BEREA, Ohio -- As Eric Mangini pulled from the parking lot at Cleveland's training facility on Friday night, the eve before his first camp practice with the Browns, he did a double take when he spotted something strange outside the gates.
It was an overnight camper, sleeping out for the Browns.
"Amazing," Mangini said.
Not really. Make no mistake, win, lose or draw -- and in the case of the Browns in recent years, mostly lose -- this is still a football town. Or, as it says on the cover of the team's new media guide: "Cleveland lives football."
On Saturday, the Mangini Era officially kicked off as the former New York Jets coach opened camp with a pair of two-hour workouts under ideal weather conditions. With U2's anthemic Beautiful Day booming through loudspeakers rimming the newly re-sodded fields, the Browns began preparing for a season they can only hope goes better than the last one.
Mangini has taken over a club that collapsed under the weight of unreal expectations, finished 4-12 and all but fell off the NFL map.
It's a new season, but there's already a familiar feel: a quarterback competition between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, a race currently too close to call. Mangini knows it will be the topic du jour until he names his starter.
"We're probably going to talk about that every day, aren't we?" he asked.
Quinn, the people's choice who took over for Anderson last year before sustaining a season-ending finger injury, took the initial snaps from center with Cleveland's first-team offense during the morning workout. However, Mangini indicated the race is a long way from over.
At the conclusion of the team's minicamp in June, Mangini characterized the competition as even. And, as of now, it's still that tight.
"Just like we talked about when we broke up in the spring," Mangini said, when asked if it was a dead heat. "That's where we are."
Every one of their passes, downfield reads, at-the-line audibles and incompletions are expected to be analyzed by Mangini, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and quarterbacks coach Carl Smith.
During 7-on-7 drills, Anderson threw an interception when tight end Robert Royal broke off his route, then bounced back by throwing a long touchdown pass to Syndric Steptoe on the next play. Later, Anderson hooked up with rookie Brian Robiskie for another TD.
After one practice, Anderson, who has come out on both sides of QB derbies before, already seemed tired of the attention.
"It's going to play out how it's going to play out," he said. "I want to play. I want to have fun. I want to watch this team progress and whoever plays best is going to play."
Quinn has waited three years for his chance to take over the Browns, and although he'd easily win a popularity contest, the former Notre Dame star understands he has to convince a new coaching staff that it should be his job.
"I'm not going to speculate at this point," Quinn said. "My biggest thing right now is my confidence and how I'm playing and how I'm feeling now. My body feels great. It's the best it's ever felt going into a camp. I'm extremely comfortable with the offense, so I just have to string together some good practices and get us ready for our first preseason game."
Unlike last season, when fans chanted "Super Bowl" on Day One of Browns camp, the loudest screams were for post-practice autographs. Many fans held rosters to help them identify some of the 31 new players -- seven of them former Jets.
As Mangini's team broke its first sweat of summer, Browns Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Paul Warfield watched from the sideline along with team owner Randy Lerner, who fired Romeo Crennel after four seasons and hired Mangini to turn around the franchise.
Mangini's first practice included some hard hits in blocking and pass rushing drills, something rarely seen during Crennel's tenure.
It was a smooth opening session with two minor sideshows.
Wide receiver Braylon Edwards sat out with an unspecified leg injury, the same one that kept Cleveland's top playmaker off the field during minicamp. Edwards wouldn't elaborate on his injury, deflecting questions to Mangini, who is defiant in discussing medical conditions.
Edwards was placed on the non-football injury list this week. For now, he's limited to riding a stationary bike, running and stretching.
"I want to be out there with my team," he said. "Not being out there is very frustrating. It's very boring over there on that far field. The sooner I can get out there the better."
Mangini said Edwards will practice as soon as he gets medical clearance.
Kick specialist Joshua Cribbs, who wants the Browns give him a new contract, came to camp but didn't seem certain he would stay. Cribbs, with four years remaining on a six-year, $6.7 million deal, skipped the team's voluntary workouts in May.
"I can't make a prediction on how it's going to work out," said Cribbs, a Pro Bowl pick in 2007. "Hopefully something will be reached before the season starts. My only leverage is my heart to this team, what I've been giving to this team thus far."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press