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“Hard Knocks” star Todd Haley working to build mental toughness, establish discipline within team

BEREA — Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said he forgot “Hard Knocks” was on Tuesday night.

He was reminded … and reminded … and reminded Wednesday.

“I got a lot of texts this morning,” he said. “They showed everything, huh?”

Pretty much.


Haley was the star of the second episode of the behind-the-scenes look at Browns training camp. His displeasure with receiver Corey Coleman was obvious and contributed to the trade of Coleman to the Bills. He asked receiver Jarvis Landry to mentor rookie Antonio Callaway. He joked about Carl (Nassib, defensive end) and Brogan (Roback, rookie fourth-string quarterback) not being good names for babies.

Haley has been in the spotlight after both episodes.

In the series premiere last week, he created a stir when he questioned coach Hue Jackson’s policy of giving certain players days off from practice in a coaches meeting. He said the team’s culture needed to change and the players needed to get mentally tougher.

“This time of year, every team you’re trying to form your identity and what type of group you’re going to be and that’s the type of group we’re looking to be,” Haley said Wednesday. “So any opportunity you got a chance to do that we’re trying to do it and guys are making progress and we want a mentally tough group that can overcome adversity and you definitely want a disciplined group that’s not going to do things that get you beat in a game.”

Jackson said he welcomes input from his staff but the final say is his. Haley’s on board.

“The great thing about here is Coach Jackson gives us as assistant coaches the opportunity to speak our opinion,” Haley said. “Ultimately, it’s his decision of what he wants to do and I’ll 100 percent support it, but that’s not always the case where assistants get to voice an opinion, their thoughts. And some of them he’s going to take it, some of them he’s not but whatever decision is made, I’m 100 percent behind.”

“If he doesn’t have people voicing opinions, he’s got the wrong staff,” said associate head coach/running backs coach Freddie Kitchens, who also questioned the rest policy.

Mental toughness is hard to quantify. But Haley knows it when he sees it.

“Groups that are able to overcome bad portions of practice and bounce back, find ways to start to have success,” he said. “Obviously you’re looking for a team that can bounce back within a game, bounce back after poor games. You’re looking for a team, a group that doesn’t back down, that continues to fight and is able to overcome some adversity.”

The Browns failed miserably in all categories the last two years as they went 1-31, and mental toughness was no exception. Haley, who spent the last six years with the Steelers, said he tries not to worry about what happened prior to his arrival.

“I’ve been very focused on this group and trying to develop a group with an identity and a group that is hard to deny what we’re trying to get done,” he said.

Even without the multitude of NFL Films cameras, Haley’s commanding presence would be obvious. The Browns need him to have a strong influence as a leader and play caller.

He told Landry to become a guiding force for Callaway, who has a history of off-the-field problems and was cited for marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license Aug. 5.

“You’ve got all this passion,” Haley said on the sideline during the preseason opener. “Just take the kid under your wing. Larry Fitzgerald would.”

Haley was asked if Landry has accepted the challenge.

“I love Jarvis and what he brings to this team. He’s going to be at the forefront of changing this culture,” he said. “Jarvis is a guy that wants to win, and what more could you ask from a guy as that strong, strong desire to have success. Jarvis is the type of guy that will do anything necessary to give us the best chance to get that done.”

Callaway showed some mental toughness by rebounding from the traffic stop, organizational reprimand and sloppy first half with three catches for 87 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown, in the second half against the Giants.

“It’s a work in progress,” Haley said when asked if Callaway had won him over. “He did some good things. He did some not-so-good things, but he’s another one of these young guys with enough potential to have us excited as coaches.”

Haley’s fire was on display again Monday as he and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams yelled at each other during practice. The impetus was a defensive player knocking into backup quarterback Baker Mayfield. The same thing happened with third-stringer Drew Stanton earlier in camp, which drew a heated response from Haley about the lack of discipline on the team.

“I have a strong opinion on in practice I feel like good teams they stay away from their quarterback because those are guys we cannot afford to lose by accident or on purpose, so that’s a must,” he said.

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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