|Most everyone knows this is Browns' backup QB Colt McCoy, except for Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who misidentified McCoy as Browns' starting QB Brandon Weeden during a visit to Browns' camp on Wednesday.(US Presswire)|
There were more suits on the field Wednesday than Browns uniforms.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and current Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan were among the visitors at the Cleveland Browns' practice facility in suburban Berea, Ohio. Both were campaigning for Mitt Romney at nearby Baldwin-Wallace University. Their entourage of approximately 50 included Secret Service personnel and political reporters.
Rice, who has been a steadfast Browns fan since watching them play on television as a youth, spoke to the team. So did Ryan, who apparently misidentified backup quarterback Colt McCoy for starter Brandon Weeden. Browns linebacker Scott Fujita tweeted that Ryan looked McCoy "dead in the eye" and said "great job at Oklahoma State." It was Weeden, of course, that starred with the Cowboys.
Despite the mix-up, Weeden came away impressed and excited over the experience. The players alternatively laughed and applauded as Rice and Ryan gave their speeches.
"Those are people who run this country," Weeden said. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They took the time to speak with us. It was pretty cool."
Coach Pat Shurmur knew of Rice when both worked at Stanford -- the former as an offensive line coach and the latter as the Provost.
"That's an extremely impressive lady," he said.
Shurmur, however, joked that it was difficult to get to Ryan because the VP candidate from Wisconsin was busy doing a "secret Wisconsin handshake" with Browns Pro Bowl offensive tackle and former Badgers All-American Joe Thomas.
Lots of Luck: There will be one highlighted individual battle within the team battle in Indianapolis on Sunday. The focus will be on Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden and Colts counterpart Andrew Luck. The two rookies last clashed at a thrilling Fiesta Bowl on January 2.
Weeden's Oklahoma State Cowboys emerged with a 41-38 victory over Luck's Stanford Cardinal. But both performed brilliantly. Luck completed an amazing 27 of 31 passes for 347 yards. Weeden answered by hitting on 29 of 42 for 399 yards and three scores. He said it was the most pressure he ever felt on a football field until reaching the NFL.
While Luck was a consensus No. 1 overall pick, Weeden faded into the background before being taken No. 22 by the Browns. But Weeden has matched Luck throw for throw this season. He has completed 56 percent of his passes for 1,519 yards, seven touchdowns and a league-high 10 interceptions. Luck has completed 53 percent for 1,488 yards, seven touchdowns and seven picks. Luck is coming off his worst game of the season, a 35-9 loss to the New York Jets. Weeden is coming off arguably his best, beating Cincinnati for his first NFL victory.
As one might expect, Weeden downplayed the individual showdown.
"If he goes out and throws for 300 yards and I have to go out and throw for 301 -- that's not what it's all about," he said. "I know Andrew pretty well and he's a great guy. He's got a chance to be a special quarterback in this league, but more important he's a great guy."
Weeden added that his recent success throwing deep -- particularly to new featured receiver Josh Gordon -- has changed the approach of opposing defenses. The press man-to-man coverages and stacking of the box has been replaced by more spread formations. "We got guys who can run by you," he said. "They're giving us more cushion."
Maddening Marecic: Fullback Owen Marecic has four drops and zero catches this season. And every one of those passes has hit him squarely in the hands.
"I've never been more excited to catch the ball," he said. "It's frustrating that I haven't had the results."
One might presume that his excitement has caused the drops, but Marecic denies it. What he does know is that he's being counted on to add a dimension to the offense that he's not delivering.
"The coaches say it's a great addition to the offense when everyone who can catch the ball does it," Marecic said.
Shurmur and featured back Trent Richardson praised his blocking. Marecic played a key role in the success Sunday of backup running back Montario Hardesty, who replaced the injured Richardson.
Getting healthy again: The Browns are about as healthy as they've been all season. Several players returned to practice on Wednesday, including Richardson (ribs), defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (calf) and WRs Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin (hamstrings). Massaquoi had been the team's most effective receiver until going down.
Defensive tackle Phil Taylor (pectoral), who was eligible to return from the PUP list, has yet to practice and will probably not play Sunday in Indianapolis.
Linebacker Scott Fujita (neck, shoulder) is also missing. Several published reports have claimed he could be out the rest of the season. Shurmur declined to elaborate on his situation.
Bits and pieces: Shurmur said he's "at peace" with the knowledge that he is being evaluated by new owner Jimmy Haslam and new CEO Joe Banner. ... The Browns rank 19th in the NFL at 22.3 points per game. They were 29th a year ago at 12.9. But injuries and the suspension to cornerback Joe Haden have taken a toll on the defense. That unit is tied for 22nd in the league at 27.2 points per game. It was 10th a year ago at 19.2 ppg.
Stay dialed in on the Cleveland Browns on Twitter at @CBSBrowns throughout the season with on-site updates from CBSSports.com RapidReports correspondent Marty Gitlin.