BEREA — The siren blew Sunday and the tackling began.
Just as coach Hue Jackson had promised.
The first “everything goes” period of training camp lasted about six minutes and focused on the run game, including Terrell Watson fighting for every inch and requiring several defenders to drag him down.
The second siren preceded 14 minutes of 11-on-11. Inside linebacker Chris Kirksey dropped fullback Patrick Skov after a swing pass, and backup tackle Dan France put defensive lineman Dylan Wynn in a headlock after a skirmish that saw Wynn’s helmet come off.
“That was a lot of fun,” Jackson said of the first padded practice of camp. “We’ll be as smart as we can be, but we have to have some very spirited, physical practices as we move forward just to get our football team where I think we need to be. And I thought the guys did a great job today.
“They don’t know when they’re coming. They just can show up at any time. That’s what the siren is for. I thought they responded well, and I thought they were excited about it.”
The hitting wasn’t contained to the siren periods. The first pad-popping of camp was a one-on-one pass-blocking drill featuring running backs and tight ends vs. linebackers.
Inside linebacker Demario Davis got by running back Isaiah Crowell initially, but Crowell kept battling and took Davis to the ground to keep him away from the quarterback. Davis later took on Skov head-on and knocked him back.
Jackson wants to improve the toughness and grittiness of the perennial loser he inherited.
“Today was a good start, but more so than anything, I think our guys liked it and respected it,” he said. “I know it’s a little bit different than maybe what they’ve been accustomed to, but I think it’s what it’s truly going to take for us to have a really good football team.”
Jackson stepped in to talk to the defense after quarterback Austin Davis spun into a defender and dropped to the ground.
“Nobody touches a quarterback. It’s just that simple,” Jackson said.
NO HARD FEELINGS
The weekend couldn’t have gone much better for Crowell.
He looked fast and strong, and the anticipated backlash from fans after his offensive Instagram post didn’t happen. He continued to try to make amends by spending more than a half-hour signing autographs and taking pictures with fans without incident.
Jackson said he didn’t think Crowell’s strong start had anything to do with the controversy.
“I would hope that’s not why,” he said. “I think he’s turned it up because he is a really good football player. He has some really unquestionable ability.
“I saw this in the spring so I’m not surprised by anything he does, but I think there’s more there.”
A HELPING HAND
Forty-five minutes after practice, left tackle Joe Thomas stood in the middle of the field demonstrating the proper pass-protection technique to rookie tackle Shon Coleman. Earlier in the day, line coach Hal Hunter gave another example of Thomas’ selflessness.
Hunter asked the linemen to pick a partner to stick with the entire season for handwork drills and Thomas chose second-year center Cameron Erving.
“He didn’t go right to Joel Bitonio or (John) Greco, he went to Cam because he figures that is probably the guy that can benefit the most from his experience,” Hunter said. “And you have to take your hat off to a guy like that. He didn’t go to his best buddy, he went to the guy he felt he could help the most. That’s just his personality.”
Fullback Malcolm Johnson suffered a concussion and left practice. He was part of a collision during an inside run drill, was talked to by the training staff and then walked off the field. “Obviously, he got dinged a little bit,” Jackson said. “He’ll go into the concussion protocol, and we’ll see where he is. “That’s just part of it. It’s tough the first time you run up in there and get one of those, but again, that’s part of it.” Johnson played 12 games, including five starts, last year as a rookie before missing the final four games with a groin injury.
Rookie cornerback Trey Caldwell, a fifth-round pick, pulled up with an injured hamstring after covering a long pass play.
Defensive lineman Dylan Wynn injured an ankle.
Rookie fifth-round pick Spencer Drango (6-foot-6, 315 pounds) took a few snaps with the first-team offense Sunday as an extra lineman. He’s also worked at the left and right tackle spots through three days.
“This is what happens if you’re in the NFL,” Hunter said. “If you’re not a starter on the offensive line, you can’t play just one position because you’re not valuable enough. If you’re dressing seven or eight guys, you have to play more than one position.
“He’s a smart guy. We did bed check the other night at 11:30 p.m., he’s in his bedroom studying. That tells you something about a guy.”
K’Waun Williams and Jamar Taylor took turns with the first team at nickelback. They are competing for the spot.
Outside linebacker Cam Johnson would’ve had a sack of Robert Griffin III in team drills.
Paul Kruger and Nate Orchard have been lining up as the first-team outside linebackers.
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