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Sports


Pluto advises fans: You can't judge much from early camp
Fan intensity is one thing making a big impression in Berea
by WKSU's TIM RUDELL


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Tim Rudell
 
Terry pluto in a recording studio in WKSU's downtown Akron newsroom
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In The Region:

Cleveland Browns training camp is nearly as hot a ticket as the LeBron James homecoming.  Whether it’s the new ownership, the draft, or the off-season moves, fans and the media alike are dialed into the team’s first days of official preparation for the new NFL season.  WKSU’s Tim Rudell talks with sports commentator Terry Pluto about the phenomenon.

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The buzz around Browns training facility in Berea is palpable: Who is ahead in the competition for the Browns’ starting quarterback job? Is there a new talent ready to emerge at wide receiver? 

But Terry Pluto suggests not reading too much into these early practices that have been made dramatically more accessible by the Browns’ new management team.

For those among the 25,000 people who snapped up tickets to a practice day in Akron, or the 4,000 who’ve gotten daily tickets to training camp in Berea, Pluto cautions: Don’t expect to see a game – or anything approximating it.

And especially, don’t expect to see tackles. At this stage of the season, it’s called “thumping.”

Or, says Pluto quoting head Coach Mike Pettine, “We’re competitive; we’re not combative.”

And with 17 coaches, jokes Pluto, each has to come up with something to do.

“They have the quality control coach. What he’s controlling, I don’t know. But I saw him swing into action the other day.

“Johnny Manziel came out wearing these electric-yellow-sort-of-lime-green shoes.” And the control coach, knowing that management wants players wearing gear that fits the uniform, got things under control.

“Within five minutes Johnny had changed his shoes. So we know that when it comes to quality control, the wardrobe police are out there.”

During these early practices, most players are in shorts, T-shirts and helmets. “So if you’re a fast guy, you probably look pretty good …  because people don’t really  get tackled.”

Which is what has made 5-8, 170-pound Andrew Hawkins “Mr. Berea.” He’s “lightening quick. And when he was healthy with the Bengals, he was a very good player. When he was healthy. That’s the problem. … He would be All Pro if football were plays on Sundays in the fall as it is in the spring and summer where’s there’s no hitting.”

Pluto acknowledges, “It’s a fun place to watch. … But are you really getting a total picture of how your team’s going to play this year? No.”

For that, he says Browns fans will have to wait for opening day in Pittsburgh, when “the towels are waving, … more than a few (fans) have been way too deep into the bottle of old panther juice.  … Nothing that happened in Berea comes close. “


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