Brian Hoyer spent a long, merciless winter in Cleveland rehabbing his right knee so he'd be ready for the day he could run on the field again.
He's never worked harder at anything in his life.
The Browns are his team, and have been since he was a little kid. And now that he's back — not 100 percent, but getting there — the homegrown quarterback, whose promising 2013 season was cut short after only two starts by a serious injury, isn't about to let go of his dream of leading an NFL team without a fight.
Cleveland can draft a franchise quarterback next week. Hoyer believes the Browns already have one.
"I know how I feel about myself," he said. "I know how my teammates feel. I'm trying to go out and prove it to these new coaches and all I can really ask for is a chance and I think I'll get that. I'm going out there every day, and until someone tells me otherwise, I think I'm the starter for this team."
Six months after surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Hoyer participated in Cleveland's first voluntary minicamp practice Tuesday to rave reviews. It was a significant step for the 28-year-old, who showed poise and potential in winning his first two starts before he was injured while sliding at the end of scramble against Buffalo.
Hoyer was sharp during the portion of practice open to media members. He didn't show any limitations while making cuts, and displayed nice footwork while firing pinpoint passes. If not for the brace on his right knee, there would have been no evidence Hoyer had been hurt.
Following the indoor workout, Hoyer was upbeat and somewhat relieved.
"It was awesome," he said. "I felt really good, which was no surprise to me. I felt like I was prepared for this for a while. It's just good to play football again."
Hoyer has been cleared to do individual work, but not take part in team drills. The Browns don't want to take any unnecessary risks with Hoyer. But that didn't stop him from pleading with new Browns coach Mike Pettine to let him jump behind center during 11-on-11 drills.
"He begged me to be able to jump in there for the team stuff and I had to play head coach for a minute and tell him no," Pettine said. "But again, that's the way he is. That's the way he's made up, ultimate competitor, so I think he firmly believes that it's his job."
Hoyer spent three seasons sitting behind Tom Brady, then made one start during a year in Arizona before getting his shot last year with the Browns.
He's aware Cleveland could use the No. 4 overall pick next week on a quarterback. There's a chance in a few weeks Hoyer could find himself competing with someone like Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel.
How would he react?
"Just be myself," he said. "I have to do what I do on a daily basis and work hard. That's all I know how to do."
Hoyer isn't the only quarterback trying to make an impression this week.
Vince Young, who hasn't played in an NFL regular-season game since 2011, has three days to convince the Browns he can help them. The 30-year-old said he's motivated to resume a career after being sidetracked the past few seasons.
"The fire is lit always," Young said. "One thing a lot of people don't know, I love this game so much."
Young has been given no guarantees other than he'll get a chance. He was with Green Bay late last summer, but got released. Young was reluctant to discuss why his pro career has stalled.
"I'm just happy to have the opportunity playing for a historic team, a respectful team," Young said. "It's a long history for the Browns.
"I'm just going to make the best of it."
Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon has admired Young for years. Gordon's mom taught Young in elementary school and has looked up to the fellow Texan.
From what Gordon can tell, Young isn't done yet.
"Oh yeah," he said. "He's still got it."
NOTES: RB Dion Lewis, OL Chris Faulk, LB Quentin Groves and S Josh Aubrey were on the field after sustaining season-ending injuries in 2013. WR/KR Travis Benjamin is on schedule after undergoing knee surgery, but Pettine said the Browns will likely keep him out until training camp.
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