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Rookie WR Little delights Browns fans during public practice

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns hit the autograph line as hard as they did each other, delighting fans at a special "Family Day" practice.

New coach Pat Shurmur found his first workout held at Cleveland Browns Stadium exciting -- both results-wise and by the passion shown by a small but enthusiastic crowd Saturday.

"The ritual of playing in a stadium is something that excites all players and coaches," Shurmur said, adding that just being introduced held special meaning.

The squad came out fired up and rookie receiver Greg Little quickly made the first big play. The team's second-round draft pick made a leaping, one-handed grab in the end zone. Later, he "scored" again at the other end of the field.

"For him to go up and get the ball at its highest point like he did is good," Shurmur said. "He's made huge progress in one week. We expect him to go even farther."

The final play of the day was far enough, though Phil Dawson's 60-yard field-goal attempt was just wide right.

"Pretty good kick, huh?" Shurmur said. "Looked good to me."

All the Browns looked that way to fans, especially after the two-hour workout when the entire squad delayed hitting the showers to sign autographs in the hot sun.

To football-mad Clevelanders, it was as if the 4½-month NFL lockout as well as last year's 5-11 record never happened.

Star running back Peyton Hillis, return specialist Josh Cribbs and starting quarterback Colt McCoy drew the most attention, but every player was inundated with requests and all complied. Even No. 1 pick Phil Taylor had followers. A few fans wore his No. 98 jersey even though he signed only four days earlier.

"I saw it," the 338-pound defensive lineman said. "This was my first time being in the stadium and I love it."

Cornerback Joe Haden mostly observed play for the second straight day due to a tight hamstring, but was among the last to leave the nearly 30-minute signing session.

Defensive linemen Marcus Benard and Carlton Mitchell left the workout early. Benard came up limping during a 1-on-1 pass rush drill and put an ice bag on his right knee. Shurmur said he didn't think it was serious and that Mitchell "was just dealing with the heat a little bit."

Shurmur added he hopes to get running back Montario Hardesty, recovering from knee surgery, back in the next week.

"I'll just follow what they (trainers) tell me," said Hardesty, adding he is eager to start getting acclimated with the new West Coast offense.

Hillis said he hasn't experienced any problems with learning it and thinks the entire offense is progressing.

"Everybody is learning at a real rapid pace," said Hillis, whose hard-running style racked up 1,177 yards rushing a year ago in his first year in Cleveland.

McCoy agrees, even after being off the mark with a few passes and seeing one ball bounce off Hillis' pads into the hands of defensive back Mike Adams, who returned it 60 yards.

"Overall, we had a really good day," McCoy say. "How far we have made it in one week is great. We're pleased."

Both Shurmur and his second-year quarterback said a lot of work is needed on the two-minute drill, which sputtered Saturday.

"It's probably the thing that comes along the slowest," Shurmur said. "We got into a couple situations where we didn't complete some passes. And the defense did a nice job."

McCoy noted he must be better at running the two-minute offense, but finds it difficult to replicate in practice.

"To me, it's a game situation you can't really simulate," he said. "We need more practice. This next week (heading to the first exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers) is crucial. If we can make the same jump we made this week, I think we will feel comfortable with each other."

Notes: The Browns sold out their first home game (Sept. 11 vs. the Cincinnati Bengals) and the last (Jan. 1 vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers) in one day of single-game ticket sales to the public. Some season tickets and special packages are available for those two matchups against traditional AFC North rivals. ... Long snapper Ryan Pontbriand had a little fun during introductions, strutting onto the field and urging fans to cheer when the kicking team was presented first -- for perhaps the only time in the stadium's history. ... The Browns have Sunday off, then return to their practice facility in suburban Berea on Monday morning.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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