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Why Josh Gordon's chances of avoiding an indefinite suspension have greatly improved

Jul 30, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |



The Morning Kickoff …

Game on: The “secondhand smoke” strategy employed by the camp of Browns receiver Josh Gordon in its appeal of a possible NFL drug suspension is the legal equivalent of a “Hail Mary” pass.

But recent events mostly unrelated to the Gordon case have acted like penalties against, in this case, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and have moved the line of scrimmage closer to the end zone.

What once looked like a foregone conclusion – an indefinite suspension of repeat-offender Gordon, first reported on May 9 by – may not be so cut and dried now.

On Tuesday, Mike Florio of reported that Gordon’s one positive drug test for marijuana among at least 70 given him through the NFL substance abuse program was barely above the NFL concentration limit of 15 nanograms per milliliter. How barely? How about by one nanogram – one billionth of a gram!

Standard procedure in NFL drug testing is to divide a urine sample into two bottles and test both. Florio reported that Gordon’s “A” bottle tested at 16 ng/ml and the “B” bottle registered a 13.6, which is below the NFL threshold for a positive test.

Taken together, the average of 14.8 ng/ml would be below the positive test threshold of 15.0. But one of the questionable facets of the seriously flawed NFL substance abuse policy essentially states that the “B” bottle must simply show the existence of the tested substance to confirm the “A” bottle result.

Later on Monday, Adam Schefter reported for ESPN that Gordon’s legal team will argue that the lower reading of the two test results support their argument that Gordon was the victim of breathing in secondhand marijuana smoke and that he should not be suspended at all.

A perfect storm: The precise details contained in both reports suggest, to me, that the Gordon camp headed by agent Drew Rosenhaus and hired-gun lawyer Maurice Suh has elected to take Gordon’s case to the court of public opinion to pressure the under-fire Goodell into showing leniency on Gordon.

The strategy, I believe, is rooted in a perfect storm of events that have made it laughably unjust to give Gordon a minimum one-year ban for barely flunking a test for marijuana – even if the players-approved drug program mandates it.

These are the events that may be working strongly in Gordon’s favor:

1. There is an ongoing tug of war between the NFL and players union on the issue of testing for Human Growth Hormone, an easy-to-mask performance-enhancing drug that some believe is prevalent in the sport. Reportedly, the players would agree to it in exchange for loosening the threshold on marijuana testing – something many think is long overdue. Two states have legalized the use of marijuana and a year ago the World Anti-Doping Agency increased its marijuana threshold from 15 ng/ml to 150 ng/ml.

2. Everyone is waiting to see if Goodell will be as tough on Colts owner Jim Irsay as he has been in disciplining players. Irsay was arrested in March on a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated and four felony counts of possession of prescription pills -- a controlled substance. Goodell’s discipline of Irsay is under the microscope because he has said that owners should be held to a higher standard than players.

3. Goodell has been excoriated inside and outside the NFL for an insanely lenient suspension of two games of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for a physical altercation with his then-fiancée in February. A video of the incident showed Rice dragging the seemingly unconscious victim, now his wife, from an Atlantic City, NJ, casino hotel elevator. Rice pleaded not guilty to a third-degree charge of aggravated assault. He avoided trial through a pretrial intervention program in May. Public outcry has intensified over the league’s insensitivity to the issue of domestic abuse. Goodell has not commented on Rice’s discipline.

All of which has characterized the league’s uneven system of justice as an abysmal failure in need of a total overhaul.

Ball in the air: Does Gordon deserve a minimum one-year suspension for barely testing positive for marijuana? As a multiple offender and participant in Stage Three of the NFL’s shady substance abuse program, the answer is yes.

(Gordon may also be disciplined in the future for a DUI violation in Raleigh, NC, on July 5.)

Rules are rules and these ones were collectively bargained by the players union and league management. In many cases, the league simply treats multiple offenders of drug violations more harshly than serious criminals.

Gordon’s appeal hearing is scheduled for Friday in New York. Goodell may not even be in attendance; he is expected to be in Canton for Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend festivities. Even so, Goodell will be the one to rule on Gordon’s appeal and his decision is final, per terms of the substance abuse policy approved by the players.

There are larger issues at stake here for the NFL, such as the waning integrity of a discipline system careening out of control.

In the court of the NFL, which, critics say, places Goodell as judge, jury and executioner, Gordon’s strategy indeed appears to be a last-ditch Hail Mary pass.

