BEREA, Ohio — The way Brandon Weeden sees it, nothing’s changed. He’s still Cleveland’s starter.
And he plans to keep it that way.
Sure, Weeden was aware the Browns worked out several top college quarterbacks leading into April’s draft, but the team didn’t pick one. He’s also mindful that veteran Jason Campbell can beat him out if he’s not on his game. Weeden also knows there are those who doubt he’ll be an NFL success.
It’s up to him to prove them wrong.
"I want to be the guy," he said.
Weeden spoke Thursday after the Browns wrapped up their third and final day of organized team activities (OTAs), where all eyes were on the second-year QB, coming off an uneven rookie season. During a 10-minute session with reporters, Weeden talked about his improvement, his growing confidence in coach Rob Chudzinski’s offence and his comfort in working with new co-ordinator Norv Turner.
As for the draft, Weeden said he didn’t worry about whether the Browns would take a quarterback to challenge or replace him.
"I didn’t really read into it one way or the other," he said. "I wasn’t too concerned with it. I was up here the days before the draft and the days after preparing just like I have every other day. That was probably my least concern. I was worried about this team getting better and getting back to work."
Weeden, who passed for 3,385 yards with 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions last season, has been working hard on his craft.
He’s spent extra time in the weight room, and these days, evenings at the Weeden household include he and his wife, Melanie, breaking down film and the Browns’ playbook. Weeden says he’s a very different quarterback than the one who was handed a starting job before camp last year.
"I know how to relate to guys," he said. "As far as an offence, even though we’re in Day 3 now versus Day 3 last year, I’m way ahead of the curve. This offence kind of makes more sense to start with. There’s a lot more up front as far as formations and stuff. But once you get it, you can hear a play and kind of piece it together by the verbiage, plus me and my wife have spent too many hours studying. It’s been crazy.
"I’ve been comfortable with what we’re doing and the guys are in the same boat."
Weeden believes he’s showing Cleveland’s new coaching staff that he can be a franchise QB, the one to finally end more than a decade of turmoil at the game’s most important position. The Browns have had a different quarterback start the opener in each of the past five seasons, and they agreed to terms with Brian Hoyer on Thursday.
With every throw, every meeting, every interview, Weeden is trying to impress his bosses.
"I hope they see not only what I do out here, but how I’m handling myself working and doing all of those other things," he said. "This means a lot to me. This is my job and I take it seriously. I want to be the guy. I want to build off last year. We’re going to be a better football team, and I want to be a part of it."
Weeden said he was sharper in the two days leading up to the one practice open to media members this week. He made several nice throws, including a long TD to newly acquired slot receiver Davone Bess, who seems to catch everything thrown his way.
However, Weeden missed a few targets, had a pass intended for Josh Gordon intercepted by Tashaun Gipson and star cornerback Joe Haden broke up some throws.
"My third day wasn’t as good as my first two," Weeden he said. "I told Joe (Haden), ‘You got me today, but I won the first two.’ Today, completion-wise wasn’t what it was the first two days. We weren’t functioning like we were on offence. But the first two days, we were flying around, making a bunch of plays. Not that we didn’t today, but guys are understanding it.
"We’re playing fast."
The Browns are trying to pick up the tempo this season. Chudzinski wants his team in attack mode on both sides of the ball and Weeden said as he barks out the cadence he can hear coaches voicing urgency.
"If you’re at the line of scrimmage all you hear is, "Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!" he said. "That’s all that I hear and they just harp on it because it’s tough on defences."
The Browns signed Campbell to a two-year contract in March, bringing in the eight-year pro not only as protection behind Weeden but a challenger for the No. 1 spot. Campbell sidestepped a direct question about what whether he’s been promised a legitimate shot at starting.
He and Weeden get along well and are simply trying to improve.
"You can’t have any egos in this business," Campbell said. "I’ve been in this for nine years and I understand that you have to put those things to the side. Brandon’s a great guy. He carries himself in a real good way. He has a positive attitude. That’s something we both try to implement to each other, just come out here and work hard."
Weeden said Campbell’s familiarity with Chudzinski’s offence has been helpful to both QBs, and he’s being pushed by Campbell.
"That’s the way it should be," he said.
But Weeden’s goal is to separate from Campbell and emerge as the starter.
"I’m approaching it that way. I’m approaching it that I’m going to take the next step and be that guy," he said. "And if I were to do it any other way, I would be doing a disservice to myself and also this team."
NOTES: Browns OG Jason Pinkston practiced this week for the first time since being diagnosed in October with a life-threatening blood clot in his lung. He’s grateful to be playing and said he was cleared to return the same day his daughter was born. "You can’t take life for granted," he said. "I was healthy one day, and two days later I was in the hospital with blood clots in my lung. There are days you come to work and you are sore, but when you’re out for that long it makes you realize how much you miss it." … Rookie CB Leon McFadden did not practice this week because San Diego State is still in session. … First-round pick LB Barkevious Mingo dropped into coverage and broke up one of Campbell’s passes. … Chudzinski praised second-year WR Josh Gordon for his improvement in running routes.