Faine hit with rude welcome

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 30, 2003

BEREA - Jeff Faine got a few warm handshakes from teammates after reporting for his first day of training camp with the Cleveland Browns.

''They pretty much welcomed me back with open arms,'' the rookie center said Tuesday.

Or in the case of defensive tackle Alvin McKinley, with a forearm to the throat.

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Faine ended his contract holdout on Monday by signing a five-year, $7 million deal that includes bonuses worth $4.65 million. He practiced for the first time with the Browns on Tuesday morning, and it didn't take long for him to be reminded that he's in the NFL.

After some individual drills, Faine, who is expected to start this season but spent much of his first day working with the third- and fourth-string offense, lined up against McKinley.

The 310-pound McKinley appeared to get off the line a little early and quickly got his arms up underneath Faine, bending the center's orange helmet back and driving the former Notre Dame center deep into the backfield.

''I came off extra hard, just to let him know that that's what he can expect,'' McKinley said.

Faine had a feeling it was coming.

''It was my first rep of live practice, but it was all right,'' Faine said with a laugh. ''He jumped the snap on me and I didn't get back quick enough. I just have to know his kind of rush and know what he brings.''

Rookie lesson No. 1: don't be late for camp.

Faine, selected with the 21st overall pick by the Browns to replace departed free agent Dave Wohlabaugh, wanted to report a week ago. However, his agents didn't finalize a contract with Cleveland until Monday night.

The time away was tough on Faine, a three-year starter at Notre Dame who left college a year early to turn pro. He was one of seven draft picks holding out on the Browns, who have signed just two of their 2003 selections so far.

''In a way, it almost feels like you're selling out your team,'' Faine said. ''It's a bad feeling. You want to be here. You want to be with your teammates as they go through it (training camp). But it's something you have to do for yourself.

''It was rough. I love playing this game. I couldn't wait to get to practice. Sitting around the house, waiting. I'm excited to get in.''

The Browns couldn't wait to see him. They're counting on Faine to step right into the starting lineup and anchor their offensive line. That was Wohlabaugh's job with the Browns since 1999, but the club released him in February as a part of a salary-camp dump.

''I didn't leave early to sit the bench,'' Faine said. ''I could have stayed at school for another year and played. I'm coming in to compete for the first-string job and I think I can handle it, without a doubt.''

He's cocky, and his teammates love that. They've been impressed with how quickly he has learned the offense, and his nasty streak, which he developed with the Fighting Irish.

''We know what Jeff can do from mini-camps and we're glad to have him back,'' said guard Shaun O'Hara, who is holding down Faine's starting spot for now.

Faine is confident, but not naive. He knows he's got a lot more to learn.

''I know I'm going to make mistakes, but I'm not going to make excuses for myself because I'm a rookie,'' he said.

O'Hara figured one of the veterans would give Faine a rookie wake-up call after arriving late to camp.

''It's the NFL, and you have a high-profile rookie,'' O'Hara said. ''Sometimes guys welcome you with open arms and sometimes it's not with open arms. Darius Holland welcomed me with a head slap, so I'm glad to see the tradition has continued.''

Notes: RB Jamel White, who suffered a mild concussion after taking two big hits last weekend, was cleared by team doctors but is still having headaches and was limited during Tuesday's practices. … LB Ben Taylor ended the afternoon workout with an interception for the second time in camp, picking off Josh Booty. … DE Courtney Brown is practicing just once a day as he attempts to come back from knee surgery. … Browns coach Butch Davis said the competition at guard is ''wide open.'' O'Hara, Barry Stokes, Paul Zukauskas, Qasim Mitchell and Melvin Fowler are all in the mix. ''We're going to have some knock-down, dragouts,'' Davis said.