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Commentary: Rain can't dampen team's enthusiasm as training camp opens

A thunderstorm arrived in Berea just minutes before the Browns held their first training camp practice Friday.
Thanks to the accompanying lightning, Cleveland’s players were forced indoors while their fans fled to their cars.
A good omen for the season, it wasn’t, especially given the lack of talent on the team.
But since this is Believeland, the downpour also could be viewed as a ceremonial cleansing of the franchise’s many sins.
“In the past here, you’ve had certain egos, you might say, or people who didn’t want to buy all the way in,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “This year is a little different. It’s more like a college team. You don’t have anything established because we haven’t won.
“So when the coach tells you what to do, that’s what you need to do. Whatever the coaches say goes, then the younger guys just fall in line.”
The Browns rid themselves of Johnny Manziel’s partying and Donte Whitner’s posturing in the offseason, while Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz were eager to play elsewhere and now are.
Without question, though, the most important move was the hiring of Hue Jackson as coach. The longtime NFL assistant has been a breath of fresh air, displaying motivational skills on par with Tony Robbins and inspiring loyalty in athletes who had never met him until January.
“It’s a new start, let’s get it going,” tight end Gary Barnidge said. “Everybody’s excited about it and energized because, as you can tell, Hue’s very energetic and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Jackson’s energy was evident throughout his first full-team practice with Cleveland, which wound up back outside but closed to the public — save for roughly 100 special guests and sponsors.
The turn of events was unfortunate as the pop-up storm spoiled the afternoon for several thousand Browns fans who were left outside the gates.
No doubt, they would have enjoyed the crisp 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 matchups, which were punctuated by trash talking from de facto offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.
Bright sunshine eventually reclaimed the sky, but tempers never flared as healthy competition was the prevailing theme. The latter is impossible to quantify, but it was both crystal clear and refreshing.
“Absolutely, it’s a palpable difference,” linebacker Paul Kruger said. “There is an energy that I don’t think I’ve felt yet here. It’s extremely positive. One of the best things that Hue brings to the table is that he unites. That’s something rarer than you’d think, a coach who can unite the players and get everyone feeling the loyalty and the positivity.”
Any positivity is welcomed by the strong core of veterans who now command the locker room. Perennial Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas and Haden represent the conscience of their respective units, while Barnidge and Kruger have eagerly assumed leadership roles.
Privately, all of them might admit the Browns don’t have a realistic chance of being competitive this year. Losing six effective starters from what was a terrible defense is downright scary.
Even if a contrite Josh Gordon and a humbled Isaiah Crowell have huge seasons offensively, it’s hard to imagine Cleveland sniffing .500.
Hope, however, springs eternal and is currently in abundance after the Cavaliers’ magical run to the NBA championship.
“Just seeing the Cavs do it in our hometown, it makes us work that much harder,” Haden said. “The Indians are also doing a great job, so it’s just a great feeling to be in this city. We want to bring a winner here, too, but are always just talking about it and not doing it. That really sucks. We want to change that.”
Contact Brian Dulik at 329-7135 or [email protected] and follow him @BrianDulik on Twitter.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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