Football / Sports

Browns QB Brian Hoyer insists he's not looking over his shoulder

BEREA, Ohio -- Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer has one of the most popular rookies in NFL history breathing down his neck, but he knows he can't afford to worry about job security or being underappreciated because of the hype surrounding Johnny Manziel.

"I'm the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. There's nothing to complain about," Hoyer said Wednesday after practice. "So I'm happy with where I am, and we just have to continue to improve and get better, and we'll have a great year."

Even though Hoyer was named the starting quarterback over Manziel three weeks ago, Johnny Football isn't going away anytime soon. The Browns might even feature Manziel in a package of plays designed for him Sunday, when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers in the regular-season opener. Coach Mike Pettine, of course, declined to reveal whether he plans to deploy Manziel at Heinz Field.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger admitted he wouldn't be in favor of yielding to a specialty package.

"It's tough," Roethlisberger said. "Me, personally, I want to do whatever's best for this team, but I know where a lot of quarterbacks are coming from when they say they want to stay on the field. I'd want to stay on the field, too.

"When you line up with your quarterback behind center, it gives you usually the best chance to win, and you want to get into a rhythm, you want to get into some kind of a flow and it's hard to do that when you're alternating series or you're not in there for this or you come out for a certain play. I know how frustrating it can probably be for some quarterbacks."

Hoyer, however, insists he can check his ego and be the ultimate team player in the event a package featuring Manziel is unleashed.

"If it helps us win a game, that's what it comes down to," Hoyer said. "Whether we win the game by a field goal, by one point, whatever. Me, obviously, as a competitor, you want to be out there, but if our coaching staff thinks there's a package that can help us win, then the team is way bigger than me. So I'm a team player. I just want to win football games here. That's all."

Pettine doesn't want any of his starters to become complacent, but he also doesn't want Hoyer to be concerned about losing his job. Pettine conveyed the message to Hoyer when he was named the starter Aug. 20.

"Quarterback's the one position where you can't be as quick on that trigger," Pettine said. "When we met to discuss him being the starter, it was, 'Hey, this is your team. This is your offense.' That we have his back. That we didn't go with him and just say, 'Hey, listen, we might do this and see how it goes, and after a series, we might switch it back.' I know you can't do that at quarterback. Some other positions it's different. You do want your guys running a little scared."

Hoyer appreciated the support Pettine promised.

"He said, 'Look, I just want you go to out there and be yourself and play and not worry about anything else,' " Hoyer said. "And I think that's how my mentality is regardless. This is something I've worked toward, and I'm not looking back."

Pettine suggested Hoyer is not on a short leash, although he acknowledged the existence of a leash.

"He knows it's not going to be a quick hook, but he also knows in the long run this is a production business," Pettine said. "You have to produce or there will be a change made. But I don't think he's going into this game feeling that. I think he's fully focused on Pittsburgh and being productive."

Hoyer swears he isn't looking over his shoulder.

"I'm always looking at the opponent, to be honest with you," he said. "We're trying to be the best team we can be, the best offense we can be, so it's not something that even crosses my mind right now."

Pettine is encouraged about where Hoyer stands mentally and physically -- he's coming back from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in his right knee Oct. 3. He also believes Hoyer's chemistry with his supporting cast has improved lately.

"I think it's all arrow up," Pettine said. "... Since we named him 1/8the starter3/8, I just think he's improved each day."

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin reiterated he expects the Browns to use Manziel on Sunday. But he also emphasized how impressed he is with Hoyer, who spent part of the 2012 season with the Steelers after serving as the backup to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the first three seasons of his career.

"Brian was a consummate professional," Tomlin said. "He was an energy bringer. He's a football junkie. He's really sharp. He loves it, and I like working with guys like that."

Hoyer created a spark for the Browns last season. After they started the season 0-2, he came off the bench and went 2-0 as the starter before suffering the season-ending knee injury in the first quarter of a win over the Buffalo Bills.

Now Hoyer will have a shot to generate energy out of the gate.

"This sense of urgency, I think that's always been ingrained in me, even through college, but especially my time in New England," Hoyer said. "Have a sense of urgency and be the attacker. Don't let them attack you and have to respond."

(c)2014 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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