Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Takeaways from Day 12 of training camp …
Rethinking Dez?: Is the tide turning in the romance of former Dallas Cowboys star Dez Bryant and the Browns?
At first, they wanted Dez, but Dez gave GM John Dorsey the cold shoulder and didn’t answer his calls.
Then, Dez took a liking to the Browns watching Hard Knocks and their preseason win over the New York Giants.
Now Dez says, via tweets, that he intends to visit the Browns this week.
But there is internal discussion, according to sources, about whether Dez is the right fit for the Browns at this time. Suddenly, they are not as desperate for a veteran receiver – especially one with Bryant’s combustibility -- as once believed.
The Browns are positively intrigued by the group of young receivers behind Jarvis Landry. This group is not limited to Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins. It includes C.J. Board, who joined the Browns practice squad in December; Da’Mari Scott, an undrafted free agent from Fresno State; and Damion Ratley, the sixth-round rookie from Texas A&M.
Prior to the preseason game against the Giants on Thursday, Dorsey cited the fast growth of these players as the impetus for the trade of Corey Coleman to Buffalo for virtually nothing.
“I think we have a nice group of receivers who are beginning to develop,” Dorsey said. “With Corey’s situation, I think it gives him a fresh start in Buffalo. As we speak, I think there’s some talent that can develop faster than Corey’s playing.”
When I asked coach Hue Jackson if there is any concern about impeding the growth of the receivers -- or of disrupting the chemistry of the position group – by adding Bryant, Jackson confirmed, “It is a discussion.”
“I think we have a lot of good things going, but at the same time I do not think you can ever have too many good football players as long as they fit and as long as it is the right fit for the organization, for the locker room and for all involved. I think that is John’s charge. That is what he is trying to do. I think we will continue to do that in a number of different positions. If we can get better, we still need to continue to get better, and I think that is how he sees it.”
Bryant often reacted badly when not gotten the ball as the main man in Dallas. The way the young Browns receivers are proceeding, along with the expected of Josh Gordon prior to the season, Bryant might be no better than fourth on the receivers depth chart.
Which may explain this Bryant tweet on Aug. 9.
“For real... I wouldn’t mind playing for the browns.. I just want to be right first.”
That’ll teach ya: Nobody on offense played more against the Giants than Callaway, who lined up on 54 of the Browns’ 63 snaps. He also fielded three punts. Second-most among non-linemen was Baker Mayfield, who played 45 snaps.
There was a reason Callaway played well into the fourth quarter in the first preseason game. Jackson disclosed the extra play time was discipline for Callaway’s citation for drug possession and driving with a suspended license at 3 in the morning last Sunday.
“Absolutely,” Jackson said. “That was the plan. It was. I was trying to make him play the whole game if we could. I did not want him to come out.
“That was part of the consequence of what he has been through, and he knows it. That is what it was. Either you sit him or make him play. I thought it was better to make him play. Make him play as long as he could. There were a couple of times he kept waving to come out, and we said, ‘No, stay in.’”
Callaway had an amazing preseason debut, considering his incident with Strongsville police and the fact he hadn't played a game since Jan. 2, 2017.
In the first half, each of the three passes thrown him glanced off his hands. In the second half, he caught three of four targets. Two of them were legit superlative plays – an outstretched sideline grab on which he dragged a toe before landing out of bounds, and the 54-yard touchdown on a short slant pattern on which he ran through a defender’s hold, caught the Baker Mayfield on-target pass and accelerated to the end zone.
“He fought through it, came out the other side of it and made some plays. That was good,” Jackson said.
On Sunday, though, Callaway gave up practice reps because of a rib injury apparently suffered in the Giants game.
“He tried to fight through,” Jackson said. “I am glad that he is out there trying, competing, going and catching. He has to learn that sometimes you have to play with those things a little bit. We will get through it.”
Brownie bits: Tight end David Njoku had a good game against the Giants -- two touchdown catches on three targets -- but there may have been a more significant catch at practice on Sunday. Njoku got behind linebacker Jamie Collins to be wide open for a Tyrod Taylor pass – and he made the catch. Njoku almost always makes the tough catches in traffic, like the 10-yard touchdown on the Giants between two defenders. It’s the easy ones that he drops.
Defensive end Carl Nassib’s profanity-laced lecture on personal finance on the first episode of Hard Knocks appeared to be staged because his appearances in front of the media are exercises in tedium. But Jackson swears the potty-mouthed Nassib was being himself. “That is the real Carl Nassib,” Jackson said. “There is no doubt about it. Do not let him fool you. That is who he is.” Nassib said he was “a little embarrassed” about the F-bomb explosion he displayed in the scene. He should be. “I didn’t know I swear that much,” Nassib said.
The officiating crew for the Giants game headed by referee John Hussey had a bad night. It started on the very first flag it threw. On the fourth play of the game, Denzel Ward smashed his helmet into the facemask of Giants receiver Hunter Sharp to break up an Eli Manning pass. The official threw a flag on Ward – not for the obvious illegal hit but for taunting Sharp after the play. “I did not think that they felt that it was a helmet-to-helmet collision,” Jackson said. If the NFL wants to eliminate helmet hits, not only do officials have to call those penalties but coaches have to use them as teaching moments after the fact. As it happened, Ward received kudos for being physical. Such positive reinforcement only encourages the type of hits the NFL needs to remove from the game.