BEREA, Ohio - Five games, nine interceptions and numerous other mistakes into his NFL career, Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden finally realizes he can't throw the ball the way he did in college.
There's no room for recklessness in the pros.
Weeden gets that now.
"It's an ego thing," he said. "I just need to get rid of the ego and take what they give me and move on and not be as stubborn. Just throw the football away and move on."
Weeden knows he must be less risky for the Browns (0-5) to have any chance of snapping their 11-game losing streak dating to last season. The first-round pick, who turns 29 on Sunday when Cleveland hosts the Cincinnati Bengals, has thrown costly interceptions the past two weeks.
Blessed with a powerful right arm, Weeden has always been able to fling the ball whenever he wanted and wherever he wanted. At Oklahoma State, no window was too tight for Weeden, who would simply load up and fire the ball to receivers.
But in trying to do the same thing with the Browns, the former minor league pitcher has made errors -- costly ones that have hurt the Browns chances to win.
He's inexperienced, but that's not an excuse for carelessness.
"I've played five games, I can't play the rookie card. It's long gone," Weeden said. "When you're in college and guys are open all the time, it's easy to be aggressive. In this league not everybody's open."
Weeden threw two interceptions in last week's 41-27 loss to the Giants. The first one, on a 3rd-and-1 play in the second quarter, triggered an avalanche of points for New York, which turned a 10-point deficit into a 10-point halftime lead. Weeden failed to throw the ball to Jordan Norwood in the flat for a potential first down and then threw high and wide to rookie Josh Gordon and was picked.
If Weeden had just held onto the ball, run it out of bounds or thrown it into the bleachers, the Browns could have settled for a field goal. Instead, Weeden's mistake was magnified when the Browns fumbled a kickoff and it wasn't long before they were walking to the locker room losing after leading 14-0.
Weeden wishes he could have it back.
"Just throw it out of bounds and let Phil (Dawson) kick the field goal and move on," Weeden said. "Since Sunday I've watched every game we've played so far. Just areas where I can throw the football away and move on to the next play."
He's learning the hard way, but the Browns are just pleased he's learning.
Weeden has improved each week. He's reading defenses much better and he's done a good job of sensing pressure and throwing ball before trouble arrives. He still has a gunslinger's mentality, but Weeden is beginning to understand that there's nothing noble about a turnover.
"There's a fine line between being aggressive and being overly aggressive," Weeden said. "Yeah, it's difficult because I want to make a play. I want big-chunk plays, I want explosive plays. We have the personnel to throw it and I'm able to make those throws. You don't want to take away from the aggressiveness, but at the same time you've got to be smart."
Weeden has already shown an uncanny ability to bounce back.
After throwing four interceptions in his debut against Philadelphia, Weeden followed up with a 322-yard, two-touchdown performance -- without an interception -- in a Week 2 loss to the Bengals. He threw two picks the following Sunday in a loss to Buffalo while trying to rally the Browns, and Weeden tossed a game-changing pick that was returned for a touchdown in a 23-16 loss at Baltimore.
Those miscues have masked Weeden's progress. His 202 attempts are second most in the league and he's 10th in passing yardage (1,288), just 11 fewer than Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. Erase that bad outing against the Eagles, and Weeden has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,170 yards.
Weeden, too, has had to play with a different corps of receivers each week as injuries have decimated Cleveland's skill players.
Weeden's biggest improvement may be in the mental aspect of his game. Browns coach Pat Shurmur was pleased to hear that Weeden had accepted that his mistakes can't continue.
"I want an aggressive quarterback that understands it's important to take care of the football," Shurmur said. "I'm glad to see that he's willing to admit mistakes, like we all should be able to do. That's the starting point to making corrections.
"You play fast and furious with no anxiety and if you make a mistake, you've got to be willing to admit it. Then you can start making corrections. Then you get with your coach, you correct the mistake, you move on fast to the next play. Somewhere in there, the teaching process does not work unless you're man enough to admit you've made a mistake."
Weeden has done that. The next step is getting a
His next chance comes on Weeden's birthday.
"It'd be a hell of a present," he said.
NOTES: LB D'Qwell Jackson returned to practice after suffering a concussion, but the Browns were missing seven players at practice, including defensive starters DT Ahtyba Rubin and LB Scott Fujita, who had his shoulder examined. The Browns are also down three WRs as Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring), Travis Benjamin (hamstring) and Jordan Norwood (foot) remain sidelined. Norwood was on crutches and in a walking boot. He did not speak with reporters. ... With Norwood out, WR Josh Cooper could be elevated from the practice squad. Cooper played with Weeden in college. "If it does happen, I'll be ready to go," he said. ... DT Phil Taylor is scheduled to return next week for the first time since undergoing surgery on a torn chest muscle.