. "I think all of us who are here today plan on having a job. Colt's been in the system for two years so he understands the offense, I am going to ask him questions. We are going to learn it together and compete. That's what it's all about. I think he would answer the same way.
"We are going to do whatever we can to help this team win games, plain and simple, whether it's me or him. Obviously, I hope I am the guy and I am going to do everything in my power to be that guy, but you have to take it one step at a time."
NOTES: Shurmur said the Browns have not had any discussions about free agent WR Plaxico Burress, who has said Cleveland would be one of the team's he would consider joining. ... Richardson's Alabama teammate, fullback Brad Smelley, had an impressive first day with several nice catches. ... Former Miami WR Travis Benjamin showed his blazing speed - "He's freaky fast," Weeden said. - but dropped two passes in the morning session.
Updated May 11, 2012