Hue's Turn: coach Jackson determined to rebuild bad Browns
BEREA, Ohio (AP) Dressed in an orange jacket and matching orange shorts, Browns coach Hue Jackson is easy to spot on a practice field crowded with players, coaches, ball boys and onlookers.
Standing in the middle of every drill on the first day of training camp, Jackson resembled a construction barrel - perhaps a fitting comparison considering the reclamation project he's overseeing.
Jackson is taking on the Browns, one of the NFL's worst teams who are on their eighth coach since 1999 and have had just two winning seasons since their expansion return 17 years ago.
It's early, but there's something different about Jackson, who at age 50 has not lost an ounce of the enthusiasm that steered him toward a football life 29 years ago as a college graduate assistant at Pacific. The former Oakland head coach - he led a talent-thin Raiders team to an 8-8 record in 2011 - has impressed his players with a tough but fair attitude.
''It's always difficult to compare and contrast the coaches because I can't remember all of them in 10 years,'' cracked Browns Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, who is on his fifth head coach since 2007. ''But one thing I think all of the players have been drawn to Hue with has been his passion and his attention to detail. He's not the type of head coach who wants to sit back and let his assistants do the coaching.
''He's a guy that demands so much of his coaches that he actually wants to be in there doing the coaching himself. He can't help himself.''
That's obvious while watching or listening to Jackson, a virtual chatter box during practice. He's constantly offering players either a compliment or criticism. On Friday, Jackson laid into rookie quarterback Cody Kessler, stopping him from running a play with a profane outburst before making the third-round pick explain why he called out a particular formation.
There's no doubt the Browns are Jackson's team. He has far more experience than anyone in Cleveland's revamped front office, which now includes Paul DePodesta, the team's chief strategy officer who first made his mark as a baseball analytics expert. Jackson won't have final say on roster decisions, which will be made collectively, but his voice will be the strongest and loudest on such matters.
And while Jackson's message of a turnaround is a familiar one to Browns fans, who have heard catch phrases like ''it's a process'' and ''we have to be patient'' before from his predecessors, some of his players believe a culture change is underway in Cleveland.
''Absolutely, it's a palpable difference,'' said linebacker Paul Kruger, who signed with Cleveland in 2013 after winning a Super Bowl in Baltimore. ''There's an energy here that I don't think I've felt yet here. It's extremely positive, and I think that one of the best things that Hue brings to the table is that he unites. He unites the organization, the players, and I believe that's something that is rarer than you'd think, a coach who can just unite the players and get everybody feeling the loyalty and the positivity.
''That's what really inspires me the most about coach Jackson.''
Just the second coach hired by the Browns since `99 with NFL head coaching experience, Jackson has a proven track record of fixing quarterbacks and offenses. He spent the past four seasons in Cincinnati, where he coached running backs for two years before taking over as coordinator for one of the league's most potent attacks.
His new job is more daunting, and Jackson, who spent 14 years coaching in college before joining Washington's staff as an assistant in 2001, only knows one way the Browns will succeed.
''It's just hard work,'' he said. ''We're going to put our head down and come out here and practice hard and then prepare hard and work our process and give us the best opportunity to win. I know that our staff and our players are going to do that and that's pretty important to me.''
NOTES: For the second straight day in a row, inclement weather prevented the Browns from opening practice to the public for safety reasons. The team practiced in its indoor field house. ... Browns will be in full pads for the first time Sunday and Jackson promised, ''We're going to hit.'' Jackson plans to sound a siren during the workout and once it's heard, ''anything goes.'' Jackson would not divulge any particulars about the contact drills but said ''we're going to be bumping into each other.''... DB Pierre Desir, who made six starts at cornerback last season, is getting a look at safety. ... Rookie WR Cory Coleman, the team's first-round draft pick, made several nice catches. Jackson said, ''He's stacking good days together, he's just getting better.''
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