BEREA, Ohio — An interesting personnel decision flowed from the decision by Mike Pettine to give several veterans a day off.
With cornerback Tramon Williams resting, Pierre Desir was on the field with the starters opposite Joe Haden — not Justin Gilbert.
“Why was Pierre out there first today?” defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley said. “Because he earned it. and that’s how we’re going to be in the room. Whoever earns it is going to be who goes out.”
The significance, of course, is that Desir is a fourth-round draft pick from Lindenwold (Missouri), a Division II school. Gilbert was the Browns first first-round pick in the same 2014 draft, the eighth overall selection.
“It could have changed halfway through practice,” Hafley said. “But when you create competition you have to be fair, and whoever earns it is going to be the next guy in.
“Pierre earned it today, so today he got the nod.”
The coaching staff is not messing around with players based on draft position. Cam Erving has been with the backup linemen. Danny Shelton has spent most of his time with the backups behind Ishmaa'ily Kitchen. And Saturday Thaddeus Lewis shared backup reps at quarterback with Johnny Manziel.
Now Desir lines up ahead of Gilbert.
Desir wasn’t even supposed to play as a rookie. His background in small school football had the Browns leaning heavily toward giving him a “redshirt” year. But injuries and the attitude problems of Gilbert forced Desir on the field late in the 2014 season.
He played well, opened eyes and picked right up where he left off in offseason work. Now, four days into training camp, Desir is ahead.
“The more experience he gets,” Hafley said of Desir, “the better he’s going to be.”
Hafley said Gilbert has to concentrate on being more consistent. His rookie season was problematic, as teammates criticized him without mercy as the season went on. Gilbert watched the season finale in the locker room, deactivated after he was late for a meeting in the team hotel after making the flight to Baltimore.
In the offseason, the Browns sent Gilbert to Florida to work out and spend time with Haden.
“The key for him is still consistency,” Hafley said, adding: “I just keep telling him, ‘Just be your best today.’”
The Browns have a crowd at cornerback. Haden and Tramon Williams are the starters, with K’Waun WilliamsK'Waun Williams penciled in at nickel back. Gilbert, Desir, rookie Charles Gaines and holdover Robert Nelson also are in the competition.
“[Desir] has an NFL skill set, but he just had a lot of ground to make up, given his background,” Pettine said. “He is a guy that comes out and works to get better every day.”