Paul Warfield, the slender, fox-fast rookie end who leads the Cleveland Browns in pass receiving, was getting supersonic treatment for a slight muscle pull the day before the Pittsburgh game last week. Dressed, Warfield appears slender; his program weight of 188 pounds looks to be an exaggeration. But when he's stripped on the training table, the weight is apparent. It is in his thighs, which are heavily muscled, like Jim Brown's. "I haven't had too much trouble adjusting from college," he said softly. "My big trouble is concentration. You have to concentrate to catch the ball, and sometimes my concentration slips."
The next night against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Warfield, playing head on against an exceptionally good corner-back, Brady Keys, caught three passes, two of them for first downs. The only touchdown the Browns scored was on a pass from Ryan to Gary Collins, the other half of what is potentially the best pair of receivers in pro football.
In Collins and Warfield, Cleveland Coach Blanton Collier has the deep-pass catching threat he has needed to complement the running of Jim Brown. But the loss to Pittsburgh pointed up the flaw in this Cleveland team that may cost it the Eastern Division title. The flaw, which appears uncorrectable, is defense.
If the Browns are to stay in contention, they will have to sharpen the offensive weapons they now possess and rely on outscoring the enemy rather than holding him. "Good deep receivers are like long-ball hitters in baseball," Collier said before the Pittsburgh game. "The outfielders have to back up against the fence when you have long-ball hitters. So a lot of those little hits over the infield drop in. If you know the hitter can't reach the fence, you play him up close and catch balls that would be singles for a slugger. Football defenses tighten up on you, too, and make it harder to catch the short pass."
The Browns have two exceptional long-ball hitters in Warfield and Collins. So far this season Warfield has caught 17 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns. Collins, in his third season with the Browns, has caught 15 passes for 262 yards and five touchdowns. Warfield has actually caught passes in only three games. In his regular-season debut against Washington, he was double-teamed—a rare compliment for a rookie—and shut out.
The two young receivers are almost precisely opposite types. Warfield is small, with blazing speed and great spring in the legs. He was a 9.6 sprinter and a 26-foot-plus broad jumper at Ohio State. "Collins has good speed for a big man," Collier said. "He is 6 feet 4, and he got up as high as 227 last year. He is a fine clutch receiver, and he can overpower a defensive halfback. Last year he caught most of his passes on short inside patterns. When the season was over, I told him he had done a fine job, but that he still had a lot of work to do on his outside moves and his deep moves. I told him that the coaches in this league are all smart people, and if he could only use a good inside move they would cover him that way. Now he's working on the other moves, and he's getting them, too."
When Warfield reported to the Browns after the College All-Star Game, Collier used a special tutor to bring his No. 1 draft choice up to date. The tutor was Ray Renfro, who had been a star flanker with Cleveland before he retired. "Renfro came out to the Coast with us for the exhibition games with San Francisco and Los Angeles," Collier said. "He worked with Paul on his assignments and on his patterns. Paul played his first game with us against Los Angeles and he had a fine night. Another thing that Renfro taught him was downfield blocking."
Even with lessons, Warfield—at his size—does not do much damage to linebackers when he tries to block them.
"Once in the Eagle game he cracked back on Maxie Baughan," Collier said. "There's a 40-pound difference there and he didn't slow Baughan down, but a few plays later Paul cracked back on a safety man and flattened him. The one thing he really needs to work on—and he knows this—is his concentration."
Collier learned the value of concentration as an assistant to Paul Brown, working with four Pro Bowl teams. "Paul would be coaching a college all-star team and I'd have the Pro Bowl team by myself for the first couple of days," Collier said. "I used to marvel at the great pass receivers. I watched them for a long time, and then I noticed that all of them had one thing in common. Their eyes always followed the ball right into their hands. You'd see their heads pop down and they would look at the ball in their hands. They never looked away. Warfield wasn't doing that when he came to us. I told him about it, and he does it most of the time now.
"I always think of Mac Speedie [now coach of the Denver Broncos] as the finest receiver I ever had anything to do with," Collier said. "He would run his pattern exactly on every play. Some receivers get too impatient and cut too soon and catch the quarterback off stride, but with Speedie the quarterback could throw ahead of the cut and know Speedie would be there. Warfield is running his patterns like that now. And he has something else Speedie had, although it isn't as highly developed yet as it was in Speedie. He seems to have an instinctive knowledge of where people are as he runs. Maybe it's just extra-wide peripheral vision, but he has it. And he has what I call in the great instinctive runners a little weave, a natural move that fakes a defender out of position and adds to the knack of getting free."
Collier paused a moment, and looked worried. "One thing I want to say," he said. "This is a fine boy and a fine athlete, but he is only potentially a great receiver. He has a lot of work to do. If he wants to do it, he can be tremendous. But I don't want people to expect too much of him, especially when they start doubling him. A rookie can't always recognize double coverage; that takes time. So if he gets shut out once in a while, well, even the good veterans get shut out. What we would hope is that if a defense commits that much personnel to Warfield we can go to Collins or another receiver. Collins is especially good at catching the ball in a crowd."
Until the defeat by Pittsburgh, the Browns were averaging nearly 30 points a game. Buddy Parker, coach of the Steelers, solved part of his own defensive problem simply by controlling the ball with a steady, time-eating ground game.
If and when the Brown defense stiffens enough to get the ball a fair share of the time, Cleveland's long-ball hitters, abetting Jim Brown, will score enough to keep the Browns near the top.