Published October 17, 2012
BEREA, Ohio – On a visit to the Cleveland Browns, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan fumbled.
Ryan stopped by the team's complex with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — a lifelong Cleveland fan — as the Browns were beginning practice Wednesday. While addressing the huddled players, Ryan confused Browns backup quarterback Colt McCoy for starter Brandon Weeden.
As Ryan spoke, it became obvious that while he was looking at McCoy, he was talking about Weeden, the rookie from Oklahoma State who got his first NFL win last Sunday on his 29th birthday. A few of the Browns players began laughing quietly while others looked away before the candidate realized his mistake.
"I think he saw the red (practice) jerseys and got us mixed up," Weeden said. "But he's got more important things on his mind right now than me and Colt. It was a good laugh."
NFL quarterbacks wear red jerseys in practice to distinguish them so they don't have contact.
Both Ryan and Rice, who earlier appeared together at nearby Baldwin Wallace University, spoke to the team before their workout on an unusually warm afternoon. The dignitaries were accompanied onto the field by new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III and a large entourage which included Secret Service members, who put a scare into cornerback Joe Haden.
"It was crazy, man," Haden said. "I was nervous. All these Secret Service coming out to practice, I didn't know what was going on. I stepped off the field, got out of the way. I was legit scared. I didn't want to get too close to people with earpieces looking at me."
Ryan also met with Browns coach Pat Shurmur and Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas, a fellow Wisconsin native.
"I had to get through the secret Wisconsin handshake," Shurmur joked. "They were exchanging handshakes and winks and talking about fishing holes and stuff."
Rice has spent time at Cleveland's training facility before. She's been a fan of the Browns since she was a little girl growing up in Birmingham, Ala., where she and her father would watch the team's games on television. Rice went out of her way to speak with Browns running back Trent Richardson, who played at Alabama.
"She told me she was a big fan and she said, 'Roll Tide,'" Richardson said. "She mentioned my name when she was talking to the team so that was an honor."
Browns return specialist Josh Cribbs was thrilled to hear that Rice wears one of his No. 16 jerseys.
"I have nothing but respect for her," Cribbs said, adding Rice gave the team a pep talk. "She let us know how big a fan she was and even in her time spent at the White House she was rocking her Browns gear around and making everyone upset at her. She roots for us from afar and we appreciate her coming and taking time to talk to us."
With all the security, Haden joked that he didn't want to get too near Ryan or Rice for risk of personal injury.
"I didn't want to get too close to the presidential candidates," he said. "This is over my head. She has the Cribbs jersey, so I let Cribbs go over there and tell her I said hi."