New coach Shurmur conducts Browns’ 1st practice

Published 11:17 pm Saturday, July 30, 2011

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Not even an apparent concussion to his tight end could keep Pat Shurmur from enjoying his first practice as an NFL head coach.

“It’s fun to finally be out here,” said the Cleveland Browns’ sixth coach since the franchise returned to the NFL in 1999.

Despite Ben Watson walking off with the head injury and kicker Phil Dawson among a group unable to practice Saturday, the long-awaited first day of drills pleased Shurmur.

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“It’s fun because we’re back out here playing and coaching, and that’s what players and coaches do,” he said.

Not everybody participated in helmets, shorts and light shoulder pads for the spirited practice of nearly 2 1/2 hours, but quarterback Colt McCoy said Shurmur’s message to the team was a ringing one.

“He wants to have a passionate, productive football team,” the second-year quarterback said. “I think everybody took that to heart.”

Dawson wore a baseball cap and smile after signing his tender agreement as Cleveland’s franchise player, returning on a one-year contract. He thanked fans for supporting him when it looked as if he had played his last game for the team in January.

“I really didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Dawson, the team’s all-time leader in field goals and lone remaining player from the expansion season of 12 years ago.

“To be here, it’s kind of a surreal feeling, but it’s one I am embracing,” the 36-year-old kicker said.

Dawson said the changes Shurmur and his staff are implementing should not affect him.

“There are two little yellow poles out there and that’s my target,” he said. “My job really doesn’t change. I’ve been through this before. I know the guys are excited, so I am all in.”

McCoy began guiding Shurmur’s newly installed West Coast offense and is confident the team can learn it in a shorter camp.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” McCoy said. “I feel like overall, everybody was in good shape and ready to work.”

Shurmur said he was a bit surprised there were few breakdowns and said the overall tempo was sharp.

“We didn’t jump offsides a bunch, were generally in the right formations,” he said. “They’re kind of knocking the rust off, just like we are as coaches. It’s a good first day, a good start.”

Shurmur said putting in a new offense and switching the defense to four down lineman from a 3-4 set isn’t unusual.

“In the NFL there is always change and moving forward,” he said. “Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. I’ve asked the fellas to embrace it.”

A few hours after coming off the field, the Browns beefed up their defensive line, acquiring tackle Brodrick Bunkley from Philaelphia for a fifth-round pick in next year’s draft.

Linebacker Scott Fujita likes what new defensive coordinator Dick Jauron has planned.

“It’s a good system, it’s fun, it lets guys play fast,” Fujita said. “I’m coming up on my 10th year now, this is my seventh defensive coordinator, and I’ve played in every combination or variation of defense there is.”

Fujita predicted big things for speedy linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who missed all of last season rehabbing a torn pectoral muscle.

“A system like this is built for a player of his talent,” Fujita said. “He is going to be so good in this defense, just wait.”

Shurmur can’t wait to get everyone involved. A pack of free agents and injured starters Mohamed Massaquoi and Eric Steinbach just watched. Wide receiver Massaquoi has a right foot injury and Steinbach a sore left knee.

Losing Watson, the team’s leading receiver last year, for any length of time would be a serious blow.

“He was running a pattern, lost his footing and got a knee in the back of his head,” Shurmur said.

Watson quickly got up and went to the sidelines, and he slowly walked to the locker room a minute later accompanied by trainers.

Anyone who signed a free-agent deal after the NFL’s 4 1/2-month lockout ended last week can’t practice until the new collective bargaining agreement is officially approved Thursday.

That includes newcomers Brandon Jackson, a running back from Green Bay, and defensive back Usama Young from New Orleans as well as re-signed tight end Evan Moore, linebacker Marcus Benard, defensive lineman Brian Schaefering and offensive lineman Billy Yates.

Only Phil Taylor, the defensive lineman from Baylor picked No. 1, was missing from Cleveland’s recent draft choices. The Browns announced the signing of seven picks as well as 21 undrafted free agents before Shurmur led the players onto the field.

Shurmur said he wished Taylor was in camp and that the Browns may try to replace cornerback Eric Wright, who signed with Detroit, but he’s not going to worry about it.

“You just work with the guys that you have,” he said. “I feel good about the guys we’re starting with.”