Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren, left, talks with former Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel, center, and former Michigan head football coach Lloyd Carr at Cleveland Browns NFL football training camp in Berea, Ohio.
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BEREA, Ohio — His hands clasped behind his back in a familiar pose, Jim Tressel was back on a football sideline.
Just no longer as a coach.
Ousted at scandal-ridden Ohio State and without a team to lead and teach for the first time in 25 years, Tressel visited Cleveland's training camp, where he intently watched practice, spent time with new Browns coach Pat Shurmur and quarterback Colt McCoy — and even reminisced with former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.
As he left the Browns' facility Tuesday, driving a scarlet Mustang convertible with a gray pinstripe that included a few Ohio State block Os, Tressel was asked if he would consider an NFL consulting job.
"Not right now," he said. "I'm a fan. Always been a Browns fan."
Tressel's appearance was a surprise and caused a stir on an otherwise routine morning of camp as the Browns continue installing their new offense and preparing for the upcoming season.
Dressed casually in a golf shirt, shorts and baseball cap, Tressel spent most of the 2-hour-plus workout standing near midfield and watched as the Browns went through their drills.
Tressel and Carr stayed about 25 yards apart during practice.
During a break, McCoy ran over and warmly said hello to Tressel, who had a few motivational words for the second-year quarterback.
"I told him, 'Hey, Colt. I grew up just a couple blocks down the street,'" said Tressel, whose father, Lee, was a legendary coach at nearby Baldwin-Wallace College. "'We need ya, buddy.'"
As a kid, Tressel often visited Browns camp with his father. A young Jim Tressel once held the ball for Lou "The Toe" Groza as the Hall of Famer practiced kicking field goals.
At Texas, McCoy twice faced Tressel, losing to the Buckeyes in his second game as a freshman and beating Ohio State as a junior in the Fiesta Bowl. McCoy has a deep respect for Tressel and was excited both he and Carr were on hand.
"It was great," he said. "To have coaches like that to come out here and watch practice and be around, that's neat. I played against coach Tressel a couple times in college, so we have a friendly relationship and I was able to go say, 'Hi, and thanks for coming.' I know he's a big Browns fan, so that's pretty cool."
Tressel didn't speak with reporters after he came off the practice field, walking side-by-side with Carr. But later, after lunch and touring the Browns' headquarters with team president Mike Holmgren, Tressel politely answered a few questions for two reporters in the parking lot.
Tressel's car was surrounded by fans seeking autographs, and he signed most of them, "Go Bucks! Jim Tressel."
One fan asked Tressel if he would coach again.
"I hope so," he said. "I'm taking it one day at a time."
Tressel is excited about the job Shurmur, the Browns' fifth full-time coach since 1999, is doing. Tressel also noted the Browns' practice was crisp and included plenty of instruction.
"He's an impressive guy," he said of Shurmur. "He's got a great mentor in coach (Mike) Holmgren. You could feel the energy around here. I was impressed with all the teaching going on. I've been to plenty of NFL camps where they guys are just standing around, lollygagging."
Shurmur shared a funny story about his first brush with Tressel's immense aura in Ohio.
"When I first got here to town, I went to a restaurant and they didn't really recognize me," Shurmur said. "Somebody in the kitchen said, 'It's the coach.' So the waitress came up embarrassed and said, 'Gosh, I didn't know you were here. It's nice to meet you — Coach Tressel."
Following practice, Tressel and Carr shared stories and laughs with Holmgren. Tressel said he was thrilled to again see Carr, but he didn't dare bring up the 2006 Ohio-State-Michigan game when the top-ranked Buckeyes beat the Wolverines 42-39.
"No, not that one," Tressel said with a laugh. "We did talk about back in the day. It was great to see him."
Carr said the same. He has lasting admiration for Tressel, his former rival and a man he hopes will one day coach again.
"From a personal and coaching standpoint, it was a tragedy," he said of Tressel's stunning fall at Ohio State. "We all feel for Jim, and if I know him, he'll rebound."
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