BEREA, Ohio — No wonder Colt McCoy doesn't fear blitzing NFL defensive ends and appears to be a lot tougher than he looks.
He takes after his rugged grandfather.
Cleveland's rookie quarterback, off to an impressive start in his brief pro career, said Thursday that his 78-year-old grandfather, Burl McCoy, is home recovering from a broken sternum, ribs, and facial cuts suffered when his tractor flipped over last week while he was working on the family farm in Brownwood, Texas.
The elder McCoy was transporting a gate when the tractor overturned, throwing him off the vehicle and under it. Despite his serious injuries, Burl McCoy got up, managed to turn off the tractor, and walked back to his house before calling for emergency help.
He was discharged on Wednesday.
“He's a tough ol' man,” McCoy said, shaking his head as he dressed for practice. “He's going to be fine. I talked to him, and he said he's cool. ‘Don't worry about me, just do what you do.'”
For McCoy, that meant preparing for his fifth straight start as the Browns (3-6) begin a stretch of four road games in five weeks with a visit to Jacksonville (5-4). In going 2-2 in four games since taking over as Cleveland's starter, McCoy has earned his teammates' respect and sparked a feeling around the city as well as in the locker room that he could be the Browns' quarterback of the future.
McCoy has answered questions about his size, arm strength, and accuracy in games against Pittsburgh, New Orleans, New England, and the New York Jets. The 24-year-old has shown mobility, patience, courage, and determination. He's taken command of the huddle, spent extra time in the film room, and quickly embraced a leadership role, something he has done at every level.
McCoy's maturity has impressed, and to a degree, surprised the Browns' coaches, who weren't sure how he would respond when he was thrown into his first start on the road against the Steelers.
In the final two minutes last week against the Jets, McCoy calmly looked in the eyes of Cleveland's offensive players and told them they would score and tie the game. The Browns did just that before losing in overtime.
He's a natural leader.
Coach Eric Mangini has been dazzled by McCoy's consistency and resolve.
“Mentally, there's been a lot of pressure that could have been put on him from who he's faced so far and being such a young guy in that role,” he said. “You wouldn't really know that anything has changed in terms of his personality in the building, the meetings, and it's been consistent.
“He may get angry about missing something that he thinks he should've gotten, but it's not flustered. It's more like, ‘I should've had that,' or ‘I recognize that. I should've gotten that.' He's very under control throughout the course of the game. It's not too high or too low, it's just steady.”
Working on the farm in Texas, McCoy learned the value of hard work and focus. Playing for his father, Brad, in high school, he was taught to lead by example.
Keep your composure and others will too.
“I've just been around the game long enough to understand that the quarterback is the leader on the team, it's the guy your teammates are looking to, and you've got to be even-keel,” McCoy said. “You can't be too high or too low. If your teammates see you too excited or when you make a mistake too down, you're not going to be consistent. Just try to stay calm, stay cool, and just continue to lead.”
McCoy's humble, aw-shucks attitude and boyish looks belie his physical strength. Listed at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, he's bigger in person than you might think, and it looks as if he's been spending some extra time pumping weights since joining the Browns.
He might not be the first guy you'd pick for a fight, but McCoy can handle himself.
“I don't know if he's going to hang with Matt Roth,” Mangini joked, referring to Cleveland's menacing linebacker. “You have to be tough to play that [QB] spot. You're going to get hit, and you've got to sit in there knowing that you could be hit from behind too.
“There are a lot of angles that you could get knocked down, and it takes some courage to do that.”
The kind that it takes to take on your tractor.
The McCoys raise cattle and sow wheat and cotton on one of two farms Burl McCoy, a star athlete at Abilene Christian University where he also coached women's basketball, continues to work on a daily basis. Without Colt or his cousins around to help, he has had to do much of it on his own.
But once the Browns' season ends in January, his famous football-playing grandson will be able to roll up his sleeves and lend a hand.
“Now I'm going to have to be the farmer,” McCoy said, smiling. “No break.”
Benard feeling better
BEREA, Ohio — Marcus Benard now knows that stress can hit as hard as he does.
The Browns linebacker recalled his medical scare last week when he collapsed in Cleveland's locker room as he and his teammates were dressing for practice.
Benard, who was sitting in front of his locker when he fainted, was briefly hospitalized.
“It was stress related,” Benard said. “I've got a lot going on personally. I've just got to take care of my body better with the things that are going on.”
Benard underwent a battery of tests and said doctors have ruled out any heart problems or other major medical condition. He was cleared to play last Sunday, three days after the fainting episode, but wasn't around in the locker room after Cleveland's 26-20 overtime loss to the New York Jets.
His absence raised concerns the likable 25-year-old had fallen ill again. That wasn't the case.
“Nothing happened,” he said. “I had a baby, that's where I rushed off to.”
Benard's son, Ashai Sharoz, which he said means “a special gift” in Arabic, was born Monday.
He said the child's birth was part of the stress that led to his collapse, which happened during the 45-minute period the locker room is open to media members.