But on the field, you would not doubt the chances of the supremely athletic Gordon coming down with such a pass, would you?


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Browns Training Camp Day 4: Intensity picks up as defense wins again

Jul 29, 2014 -- 2:50pm

By Tony Grossi |


Notes, quotes and observations on Browns training camp Day 4 …

* Now that’s more like it: Prior to the second practice in full pads, coach Mike Pettine challenged his defense to be more physical. “He said the pads weren’t loud enough, so we need to be more physical and start acting like a championship defense,” said linebacker Craig Robertson. “We want to set a standard and the first day was below standard,” said safety Donte Whitner. And so, the pops were louder – led off by a hit by rookie Chris Kirksey in the first inside run drill – the intensity picked up, the offense didn’t cower, resulting in three player skirmishes, one escalating to a battle royale involving about 20 players. Ultimately, the defense won the day again. Resoundingly. In 7 on 7 and team drills, it had four interceptions (Jordan Poyer, Justin Gilbert, Josh Aubrey and Tashaun Gipson) and when coach Mike Pettine set up a competition at the end of practice, the defense snuffed out the offense from making 20 yards in the best of five plays. The defense won three of the first four plays and celebrated on the field as Pettine called practice short of the scheduled 12:10 end time for the fourth day in a row.

* Orange jerseys are back: The defense earned the right to wear orange jerseys at the next practice on Thursday (following a mandatory off day). Don’t confuse the orange shirts with the new uniforms kept top secret until the ceremonial unveiling in April of 2015. The jerseys signify which unit captured the daily competition at the end of practice. The idea, brought by Pettine from his days under Rex Ryan with the Jets, is designed to hone the mentality of “finishing” a game. “That could’ve been a day where the offense dominated all day and the defense won at the end when it counted,” Pettine said. “We want to train our guys that it doesn’t matter what goes on over the course of a game, we’ve got to make sure we can finish. I think that’s important to realize, that it still comes down to playing at the end.” He doesn’t need to remind everyone, of course. The Browns blew second-half leads in six of their 11 losses last year.

* Fight for the right: Tempers first erupted during a 9 on 9 inside run drill when Ben Tate got frustrated with defenders poking and jostling for the ball well after the whistle. Tate tossed the ball at big Ahtyba Rubin and all heck broke loose. After that skirmish was snuffed out, a larger one ensued as a result of pushing and general orneriness. Ultimately about 20 players had to be unpiled. “It started a couple plays before when one of the other running backs (Dion Lewis) got thrown to the ground (by linebacker Eric Martin),” said Tate. “That’s unnecessary. Next play somebody did something else. Then when I got in, there were some guys beating their chests. I said, well, hold up. That’s not what’s going on. It’s good for us, too. We do have a good defense, but we can’t let anyone bully us.” Later, in a team drill, Lewis again got tossed to the ground and fisticuffs flew between defensive end Armonty Bryant and offensive tackle Martin Wallace. Pettine has preached against being “confrontational,” but he was not overly displeased with the events after all involved escaped without injury. He called it “the price of doing business” when you’re trying to encourage toughness and physical play. “You hate to see it,” he said. “But it’s also teammates defending teammates. I like the fact everybody jumped in, but that can’t be a habit on game day. We’re not going to be clearing benches.” The fact that Pettine is encouraging defensive players to keep prying at the ball as a means of developing a turnover mentality is going to assure more of these, I believe.

* Johnny Who?: It took only four days for Pettine to go through an entire daily briefing without a single question about Johnny Manziel. Nothing on Brian Hoyer, either.

* Taking a look: The Browns signed receiver Marlon Moore, Pettine said, because it needed another body in the rotation at this period of training camp. Josh Gordon will leave the team Friday to appeal a possible league suspension, and Pettine does not want to over-tax veterans who have had trouble in recent years staying on the practice field, such as Miles Austin (30), Nate Burleson (32) and Anthony Armstrong (31). Also, Pettine wants to keep Travis Benjamin and Charles Johnson, each recovering from ACL surgeries, on a pitch count and give them periodic days off. “He’s played some quality minutes in the NFL. We felt to bring him in and help with depth,” Pettine said. Moore, In four NFL seasons with the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers, Moore, 6-0 and 190 pounds, has 19 receptions for 306 yards and two touchdowns. The Browns brought in Moore knowing he will have to serve a one-game suspension to start the season – if he makes the team. A source said that Moore’s suspension was for a violation of the personal conduct policy.

