Football / Sports

Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer vows comeback

BEREA, Ohio -- Brian Hoyer knows the Browns will likely draft a quarterback who'll threaten his mission to reclaim the starting job.

His attitude? He still considers himself the starter, so bring it on.

"My goal is to be the starting quarterback again," Hoyer said Thursday during a PLAY 60 football festival at the team's field house, where about 700 Special Olympics athletes and coaches from Cleveland schools took part in activities. "That's what every day I come in here and work towards, and it's definitely a motivation for me."

The Browns could select Hoyer's main competition with the fourth overall pick or with another lucrative choice early in the first round if new General Manager Ray Farmer makes a trade. Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Central Florida's Blake Bortles, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Fresno State's Derek Carr are the top-rated quarterbacks in this year's class.

Nowadays, quarterbacks who are picked early usually play right away, although Hoyer doesn't seem convinced that a rookie could beat him out.

"Veterans have an advantage on rookies anyway 'cause those guys -- I know from my first year -- you train so much for the combine, things like that, that you're not really training for reading defenses, playing football," said Hoyer, a North Olmsted native and Cleveland St. Ignatius High School graduate who entered the NFL in 2009 as an undrafted free agent with the New England Patriots. "You're worried about your 40 (-yard dash), your drops, things like that. For a veteran, I'm worried about minicamp. I'm not worried about going out and running a 40. So we've got an advantage anyway, and there's always going to be competition. So I'm looking forward to it."

Hoyer, 28, has reasons to be confident, especially if he can bounce back from a significant injury.

He led the Browns to back-to-back wins in September before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Oct. 3 against the Buffalo Bills. He had surgery Oct. 18 but expects to be able to participate in the team's offseason conditioning program, which is tentatively scheduled to begin April 7.

"I'm definitely on schedule, if not ahead," Hoyer said. "At this point now, we're kind of out of the rehab phase and more into the strengthening. So much of the little rehab stuff, I'm kind of over now. It's lifting, running, dropping back, throwing. It's more of the strengthening and getting acclimated and doing more football things -- cutting, those types of things.

"Every day I come in here and do something more. To me, it seems more and more conceivable that April is a (realistic) target date now. How much I can do I don't know, but the stuff I'm doing in here now I don't think is much different than (what) we'd be doing in April anyway."

Hoyer is eager not only to show he can have a successful comeback, but also that he can master a new scheme again. He's been with four teams in the past year and a half, and new Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan presents another change. Hoyer has already talked to Washington Redskins backup quarterback and fellow Michigan State product Kirk Cousins about what it's like to play for Shanahan.

"He had nothing but great things to say and we kind of compared notes on offenses and stuff like that, so I'm excited," Hoyer said. "Now I can get a chance to watch their film from last year and kind of get a feel for (Shanahan's) style of offense, and I think I fit that style really well. There's drop backs, there's play action, there's a good running game that's involved, which makes it easier on the quarterback in the play-action game."

Another change is Mike Lombardi, a staunch supporter of Hoyer, no longer being with the Browns. On Tuesday, owner Jimmy Haslam fired Lombardi, who spent about a year as the team's general manager. Lombardi will join the Patriots as a personnel executive, according to several reports.

"Mike Lombardi was a big reason I came here," said Hoyer, who signed with his hometown team last May. "He had a lot of faith in me, and I'll always appreciate what he did for me to a point where not a lot of people believed in me. And I'll always look to prove him right."

Neither Farmer nor coach Mike Pettine has told Hoyer their plans for him, but he doesn't expect them to do so at this early stage of the offseason. He's eager to work with them.

"From my time talking to Coach Pettine, I'm excited to play for the guy," Hoyer said. "He's going to bring some intensity, accountability, all of those things. For me, I can't wait for April to start."

Pettine is already a fan of Hoyer. He spent last season as the Bills' defensive coordinator and thoroughly studied Hoyer before their matchup in October.

"He's a great leader," Pettine said Thursday. "He knows how to prepare. He came out of that system (in New England and) learned from Tom Brady. I think his football acumen is off the chart, and you could tell (by watching film). There are certain quarterbacks, you look for an 'it' factor. You might not be able to necessarily describe what 'it,' is but he has 'it."'

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