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Browns sing Tom Brady's praises, excited for challenge, know it would be "game-changer" if they could beat him in his return

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was up to his tired antics with the media as Tom Brady returned to practice Wednesday following a four-game suspension. Belichick opted not to recognize the giant boost to his team and used an exemption to keep Brady off the roster until Saturday to avoid his standard

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was up to his tired antics with the media as Tom Brady returned to practice Wednesday following a four-game suspension. Belichick opted not to recognize the giant boost to his team and used an exemption to keep Brady off the roster until Saturday to avoid his standard, required weekly news conference.
“Right now, our focus is on Cleveland,” Belichick repeated during the week.
The Browns couldn’t ignore perhaps the biggest story in the NFL.
“Not fun at all,” coach Hue Jackson said of facing Brady in his first game back.
“Oh, man, (shoot),” rookie outside linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah said. “Tom Brady’s a guy I grew up watching. So just ready for the moment.”
Ogbah has played in as many NFL games as Brady’s won Super Bowls – 4.
“He’s a future Hall of Famer, he’s one of the best in the game,” Ogbah said. “Every game counts, but we feel like this game will be a game-changer, tell everybody in the league we can beat the Patriots. That would change everything, give us more inspiration.”
The Browns are 0-4 and on their third quarterback. The Patriots are 3-1 and will use their third quarterback today. He just happens to be an all-timer.
“In my book, he’s the greatest ever,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “He’s basically like a coach on the field. Just being able to run the total offense, being able to be so calm and patient and read defenses, make checks, make calls, I just think he’s the best to do it.”
The numbers support the popular opinion.
Brady’s been to a record six Super Bowls, winning a record-tying four. He’s 172-51 in the regular season, and the .771 winning percentage is the best in the Super Bowl era. When his 22 playoff wins are added, he trails only Peyton Manning (200) and Brett Favre (199) for most in history.
Brady has six 30-touchdown seasons, has thrown 428 touchdowns compared to 150 interceptions and is fifth all time with 58,028 passing yards.
Cornerback Jamar Taylor faced Brady twice a year before he was traded from Miami to Cleveland.
“They guy’s smart. He used to call out our plays,” Taylor said. “He can throw the ball, it’s going to be where it needs to be. One of the greatest competitors to ever play football.”
The Browns expect to experience the full effect of Brady’s competitive fire. He’s kept a chip on his shoulder throughout an unprecedented career because he wasn’t drafted until pick No. 199 in 2000, after six other quarterbacks. The motivation this week comes from the NFL suspension for his role in Deflategate.
The league ruled the Patriots used underinflated balls in a win in the 2015 AFC championship game and Brady was complicit. After appeals and court rulings, Brady begrudgingly accepted the punishment.
“I just know the issues and I felt like he was unfairly targeted,” said left tackle Joe Thomas, a vocal critic of Commissioner Roger Goodell.
So Brady is likely to hit the field with smoke coming out of his ear holes. The rest of the season could be a personal vengeance tour, with some help from his coach.
“You just know you’re facing one of the best teams in the NFL, you know that Coach Belichick is always looking to make a statement,” Taylor said. “Let you know, hey, we’re the Patriots and we’re coming to whoop butt and take names later.”
Brady wasn’t allowed to practice with the Patriots for nearly a month and only played a little in the preseason. But the Browns don’t believe rust will be an issue.
“He’s been in this game too long, knows the offense like the back of his hand,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “He’s just been doing it too long for that, too great for that.”
“I know he’s been probably grinding his butt off to get ready for this game,” Taylor said.
Brady’s month off was a hot topic in New England and on social media. He played backyard catch with supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen and they reportedly sunbathed naked in Italy.
“It may actually put him on his game a little bit more,” Williams said. “He’s hungry to get back to football. There’s quite a few things that are probably working in his favor to be back.”
The uncertainty, as far as the Browns are concerned, is what the Patriots will do schematically on offense. Coordinator Josh McDaniels could’ve been waiting for Brady’s return to dive into the playbook.
“You have to expect the unexpected,” defensive coordinator Ray Horton said.
Horton lost to Brady in his first stint with the Browns, as he threw two touchdowns in the final 61 seconds for a 27-26 win in 2013. Haden and safety Jordan Poyer are the only key members of the defense remaining, and the Browns have struggled (27th in points allowed with 28.8, 22nd in yardage with 378.0) as Horton searches for solutions among the depth chart loaded with youngsters.
“I’m 22, so ever since I can really remember he’s been playing in the NFL and obvious he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer kind of guy,” rookie outside linebacker Joe Schobert said of Brady. “So it’s obviously going to be pretty sweet to just be on the field with somebody like that.”
He’s imagined what it would be like to get his first sack or interception against a living legend.
“Every game you just want to get out there and make some plays,” Schobert said. “But if you’re able to get one from one of the greatest of all time, it’s obviously going to be extra special.”
And extra difficult to knock off the Patriots on Brady’s big day.
“Everybody knows each person needs to play their best game,” Poyer said.
Horton isn’t backing down.
“I like the challenge,” he said. “Let’s face it, you have to beat those guys to be considered one of the elite teams.
“I’m sure he will come running out the tunnel, and we will be there waiting for him.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or [email protected] Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak 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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