BEREA, Ohio -- As Jamal Lewis backtracked on his stinging comments directed at Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini for overworking his players, several teammates gathered near the running back's locker. One of them even stood on a nearby chair.
Soon, the players began a chant.
"J-Lew, J-Lew, J-Lew," they hollered.
One day after Lewis' anti-Mangini rant, the 10-year NFL veteran was being hailed as a hero.
Maybe because he stood up to his coach.
On Friday, Mangini defended the length and intensity of his practices after Lewis had complained that Cleveland's players are being worked too hard.
Lewis asserted Thursday that Mangini was wearing out his players during the week with 2½- to 3-hour workouts and that they have nothing left by kickoff. Mangini maintained Friday that his practices aren't any longer or more physical than ones he has conducted in the past.
The New York Jets struggled down the stretch in the final two seasons of Mangini's three-year tenure. The Jets went 1-4 in the last five games of 2008 and closed out 2007 with a 1-3 finish. The Jets went 4-1 in the final five game of 2006, Mangini's first season.
"I feel good about the way we practice, the time we practice," said Mangini, who's 1-7 in his first season with the Browns. "Two hours of work on the field is a very reasonable time. The only time that practices are extended is if we don't execute something the right way."
Mangini said that he and Lewis, a team captain, had a "good conversation" Thursday and discussed their differences. Mangini didn't provide any details of their meeting and said he doesn't view Lewis' comments as conduct detrimental to the Browns, who will play the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night.
"Like with any conversation, sometimes you agree on things, sometimes you change some things, sometimes you agree to disagree," Mangini said. "You appreciate everybody's perspective and input, and then you make the decision that you think is best for the team."
Mangini stressed that his workouts are rarely longer than two hours -- with a 30-minute walkthrough.
"For the record, it's two hours," the coach said with emphasis. "That's the facts. That's the reality of it. It's two hours a day. Less on Friday."
Following Friday's workout, Lewis said he appreciated the chance to meet with Mangini. Then, as he has done in the past, Lewis said the media had twisted his comments.
"We got a chance to talk and exchange ideas and everything and get a view of what he's trying to accomplish and what's going on," Lewis said of his meeting with Mangini. "Basically got a chance to talk and settle things out. I let him know that your guys' story was kind of blown out of proportion and it was worded and went in a certain way. But that's how the media is."
Browns tight end Robert Royal said the spontaneous cheering for Lewis had nothing to do with Thursday's events.
"Naw," Royal said. "We pick on each other all the time. At the end of the day, I think we had a good practice, and guys were having a little fun messing around with him."
Royal also said Mangini has been unfairly portrayed as a tyrant.
"He's a likeable guy," Royal said. "If he wasn't, you'd see a whole bunch of guys in the locker room divided. But I think for the most part, guys still believe in what he's trying to teach, his philosophy. He's a good guy."
During his rant Thursday, Lewis said Mangini was pushing his players too hard.
"You can work as hard as you want," Lewis said. "You can work all day, seven days a week all the way up to Sunday in practice. But at the same time, if you're going to work like that, then maybe on Sunday you're probably not going to get what you want out of your players."
Mangini doesn't believe his players are beat up by game time.
"Some of the things that have happened on game days are things that we can control by protecting the football better, by communicating better, by all those different things that you try to improve week in and week out," he said. "In terms of volume of practice, it's significantly less than my first year in New York, and we went 10-6 there."
Lewis said he and Mangini attempted to work through their differences.
"We talked, and he told me why we do the things that we do and what he's looking for, and basically, my job is to come out here and lead by example and help everybody out," Lewis said.
Lewis' comments Thursday came a few hours before a Browns practice-squad player, defensive end Keith Grennan, sustained a serious knee injury during a post-practice "opportunity period." Mangini confirmed Grennan's injury but didn't specify its nature or severity.
Grennan is the second Browns player to be injured during the post-practice drills. Earlier this season, rookie running back James Davis suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during one such workout.
Mangini defended the sessions as a chance for players to receive more repetitions. He cited linebacker Marcus Benard, signed from the practice squad this week, as an "opportunity period" success story. Mangini said the voluntary sessions also were held when he coached under Bill Belichick in New England, where it helped a young Tom Brady develop as a quarterback.
"I believe in this fundamentally," Mangini said. "Over time, so many guys have benefited from it. I think it increases the possibility of success."
Copyright 2009 by the Associated Press