Browns, Robert Griffin III getting fresh start together


By Tom Withers

AP Sports Writer

BEREA — Following his unceremonious exit from Washington, Robert Griffin III left behind a note in his locker that encouraged forgiveness and a positive attitude.

In Cleveland, he’s seeking redemption.

Benched and booted by the Redskins, Griffin has a fresh start with the Browns, who are hoping a player who flashed great promise and potential just a few years ago can find it again.

Unable to change his past, RG3’s eyes are fixated ahead.

“I’m moving forward,” he said.

Griffin’s comeback will be the main story line during training camp for the Browns, who underwent yet another monumental overhaul during the offseason and have placed one of the NFL’s worst teams in the hands of coach Hue Jackson.

With a history for mentoring and refining young quarterbacks, Jackson appears to be the perfect person to resurrect Griffin, a former rookie of the year slowed by injuries who didn’t take a single snap during the 2015 regular season.

The Browns, with a laughable track record for developing quarterbacks, signed Griffin to a two-year, $15 million contract in March. Although Jackson hasn’t formally selected Griffin as his starter, the 26-year-old is expected to line up behind center when Cleveland opens the season on Sept. 11 at Philadelphia.

Before then, Griffin needs to knock off the rest of the rust that was apparent during the team’s spring minicamps. Griffin’s explosiveness and mobility seems to have returned following two knee surgeries, but his throws were off target and he lacked touch on deep passes. In time, those components of his game should improve.

Griffin, too, may have to work on his off-field game. His fall in Washington was accentuated by a rift with some teammates, who resented the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner and failed to have his back when things began to crumble.

He’s got a clean slate with the Browns, but Griffin said he’s not overtly trying to win over teammates. He believes his actions will determine how he’s perceived.

“That’s the best thing you can do is be who you are, show them that what you might have heard maybe some of it’s true,” he said. “But a lot of the stuff can be extremely false. You can come in here and prove to them who you really are, and that’s what the blessing of a new opportunity with a new team and new organization has blessed me with — a chance to just go out, be myself and let guys make their own determination about who I am.”

Here are some other things to watch as the Browns, who haven’t had a winning record since 2007, open training camp:

CROWELL’S MISTAKE: Running back Isaiah Crowell caused a recent firestorm by posting a horrific illustration to protest recent shootings by police. Crowell apologized for his actions and pledged to donate his first game check next season (more than $35,000) to a fund for fallen officers. But while Crowell has tried to make amends, it remains to be seen if it’s enough to satisfy fans. The Browns are under pressure to release Crowell, their leading rusher last season.

HUE TURN: With boundless energy, Jackson is determined to make the Browns not only competitive but champions. His second stint as a head coach — he led Oakland to an 8-8 record in 2011 — is a monumental challenge as Cincinnati’s former offensive coordinator leads a franchise stuck in a cycle of losing and dysfunction.

HEALING HADEN: Former Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden will likely be eased into camp as he continues to recover from offseason ankle surgery. Haden was limited to just five games last season because of concussions and his NFL career could be at a crossroads. Cleveland’s defensive backfield has been overhauled with a mix of veterans and rookies fighting for jobs. Troubled cornerback Justin Gilbert may be down to his last chance after two underwhelming seasons.

LINE DANCING: Cleveland’s offensive line, once considered the team’s strongest unit and anchored by Joe Thomas, has a new look following the departures of Pro Bowl center Alex Mack and starting right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. Cam Erving struggled as a rookie playing both guard spots, but the Browns are giving the former Florida State standout a chance to replace Mack. Alvin Bailey and rookies Shon Coleman and Spencer Drango will battle for the job at right tackle.

PLAYMAKERS WANTED: Jackson has made fixing Cleveland’s receiving group a top priority, and it’s a massive project. He was spoiled with the Bengals, who had star A.J. Green and others as targets. The Browns believe rookie Corey Coleman, the No. 15 overall pick who scored 20 touchdowns last season for Baylor, can have an immediate impact. Quarterback-turned-receiver Terrelle Pryor continues to show promise as a playmaker.

By Tom Withers

AP Sports Writer

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