Time out: Wednesday is a full off day for players – no practice, no meetings. In the new CBA agreed to in 2011, players receive an off day every fifth day of camp. There is no curfew on Tuesday night. Pettine said players must report back by 10:30 Wednesday night. Pettine previously said that he would have periods of live tackling at Thursday’s practice.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Browns new offense has tackle Joe Thomas rediscovering the joys of running the ball

Jul 29, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |


The Morning Kickoff …

On second thought: It was near the middle of the season last year, with the Browns at 4-5 and poised to make a run at the playoffs, when Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas made a startling statement.

Pressed about the Browns’ paltry running game, Thomas said, “I’m not sure it’s going to be that important (to run the ball anymore). I feel the league has changed. You have to be a throwing team to be successful in the NFL now.”

Seven losses in a row to end that season and another coaching change later … the Browns are constructing another new offense from the ground up.

“There’s definitely going to be a big emphasis on the running game,” Thomas told me on Monday. “The offense that (coordinator) Kyle Shanahan brings here has traditionally always been kind of a run-first offense, going back to when they were in Denver and (then) was being run in Houston. It’s not like it’s going to be 80-20 run-pass, but it’s going to be closer to 50-50 run-pass than we’ve ever seen since I’ve been here, I think.”

Last year the Browns led the NFL in pass attempts and had a counter-productive run-pass ratio of 33-67 – one of the worst imbalances in the league. So merely getting close to 50-50 will seem like a drastic change.

The hallmark of Shanahan’s running game is the wide zone – or stretch – blocking scheme. This method, honed by his father Mike when he was head coach of the Denver Broncos in the 1990s, stretches the defense laterally with the offensive line operating in unison like a moving fence. The back makes one cut to the inside lane and goes upfield.

“There’s only two of 32 teams running this,” said Thomas, referring to Baltimore, now coordinated by Shanahan’s former boss in Houston, Gary Kubiak. “This is, in my opinion, one of the only schemes that you can run the ball consistently because of the way you make those defensive linemen run sideline to sideline.

"In that scheme, everything really does kind of stem from the running game because it relies heavily on play action passes to get guys open for big plays downfield, so you need to be able to run those wide zones, even if they get one yard or no yards, to keep the safeties up."

The foundation: Coach Mike Pettine has talked about building the offense around the line. It’s fairly evident that the starting unit will consist of Thomas at left tackle, rookie Joel Bitonio at left guard, Alex Mack at center, John Greco at right guard and Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle. Garrett Gilkey could also be in the mix, as he is making strides while filling in at right guard for Greco, who has not yet been cleared to practice.

The coaches believe that Bitonio and Mack, for two examples, will excel in the wide zone blocking scheme. Thomas said the scheme will bring out the best in the entire unit.

“I think it actually fits the personality and the abilities of our line really well, probably better than any other scheme,” Thomas said. “It’s just that this is the first year we’ve been in it. You look across the board, myself and Alex and Joel and Gilkey and Greco, and all the guys we have are really fast, athletic type linemen, and this is just really the first time I think we’re going to be in a system that really uses our attributes physically as well as possible.”

One of the benefits of Shanahan’s scheme is that it naturally reduces pass pressure. Much of the passing system is based on quarterback bootlegs and other throws outside the pocket.

“It really makes it hard on a defense to tee off and get home on sacks because maybe only one in six plays is the quarterback dropping back, where they have a chance to rush the quarterback in the traditional method,” Thomas said.

Other quirks: On Monday, Shanahan re-introduced the zone-read option into the Browns’ practice routine. The team first was exposed to it in minicamp.

Operated mostly out of the pistol formation – with the quarterback about four yards behind center – the zone-read gives the quarterback the option of handing or pitching to the back, or keeping the ball and running himself based on the read of the defensive end. It is a change-up, intended to supplement a more traditional running attack.

Shanahan made the Redskins the No. 1 rushing team in the NFL by exploiting the zone-read option with quarterback Robert Griffin 3 and running back Alfred Morris as rookies two years ago.

Pettine has said it’s more likely to employ the zone-read with Johnny Manziel at quarterback. But Brian Hoyer did run one play at Monday’s practice. Just the possibility of a zone-read play enhances its effectiveness.

“It’s great,” Thomas said. “It can give you huge gashes. It confuses the defense. It gives them something that they have to work on during the week. Even if you use it only a couple times, they’ll have to spend 15 or 20 minutes during practice to try to prepare for it.

