BEREA — Quarterback Brandon Weeden took the first snaps with the first-team offense on the first day of the first minicamp under first-year coach Rob Chudzinski.
Weeden plans to take the opportunity and run with it.
“Now that it’s my second year, it’s my job to take control, be the guy and be the leader,” he said Tuesday. “Be the leader on offense, be the leader in the locker room. I lead by example, but there’s a comfort level there now that maybe wasn’t there last year just because I was still learning.
“This year I’m a little bit more proactive and kind of being the guy that’s kind of leading the way.”
Weeden, 29, believes he’ll make a significant jump in his second season. He spent the offseason working on fundamentals, specifically getting rid of a pre-throw tap of the ball that hurts timing and accuracy, and speeding up his footwork.
And he believes new coordinator Norv Turner’s system fits his strengths better.
“You see a guy that has some tools,” Chudzinski said of Weeden. “He has a good arm, he has the ability to get the ball down the field. We look and project that into the things we’re going to try to do with him and teach him.
“You look for progress. He showed progress during his rookie season. You want to see him take the next step in his second year. Hopefully he’ll do that. We have to teach him a new offense in the meantime.”
The offseason program began April 1, so Weeden is a newcomer to Turner’s system. But he likes what he’s seen.
“I think this offense possesses a lot of the strengths that I have,” Weeden said. “I think we’re throwing the ball down the field, we’re throwing deeper routes, I’m going to be in the shotgun a little bit more. The stuff that I’ve done in the past.
“I love this offense. I think it’s a great fit, not only for me, but for the other guys we have on our side of the ball.”
Quarterback always receives the most attention, and the first questions for Chudzinski were about free-agent acquisition Jason Campbell and whether he could challenge for the starting job.
“Right now we’re going through and Brandon got the reps with the ones today,” Chudzinski said. “Campbell will get work with the ones as well, but this is a long, long process. It’s a long time between now and our opener. We have plenty of time and this is our first step.”
Campbell, 31, has made 71 NFL starts with 31 wins, 14,682 yards and an 82.5 rating. He told reporters when he signed he’s good enough to start but that he’ll help Weeden in any way he can.
“Jason, he’s been great,” Weeden said. “I’m glad to have him on board. He’s a veteran guy, ninth year in the league, he’s seen a lot of stuff, he’s been around a lot of different players, a lot of different coaches, schemes, all of that. He’s a veteran guy that can help.”
Weeden thinks the competitive push from Campbell will also raise his game.
“Absolutely. He’s played in this league and he’s played at a high level in this league,” Weeden said. “I want to compete. I want to push each other, make each other better, and I think it’s better for everybody involved.”
Weeden said he doesn’t listen to speculation, but he can’t help but be aware of the uncertainty that continues to surround Cleveland’s quarterback situation. The Browns were linked to many of the veteran quarterbacks available in free agency or trade before settling on Campbell, and now are conducting workouts and visits with the top quarterbacks in the draft.
CEO Joe Banner has said Weeden will get every chance to succeed and that a quarterback isn’t the focus with the sixth pick in the draft, but he hasn’t ruled out taking one. Weeden said he hasn’t heard from Banner, general manager Michael Lombardi or Chudzinski regarding their draft plans.
“That’s above my pay grade,” Weeden said. “You know how the draft works. You never know what’s going to happen.
“It’s the nature of this business. I’m worried about me. I’m not really worried about what’s going to go on outside of me. There’s always speculation. It’s this time of year. I can’t control the other stuff. I’m going to continue to learn this offense. I’m going to continue to get better as a player. And I think this is probably the biggest time of my entire career, just because the rookie year is tough.”
Raising his completion percentage from 57.4 — “I’ve never had a completion percentage as low,” he lamented — and consistently getting the offense into the right play for the situation are at the top of his list of goals. He knows there’s a whole new regime and coaching staff to impress on the practice field.
“They’re not going to stick me out there if they don’t think I’m the guy that can win games,” Weeden said. “That’s just the way this position works, that’s the way this business works.
“But you’ve also got to do it in those meeting rooms. You’ve got to be attentive, retain the information. They’re throwing a bunch of information at us, so you’ve got to impress ’em in there as well.”