Taylor makes much-waited Browns’ debut
Published 12:52 am Friday, August 5, 2011
The Associated Press
BEREA — No. 1 draft pick Phil Taylor made his much-awaited debut at the Cleveland Browns training camp.
New coach Pat Shurmur hardly seemed to notice, although he put Taylor on the left side with the first-team defense right away Thursday.
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“I feel great just to be out there with the guys practicing and learning a new defense,” Taylor said after a brisk walkthrough.
Shurmur, in his first year as a head coach, had his attention a little more divided than the fans, who were excited to see Taylor in a giant-sized No. 98 jersey for his first workout with helmet and pads later in the day.
Shurmur watched quarterback Colt McCoy run the team’s new west coast offense, focused on defenders acclimating to the newly installed 4-3 defense, and saw a dozen or so free agents participate for the first time following the end of the NFL’s 4 1/2-month lockout. So, he couldn’t provide any rave reviews on Taylor.
“I saw him out there, but quite frankly I am going to have to watch the tape to see how he did,” Shurmur said.
Even when you are a 6-foot-3, 338-pound behemoth like Taylor, it is easy to get lost in a training camp scrum along the line. Then again, Taylor came to camp rather svelte, about 50 pounds lighter than he weighed at one time in college.
Nevertheless, Taylor’s girth drew gasps from fans watching his initial practice. Afterward, Taylor said he felt as if he fit right in despite missing the first four days of workouts before signing a four-year contract.
“I’ve played in the 4-3 my whole college career,” Taylor said. “So it’s not that hard. I’m right where I need to be. I’m not behind at all.”
Taylor knows what it is like to wait. He began his college career at Penn State before transferring to Baylor and having to sit out 2008. He admits he got a little antsy anticipating his first pro camp after being the 21st overall choice in the 2011 NFL Draft.
“It felt like I was redshirting again. You can’t get out there and play,” he said. “It was hard, but I am here now and I am glad to be back.”
Tight end Ben Watson was back, too. He had missed four days with a concussion. Left guard Eric Steinbach lined up for the first time. He had been resting a sore left knee.
Punter Richmond McGee and cornerback Dimitri Patterson were among free agents finally getting to practice for the first time. McGee was signed after Reggie Hodges sustained a season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury Tuesday.
All the free agents had to wait a little longer to take the field. They missed the first hour, until the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement officially went into effect. Shurmur said it was tough to keep the new guys away.
“A lot happened today,” Shurmur said. “We brought the free agents out and they were eager, so we took their helmets away. That kept them from jumping in there without us seeing it.”
With starting wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi’s right foot still in a cast, Shurmur continued to step up rookie Greg Little’s workload.
The second-round pick from North Carolina dropped a few passes, tipped one into the hands of rookie Darian Hagan for an interception, but also made some big plays over the middle.
“He ran a lot of routes today,” Shurmur said. “He hung in there and I think this was a really good day for him. We feel like he’s got a chance to be a player, so we’re going to put him in position to make plays.”
Little got a lot of work in red-zone situations and Shurmur was impressed with the crispness of the first-team offense.
“One of the coaches said the tape we get to show now is like gold,” Shurmur said. “Now we can talk to our players about how to play the coverage and how to run the routes. That’s always a fun day because you’re either scoring or defending to score and thought there was really good competition.”
Two draft picks were among those sidelined. Fourth-round pick Jordan Cameron, a tight end, was in a group of injured players working out on stationary bikes. Cameron has a strained hamstring. Fifth-rounder Jason Pinkston, an offensive lineman, sat out with a sore shoulder and wide receiver Jordan Norwood went to the sideline with a hip flexor.