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Pettine: Not penciling in a starting quarterback at this point

BEREA, Ohio -- Coach Mike Pettine said Tuesday he wasn't into penciling in a starting quarterback on the second day of the Cleveland Browns' offseason workouts.

Which, of course, means the Browns don't have a starting quarterback.

No amount of warm and fuzzy feelings about the team "winning the offseason" or Johnny Manziel staying three extra hours on Monday can change that reality.

The Browns don't have a starting quarterback as of right now, April 21, 2015.

Coaches are wont to shrug off that feeling at this time of year by saying their team doesn't have to play a game until September. At the same time, they talk about how important the offseason is.

Which presumably means it's important for the starting quarterback to get some kind of hold of the position at this time of year.

Check around the AFC North. There's only one team not penciling in a quarterback. In the AFC, there are two with this level of uncertainty -- the Jets and the Browns.

In the NFC, the case can be made that only one team does not pencil in a quarterback -- and that's Tampa Bay. But their problem will be solved in the draft.

The Browns continue the merry-go-round, with Josh McCown, Manziel, Thad Lewis and Connor Shaw huddling daily in "the room" to bond and learn.

It's a bonding exercise Browns fans are quite familiar with because it seems to happen every offseason. The names change but the situation stays the same.

This may or may not be why Pettine flashed a gigantic Cheshire Cat grin when asked if the team was still open to trading up for Marcus Mariota in the draft. As he did, he said: "Sure ... why not?"

Well ... because you like the quarterback group you have.

It's tough to play coy with the 12th and 19th picks; keeping a trade open won't drive down the price. Either the Browns trade up or they don't (and if they do, it won't happen until draft night).

So if the team felt 100 percent fine with its group, the opportunity was there to say it. Pettine went "Alice in Wonderland," grinning then fading into the tree limb on which he sat.

Whether this limb will hold or crack depends on the group of four, with two veterans who have never been full-time starters and two young guys, one an underrated free agent who played the season finale and the other a first-round draft pick who just emerged from rehab.

The talk of Manziel wasn't gushing, but it was all positive. Joe Haden had to wait to shoot pool with him on Monday because he was working until 3, three hours after the workouts ended. Pettine said Manziel told him in a private meeting: Judge me by what I do, not what I say (an odd coincidence given those are the exact words the coach used about Manziel when the season ended). Pettine talked about Manziel being just "one of the guys," an interesting view given Manziel's public persona, but a fair one given teammates say Manziel is just that when in the building.

McCown had a rare moment of candor when asked how his relationship with Manziel was growing. "Well," he said, "it's Tuesday."

Meaning only Day 2 of workouts, the second day the pair has been together.

This is not to downplay or denigrate Manziel's actions. He took a courageous step going to rehab and spent time at Caron treatment center outside Reading, Pennsylvania, a facility that has no walls or fences; if an individual wants to leave, he or she can. Those who stay do so because they want to.

Manziel deserves tremendous credit for those actions.

But when it comes to his quarterbacking, he remains a projection, with hope based on the way he played in college and the question swirling about whether that style translates to the pros.

At this point, early in the offseason, the entire Browns' quarterback position is based on hope.

One day it will be based on the tangible presence of a guy who can stand in the pocket and make a throw.

Until then, hope lives -- every single offseason in Berea.