“We’ve watched a lot of cut-ups from when they ran it in Washington and they had some tremendous gashes and really just had the defense confused. It kind of adds a different element to an offense that a lot of teams don’t have.

“That being said, sometimes it’s hard on us (linemen) because we don’t know where the ball is. So sometimes the biggest plays are ones where we don’t block anybody or there’s a bust or somebody’s running through free. That’s the great part of the offense. You don’t need to put a hat on every player in order to get the running back through to the second level to get a good play. A lot of times, there’s guys running free, but because of the misdirection it’s a big hit and the line may not block anybody.”

Everything considered, Thomas said the Shanahan offensive system is “drastically different” from any he has experienced in his seven years in Cleveland.

That’s saying something. It proves that despite playing in offenses coordinated by Rob Chudzinski, Brian Daboll, Pat Shurmur and Norv Turner, Thomas has yet to see it all. It even has him re-thinking the merits of running the ball.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Browns Training Camp Day 3: Defense continues to hold upper hand

Jul 28, 2014 -- 2:10pm

By Tony Grossi |


Photo/ESPN Cleveland

Updated at 3:34 p.m.

Notes, quotes and observations on Browns training camp Day 3 …

* A thud, not a dud: The first day of full pads was supposed to be loud with the sound of pads popping. Maybe it was the high winds that drowned them out because the 9 on 9 inside run drill did not produce the “oohs” and “ahs” of live tackling, which did not occur. Coach Mike Pettine said defenders were limited to “thud and drive back and let go” rather than tackle to the ground. “It was a good start,” the coach said. “I thought our guys were flying around. A lot of teams will just tag off in 11 on 11, or the 9 on 9 we did. We want to get in the habit of thudding. I think tackling is the hardest thing, defensively. You can’t simulate it in practice. There’s no substitute for live tackling and for obvious reasons (read: injuries) you don’t want to do that. So I think thud is the next closest thing, where if I have an aggressive angle to a ball-carrier I’m going to thud him up and wrap him and drive him back and let him go. The better we can get at that in practice I think will pay dividends in games.” Pettine said he will have his first periods of live tackling on Thursday in goal-line and short-yardage run drills. He said the team scrimmage on Family Day in Akron on Saturday will also have live tackling.

* It’s a process: While all eyes are fixated on the quarterback competition, and expectations are naturally raised by that, visitors to camp might be let down by the sight of the defense continually holding the upper hand in team drills on the practice field. Protection breakdowns occurred on Monday. On one series directed by Brian Hoyer, sacks where whistled on three of six plays. There was another sack on Hoyer’s next series. In this same sequence, Johnny Manziel’s series ended when he scrambled to avoid a sack, turned to his left, actually looked behind to see if anyone was chasing him, and then whistled a throw on the run, only to be picked off by rookie linebacker Chris Kirsey, who made it a Pick 6. Manziel completed his second series with a touchdown to fullback Ray Agnew on a bootleg throw. Pettine was not concerned about the offense’s apparent sluggish day. “It is tough sledding for that (offensive line) group because we don’t, defensively, hold back on the install,” he said. “That makes it tough on an offense, that they’re getting a lot of looks they don’t typically see. We do some exotic things (on defense) that probably very few other teams do in the league and it really stresses the protection a little. So there’s going to be some pains early with the protection, but I think once they get used to it and see it … I always felt going against what we do helps them prepare for what most teams aren’t going to do as much. I’d rather practice be tougher physically, tougher mentally, than the game.” Tackle Joe Thomas saw enough to be encouraged. “I think the first day was really good. I was surprised to see the offense click as well as we did today considering all the things that usually go in the beginning of camp and usually the defense is way ahead. It was good to see us put a ittle drive together at the end. Looked like a football team for a little bit.”

* The other J.G.: Justin Gilbert took some reps at kick returner and he seemed a natural runner with the ball, gliding effortlessly through coach Chris Tabor’s coverage unit. Gilbert had six career kickoff returns for touchdowns at Oklahoma State. But Gilbert is not going to be introduced to the pro game as a returner, as was Arizona’s Patrick Peterson, who had four punt returns for touchdowns in his rookie season of 2011. “Not at this point,” Pettine said of Gilbert’s use as a kickoff returner. “I think he might be, in case of emergency, the last kick return guy. I think I’d hold my breath or watch with 1 ½ eyes if he was returning kicks.” Pettine stuck his neck on the line and passed up receiver Sammy Watkins in the draft to secure Gilbert as a press-and-run corner to start opposite Joe Haden. He is not going to risk an injury to Gilbert on special teams. Tabor’s primary kick return candidates are receiver Travis Benjamin, cornerback Buster Skrine, receiver Andrew Hawkins and receiver Anthony Armstrong.

