Maybe Browns linebacker David Bowens was on to something when he said Monday that coach Eric Mangini is more player friendly than he was last season.
Later that day Mangini informed the players that there would be no practice Tuesday, which qualifies as player friendly. That force you feel shaking the ground near a gravesite in Massillon is Paul Brown taking a couple of spins.
The first week of training camp is one of the best times of the year for football coaches. They have virtually a full cast of healthy players on hand to be tested under intense summer heat. It's a chance to begin building the foundation for the regular season.
Giving up one of those valuable practices is out of character for any coach, which makes Mangini's decision a head-scratcher. The only reasonable explanation is that he's showing team president Mike Holmgren that reports of demanding practices in camp last year weren't true.
The bottom line is that the players like the new (dare we say improved) Mangini. Before you know there will be no curfew checks, late-night pizza deliveries will be tolerated and wives and girl friends will be permitted to roam the hallways at team headquarters every night.
Let's not get carried away here. Mangini might have mellowed a bit, but he hasn't lost track of his sense. He's still the head coach, and there's never been a head coach that didn't want to do what's needed to win. One day off for the players doesn't mean Mangini has gotten in touch with his feminine side.
The players were back on the field this morning to resume the serious side of camp. Once again it's about cultivating the influence quarterback Jake Delhomme seems to be developing on and off the field. It's about continuing the overhaul of the secondary, allowing the young receivers to mature and managing time for an aging defensive line, among other camp goals.
An interesting aspect of the first three days of camp has been the ubiquitous presence of the golf cart being driven from field to field by Holmgren, who's recovering from recent foot surgery. One day Holmgren was accompanied on the cart by Gil Haskell, senior advisor to the president, not to mention one of Holmgren's close friends. Another day Holmgren shared the cart with Ron Wolf, who helped rebuild the Green Bay Packers in the 1990s. Leaning against the cart was owner Randy Lerner, who's been as low profile as an owner can be in front of 3,000-plus fans each day.
Mangini has to sense the presence of those NFL heavyweights, but, given his background, he shouldn't be intimidated. Mangini has been around plenty of coaching musclemen in his career, including Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells. If he survived the ice-cold stares of those two, Mangini can deal with a some high-powered observers sitting on a golf cart.
That doesn't mean that Mangini hasn't changed. He learned from his mistake in 2009 when he strong-armed rookies to take a bus trip to attend a football camp he stages every year in Hartford, Ct. There was no such trip this year.
It appears as if Mangini has softened (he must cringe when he hears the word) a bit. I didn't say it. Bowens suggested it.
"A lot of stuff we like to keep internal, but you won't see a lot of groaning this camp as opposed to last year," Bowens said. "He's taking into consideration how players feel. We do have a lot of veterans on this team. He's given us the best chance to compete."
If Mangini continues with this player-friendly approach, who knows what's next. Individual cabanas and swimsuit-clad women cooling the players with palm fans is a possibility.