Davis tries to downplay bickering Browns
BEREA -- The finger pointing at Cleveland's suspect defense this summer has gotten contagious. The Browns are now directing it toward each other.
After a defensive breakdown led to a touchdown by Detroit in the first half of Saturday night's 38-17 loss to the Lions, Browns tackle Gerard Warren and cornerback Anthony Henry had to be separated on Cleveland's sideline.
Coach Butch Davis and several Browns defensive players tried to dismiss the altercation on Monday as typical NFL heat-of-the battle tension.
''It's not an issue at all,'' Davis said. ''I think guys get hot and guys get mad.''
However, the heated confrontation between teammates underscores a frustrating exhibition season for Cleveland's revamped defense, which has played poorly in losses to Tennessee, Green Bay and Detroit.
''I'm concerned,'' safety Earl Little said. ''But I'm definitely not worried.''
The Henry-Warren exchange came moments after Lions quarterback Joey Harrington threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Scotty Anderson in the second quarter.
On the play, Harrington scrambled to his right, and for a split-second looked like he might run. Instead, he zipped his pass to a wide-open Anderson, who was left uncovered by strong safety Michael Jameson.
According to broadcast reports, an upset Warren stomped back to the bench, wondering aloud who in the secondary had blown their coverage on the play. Although Jameson later took the blame, Henry didn't appreciate the criticism and confronted Warren. Injured safety Robert Griffith had to step between them.
Davis tried to turn the argument into a positive.
''All that does is show that it's not a preseason game in their minds and they're taking pride and they want to play well and they're frustrated,'' he said.
Davis later became agitated when a reporter pressed him on the issue.
''One guy made a mistake in coverage,'' he snapped. ''Ten guys played good, one guy made a mistake and they scored a touchdown, and we'll coach like the dickens to change it.''
Little said the whole thing was overblown. But he, too, gave a terse response when asked for details.
''That wasn't a big issue right there,'' Little said. ''A little miscommunication. It wasn't as big a deal as some people think. You guys have the right to want to know what's going on, but it wasn't a problem at all. We're a family.''
Currently, a fractured one.
While Cleveland's offense -- now led by quarterback Kelly Holcomb -- could be one of the AFC's most potent units this season, the defense is a work in progress.
Through three games, the Browns are giving up 28 points, 388 total yards and 142 rushing yards per game. Granted, some of those numbers are inflated because they came in the second half against reserves.
But the starters haven't fared much better in limited time on the field.
Steve McNair, Brett Favre and Harrington went a combined 31-of-44 against Cleveland's first-team defense, and both the Titans and Packers scored on their opening drives.
It took the Lions a little longer. They scored the second time they had the ball.
Davis, who released four defensive starters and fired coordinator Foge Fazio during the off-season, says that despite the apparent statistical imbalance, his defense is improving each week.
''I think there are growing pains,'' he said. ''But you can sit down and watch film with me any time and I can show dramatically that just about every phase of our defense has gotten better every week.
''We're not where we want to be, and we're not where we're going to be in a couple weeks, but we're getting better.''