* Take a day: Benjamin and receiver Charles Johnson were held out as a precaution to spare early wear on their respective knees recovering from ACL surgery. Pettine said the team will continue to monitor players coming off surgeries to keep from over-taxing them.

* Offensive line news: Offensive tackle Chris Faulk was released. The old regime saw Faulk as a potential candidate to start at right tackle. He was signed as an undrafted free agent despite knee surgery at Louisiana State and was redshirted as a rookie. Faulk’s release leaves right tackle Mitchell Schwartz virtually unchallenged … The Browns and the agents of guard Jason Pinkston issued a joint statement: “(Pinkston) has not been medically cleared to participate in football activities. The team has been in communication with Jason and his representatives and will respect their wishes to not provide any further details at this time.

* Brownie bits: Kyle Shanahan called two zone-read option plays for Manziel, one for Hoyer … Manziel conducted his final series while the song (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) blared from speakers on the field. Players don’t choose the soundtrack at practice, by the way … Linebacker Tank Carder was activated for practice. Still out are nose tackle Phil Taylor, guard John Greco, tight end Gary Barnidge and defensive lineman Billy Winn ... Despite inclement weather over much of Northeast Ohio, the team was able to practice outdoors in dry, but windy, conditions.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Could the blind investment in receiver Charles Johnson pay off this year for the Browns?

Jul 28, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |



The Morning Kickoff …

Player-to-watch alert: Charles Johnson, the receiver the Browns signed off the Green Bay practice squad last October only to discover he had a torn ACL, has been a revelation in the first days of training camp.

Physically imposing (6-2 ½, 215), deceptively fast (4.38 40 time) and surprisingly up to speed on the Kyle Shanahan offense, Johnson could be the receiver that comes out of nowhere to lessen the impact of – if not offset -- the impending suspension of Josh Gordon.

“He’s a guy that we hope can emerge from this as a guy that can help us,” said coach Mike Pettine.

When Johnson walks onto the field wearing No. 80 – he traded No. 11 to Travis Benjamin in the spring – he certainly looks the part of a big-play receiver.

But the intrigue of this player stretches beyond his physical appearance.

Johnson participated fully on the Packers’ practice squad well into October despite recurring pain in his left knee and at least one MRI that revealed a slight tear of the anterior cruciate ligament.

I asked him why he did that.

“It wasn’t a pain I couldn’t get through,” he said. “I’ve got people that depend on me, so I’m out there working. The pain is temporary, but quitting is forever. It was hurting sometimes, but once the ball was snapped I couldn’t feel nothing.”

The $6,000 weekly paycheck Johnson received on the Packers’ practice squad meant everything to him. He had two infant daughters and a third on the way to support, and a father battling multiple illnesses.

A leap of faith: “It was crazy,” Johnson said of his rookie season of 2013. “My first year in the NFL, I was plagued with injuries. But it’s nothing I haven’t been through before. I faced a lot of obstacles in my life. I felt God had placed for me another one.

“My dad’s been real ill. I’ve been suspended from a school. I’ve taken a year off (to tend to his father in Kentucky). I’ve been struggling. Kids at a young age. It’s not always easy, but if you can make it through those times it makes you a stronger person.”

Johnson, of Elsmere, KY, originally committed to Louisville. He didn’t qualify early enough and went to Eastern Kentucky. Early as a true freshman, Johnson was kicked off the team when he wouldn’t rat out his roommate, a close high school friend, on the charge of a stolen laptop computer.

Johnson transferred to a community college in California. The next year, his dad became ill and Johnson quit school to be with him. After a year, he enrolled at Grand Valley State, a Division II school in Allendale, MI. In two seasons, Johnson had 128 receptions for 2,129 yards (16.6 average) and 31 touchdowns.

Not invited to the NFL Combine, Johnson turned some heads at a pro day workout arranged by his agent, posting a 40 time of 4.38 and measuring 39 ½ inches in the vertical jump. Some draftniks had him going as high as the third round; Mel Kiper projected him in the fourth round. The Browns worked him out, but their disjointed personnel department a year ago couldn’t arrive at a consensus on Johnson. The Packers selected him in the seventh round.

