Pressure cookerIt appears as though the pressures of the Browns’ training camp are getting to an unsuspecting victim.
During a 7-on-7 drill in Wednesday’s practice, quarterback Brandon Weeden connected on a long pass with wide receiver Travis Benjamin, who was dragged down from behind by cornerback Joe Haden.
Haden reached between the 8 and zero on the back of Benjamin’s uniform and yanked him down. The rookie wideout, who missed the second exhibition game with an undisclosed injury, bounced right back up and jogged to the huddle. End of story, right? Uh, no.
Coach Pat Shurmur immediately scolded Haden on what he probably considered a rough tackle and the two exchanged unpleasantries within hearing distance of the crowd on the last day of open practice to the public. The coach then dismissed the Haden for the rest of the practice.
It was not a horse-collar tackle, which would have drawn a flag in a game. It was a clean play that resulted in no harm and Shurmur clearly overreacted when he saw Benjamin, who missed the second exhibition game with an undisclosed injury, go down that way.
It’s one thing to be protective of a player coming back from injury. It’s quite another to engage in disharmony with one of your best players in front of the fans.
Following the practice. Shurmur refused to discuss the contretemps. ESPN Cleveland reporter Tony Grossi reported the coach got testy when the subject was broached.
“I’m not going to talk about it,” Shurmur said when asked what had happened “That’s between me and the player. I have a great deal of respect for Joe. If you want details, you’re going to have to find it on Twitter.”
Flippant remarks like do not sit well with the media, let alone the media’s constituents, the fans.
“My only apology is that I used bad language, and the fans were here to see it,” Shurmur said. “Joe’s a great competitor and I appreciate what he does and who he is and that’s the last you’ll hear me talk about it.”
A follow-up question was met with a brusque response. “Don’t ask,” the coach warned. “Don’t ask . . . You’ll have to go somewhere else to find out.”
The team, not surprisingly, shut off all communication with Haden, denying any and all media requests.
Fact is Shurmur lost control. It’s one thing for players to lose it in practice – fights are fairly commonplace during training camp – and quite another for someone on the coaching staff to lose it, let alone the head coach.
Haden returned to the field for the afternoon walk-through session. Shurmur later said that “Joe and I talked and everything’s fine. It’s a dead issue.”
It might be a dead issue in Shurmur’s mind, and maybe Haden’s, but you can bet it got the attention of the other members of the team. They saw their head coach lose it. One veteran, however, said he understood Shurmur’s reaction and blamed Haden.
“It was a mistake (Haden) did, but I don’t think he did it on purpose,” tight end Ben Watson told reporters. “You want everybody healthy for the season. You don’t want things like that to happen.”
Of course not, but you also don’t want to see your head coach totally overreact, especially after watching Benjamin bounce back obviously unhurt.
A quiet private talk with Haden following the practice would have been a much better way to handle the situation instead of embarrassing one of the team’s best players in front of the fans and his teammates.
Often times, common sense trumps emotional reactions. This should have been one of those times.