NFL: Browns’ Lewis gets cheers from players after criticizing Mangini’s ways
By Marla Ridenour
Akron Beacon Journal
BEREA, Ohio — Anyone wondering whether running back Jamal Lewis was speaking for his Browns teammates Thursday when he accused coach Eric Mangini of overworking his players need only have witnessed the locker room scene 24 hours later.
While Lewis, surrounded by media, was trying to put to rest his scathing remarks, several teammates chanted, “JLew! JLew!” Among the loudest were tight end Robert Royal and fullback Lawrence Vickers, who climbed onto a chair next to Lewis to help lead the cheers.
Judging from the roar, it was clear that Lewis is their hero.
“I got support,” Lewis said. “Does this look like a divided locker room to y’all? Huh, does it? No.”
No one has ever questioned whether the locker room is divided, unless he’s referring to a split between the 26 new Browns, including now nine ex-New York Jets, and the holdovers.
Royal insisted later that the outburst had nothing to do with Lewis’ remarks.
“I think we had a good practice and guys were having a little fun messing around with him,” Royal said.
Lewis took the same tack as he did last season after accusing his teammates of quitting in a Nov. 6 loss to the Denver Broncos. The co-captain said Friday his comments were “kinda blown out of proportion. . .but that’s how the media is,” even as his sound bites were playing constantly on local radio.
Mangini and Lewis spoke after practice Thursday, following the captains’ weekly meeting with the coach.
“We exchanged ideas and came up with certain things that can be done (and he) gave me his views on why we do certain things,” Lewis said. “It dealt with more miscommunication and not actually going to talk to him or bringing up different issues that you might be feeling. We agreed to disagree sometimes.
“We settled things in house. That’s how it should’ve been dealt with from the start.”
Lewis, 30, who announced Nov. 1 that he is retiring after his 10th season, said Thursday that Mangini’s 2›- to 3-hour practices were wearing the players out and leaving nothing for the games. Lewis said he’d worked more in pads in the first eight weeks for the 1-7 Browns than in three or four years with the Baltimore Ravens.
Asked whether he was disappointed by Lewis’ remarks, Mangini said: “I think everybody expresses themselves in different ways. Everybody has the right to express themselves. What I’m always looking for is communication with me directly. The office is open. That’s not a slogan. That’s not something you check off your list. I’ve had a lot of great conversations with players. . .and the more you talk, the better you understand each other.”
Mangini defended the way he structures practice, saying he’s watched different approaches during his 15 years in the NFL, including when he won three Super Bowl rings as an assistant with the New England Patriots. Mangini said practice rarely runs more than two hours unless plays are not executed properly.
“For the record, it’s two hours,” Mangini said. “We have a half-hour walk-through. That’s the facts, that’s the reality of it. It’s two hours a day. Two hours a day. On Wednesday, on Thursday and less on Friday.
“I’ve done all different combinations of practice. I’ve practiced in shells the whole week, shoulder pads and shorts on Thursday, multiple weeks in shells. There have been teams where we’ve had full pads on Friday. There are different approaches. You’re always trying to find one that best fits. I think the two hours of work on the field is a very reasonable time.”
Mangini wouldn’t say whether he would fine Lewis for conduct detrimental to the team.
“I’m not looking at it that way,” Mangini said. “What I’m looking for is if there are things that need to be addressed, being able to communicate them openly.”
Asked whether Lewis would start Monday night against the Ravens if healthy after being limited this week with an ankle injury, Mangini said, “It’s all based on the packages, so none of that’s any different at all.”
Mangini confirmed that practice squad defensive end Keith Grennan was hurt in a post-practice opportunity period Thursday. Grennan ruptured his patellar tendon and will undergo surgery Monday. Mangini said Grennan was hurt during a position drill.
Mangini believes those sessions for young players are the only way for them to improve during the season.
“You never want anyone to get hurt. He’s a good kid,” Mangini said of Grennan. “A lot of people have really benefited from it, the most recent being Marcus Benard.”
Benard, an undrafted free-agent linebacker from Jackson State, was signed to the active roster this week after shining during the opportunity periods. When Mangini announced his promotion from the practice squad, the team applauded.
Asked whether those periods increase the risk of injury, Mangini said, “I think it increases the possibility of success.”
Punter Dave Zastudil’s long-sore right knee might not last much longer. He was limited and the Browns tried out punters after practice in full view of the media. The last time that happened, kicker Phil Dawson missed the first of five consecutive games. Zastudil is leading the league in punts inside the 20 with 25.
The only Brown to miss practice was receiver Chansi Stuckey (calf). For the Ravens, nose tackle Haloti Ngata (ankle) improved to limited.