“I had a pretty good college career,” Johnson said. “I had good numbers at my pro day. People didn’t know about me, but the Packers are known for drafting and building receivers.”

Making up for lost time: Before the Browns knew of Johnson’s torn ACL, they signed him to a three-year contract. Though they received much derision for not knowing of the injury, they were unfazed and felt the investment was sound.

“I’m glad they kept me around,” Johnson said. “They didn’t have to. They could’ve let me go back on the street, go back to Green Bay, but they kept me around. I’m just going to work as hard as I can to get back to full recovery and go back to being me and being able to contribute.”

Through the months of lonely rehab, Johnson formed a bond with Brian Hoyer, who was rehabbing his own ACL surgery. As they both progressed, Johnson was the receiver most frequently catching Hoyer’s passes in the solitude of the empty Browns’ fieldhouse.

“He’s a hard worker,” Hoyer said. “He has size (and) speed for a big guy. I think he gets in and out of routes really well. The other day, I ran a route with him where he had a double move, and for a big guy, for him to get in and out of the break was impressive.

“I think a lot of people are waiting to see what he’s capable of. He’s very smart, he works really hard and as a quarterback, that’s all that you can ask for -- a guy who’s out there trying to learn and trying to go hard.”

Browns GM Ray Farmer was the assistant GM last year and had a voice in signing Johnson.

“The easy things (to point to) are all the recognizables right away, that he’s 6-2 ½, 215 pounds … he ran a 4.38 40,” Farmer said. “Those are the easy pieces, but when you watch the tape you like his hands. You like the fact that he can run the routes, and right now it’s a young man that put a lot of work to recovering from an ACL injury. You can see that he’s big. He’s still fast and he can run routes and catch the football.

“I’m really excited for him to get his opportunity. Everybody now is getting a chance to see what we thought about Charles Johnson live.”

Johnson is not going to replace Gordon. Even if he makes the final roster, odds are against Johnson being an instant contributor. He has too much ground to make up. But other than Gordon, there isn’t a receiver on the roster with his size and speed. And the motivation to take advantage of them.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Browns GM Ray Farmer praises Brian Hoyer, but not conceding anything in QB derby

Jul 27, 2014 -- 3:12pm

By Tony Grossi |



General Manager Ray Farmer, the last member of the Browns’ front office to weigh in publicly, is not dissatisfied with rookie Johnny Manziel.

“I see a young man that came back that appears to be prepared for competition. That’s what we want. We see while he’s in the building he’s putting forth the work to try to be the starter,” Farmer said.

Farmer deferred to comments previously made by Manziel and owner Jimmy Haslam that Manziel made “rookie mistakes” off the field in the month leading up to training camp. But now that Manziel is on the field, “he’s focused, he’s committed on football, he’s doing his thing here in the building and we’re excited about kind of where he’s at at the moment.”

Farmer wouldn’t divulge the tone of conversation he had with Manziel after the Internet captured numerous images of the Johnny Football Vacation Party Tour. Nothing that transpired seems to have fazed Farmer’s confidence in the rookie quarterback taken with the 22nd pick.

“We obviously had a comfort level when we drafted him. If we thought that was an excessive nature of what it would be, then we would have never picked him,” he said.

When the subject turned to Brian Hoyer, Farmer heaped praise on the veteran’s work ethic and professionalism in recovering from October ACL surgery.

“I think Brian’s been phenomenal,” Farmer said. “He’s handled it like a pro. He’s a man’s man. He didn’t cry over spilled milk. He attacked his rehab. He did everything he could to put himself in the best position possible.

“The guy’s a pro. You can see it. One bad day doesn’t make or break it. It’s the consistency that makes you win in the National Football League. It’s the guy that can routinely perform time and time again that you want and Brian’s starting to show that’s what he’s going to do.”

On other subjects, Farmer:

* Declined to shed any light on the possible suspension facing Josh Gordon.

* Defended his receiver situation.

“I like our receiving corps. You want to drive the competition. At the end of the day, there’s some names you recognize and others you won’t recognize. When you get an opportunity, will they play well? Nobody knew Miles Austin until he got his opportunity (as an undrafted free agent with Dallas). That’s what we’re looking for, guys to compete and push Miles Austin (now) to get better.”

* Wouldn’t rule out adding another receiver, or players at any position, for that matter.

“There’s always work to be done. As we look at where we’re going, we’re going to look every position. The great teams, they made transactions and they move on from guys and they improve and they go on. It’s not an indictment on anything other than looking to get better.”


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




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