A Price to Pay
Published 12:34 am Monday, August 3, 2009
BEREA — Eric Mangini has the Cleveland Browns running in circles.
As punishment for mental mistakes, fumbles and various other on-the-field transgressions, Mangini is making his players run laps during practice.
Drop a pass, take a lap. Jump offsides, take a lap. Commit a penalty, off you go.
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On Sunday, following two straight false-start penalties and a bad snap from center during team drills, Mangini sent Cleveland’s entire offense — the 11 who were on the field and all the players watching from the sideline — on a run around the perimeter of one field.
When the offense passed behind the defense, cornerback Corey Ivey rubbed it in.
‘‘C’mon. Pick it up, now,’’ Ivey chirped at some straggling linemen.
Through the first two days of practice, the Browns have had a track meet of players forced to run as penance. Rookie center Alex Mack has made at least three solo circuits and quarterbacks Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson have had to jog for various sins.
The extra running isn’t the only new wrinkle at Camp Mangini.
The Browns’ first-year coach is also having loud music pumped through speakers lining one end of the practice facility. He’s hoping to get his players ready for the deafening crowds they’ll come across on the road in the NFL, and Mangini likes to keep his players loose with an eclectic music mix.
This weekend, the Browns blocked and tackled as tunes from U2, Tom Petty, Lady Gaga, T-Pain, Billy Joel, ’Lil Wayne and AC-DC filled the air. On Sunday, wide receiver Joshua Cribbs hauled in a pass as the familiar trumpet introduction from the ‘‘Rocky Theme’’ burst from the speakers.
The music is played sporadically, so players don’t know when it’s coming.
‘‘Sometimes it’s random, sometimes it’s not,’’ Mangini said. ‘‘I don’t go over the playlist each day. I have someone who puts that together. If the guys do something good they can get their stuff onto the playlist.
‘‘I take requests.’’
Linebacker Eric Barton, who played three seasons for Mangini with the New York Jets, remembers he and his teammates being shocked the first time Mangini cranked up the volume.
‘‘At first, we were like, ’Whoa,’ because he didn’t tell us that he was going to do it,’’ Barton said. ‘‘But he explained why he was doing it and we embraced it just like we’re embracing it here. Sometimes we even wish he’d turn the music on so we can get used to not being able to hear each other.’’
Mangini said part of his thinking with the music is so the offense and defense can work out hand signals, which become necessary in the din of an opposing stadium.
‘‘When you get to the game, you have to deal with noise,’’ he said. ‘‘I also like the fact that it drowns out the coaches yelling from the sideline because on game day you can never hear that. If you hear someone yell, ’Alert this, alert that, check this, check that,’ well, you had your time to do all that, OK? They (players) need to go out and they need to execute it.’’
Mangini’s coaching style could be considered outside the box by football purists who feel sound fundamentals should be enough. But Barton see value in Mangini’s madness.
‘‘He’s different. He’s very smart and detailed,’’ Barton said. ‘‘He does things that are unorthodox to some people, things that they’ve never seen before. But it has a purpose. It’s not like he’s going, ’Today, let’s turn the music on or let’s go out and practice in the rain.’ It’s all for a purpose.’’
Mangini first began making players run laps in Australia, where he spent two seasons as the head coach of the Kew Colts, a semipro team.
‘‘It just semed to make sense,’’ he said. ‘‘If you can’t focus at that point when you’re in and you get a penalty that hurts the whole team. If you don’t protect the football which hurts the whole team, then we’ll just give you some time to think about it.’’
The Browns committed 100 penalties last season and were among the league leaders in pre-snap infractions — illegal formations, false starts, delays of game, illegal motion. Mangini wants to cut down on the miscues and believes players may focus better if they know they’ll have to run.
Browns running back Jamal Lewis knows it can work. He went through the take-a-lap drill when he played in Baltimore under Brian Billick.
‘‘That’s how I learned,’’ Lewis said. ‘‘If you jump offside or something happens, he’d send you on a lap. It teaches you discipline. You think about it before you do it. ‘‘
Mangini has gained a reputation for grueling camps. In the first two days, there has already been more contact than the Browns would see in a week under former coach Romeo Crennel.
It’s tough, but it’s supposed to be.
After Sunday’s practice, linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was praying Mangini would ease up a bit.
‘‘I’m pretty sure he will throw us a bone at some point,’’ he said.
As long as the Browns don’t have to chase it.