Greco passing on the pasta

CLEVELAND – John Greco undertook a difficult mission for someone who spends part of his offseason in the Mahoning Valley.

Try losing 25 pounds in an area that’s loaded with excellent Italian restaurants. Blocking Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions might be an easier task than turning down a luscious dish of lasagna with a couple slices of garlic bread.

Worse yet is that Greco, a graduate of Boardman High School, considers himself a chef with a specialty in homemade ravioli.

As important as good food is to Greco, maintaining his place as a starting guard for the Browns might be more important. The weight loss, which began last winter, was needed to better suit his skills to the zone-blocking running game being deployed by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

“It was a thing where they told me, and I listened,” said Greco, who went from 335 to 310. “I didn’t complain. I just said, ‘Give me some time; it’s not going to happen overnight.’ It just goes to show how hard we’re working as a group. Guys needed to lose weight.

“They kept a control on it. Just trying to eat right and doing all the exercise they told us, and it just kind of fell off.”

MUST SEE: Coach Mike Pettine seemingly has worked the run game more in training camp than any coach in recent memory. It’s expected to be the foundation piece to set up the play-action, bootleg and rollout passes that eventually will fit the style of quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Among things Pettine is anxious to see in the preseason opener Saturday in Detroit is how well the ground game operates against a talented Lions defensive front. Pettine singled out the competition at guard between Garrett Gilkey and Greco, adding that he’s anxious to see rookie left guard Joel Bitonio.

Gilkey’s first taste of NFL action came against the Lions in last season’s preseason opener. Drawing the intimidating Suh was the perfect test for Gilkey to determine if he was a NFL player or a failed seventh-round draft choice from small Chadron State.

“A lot of affirmation in that,” Gilkey said. “I didn’t give up any sacks against Suh, and I thought I played well for the circumstances, especially coming from a smaller school. Everyone put doubts on me. Now people can’t doubt me anymore.”

ROUGH DAY: Quarterback Brian Hoyer didn’t help his cause by having passes intercepted by linebacker Zac Diles and cornerback Joe Haden in a red-zone drill. Johnny Manziel was a bit sharper. He threw a short touchdown pass to Miles Austin in the red zone and also tossed a touchdown pass to Josh Gordon in 7-on-7.

HOW ARE YOU?: Prior to his interception, Haden, while walking to the sideline toward visitor LeBron James, said, “How are you doing cool?”

CAMPING OUT: Safety Donte Whitner and linebacker Karlos Dansby were given the day off. Cornerback Justin Gilbert was out. Pettine said he was “nicked up.” Tight end Jordan Cameron was out again with a shoulder injury and won’t play against the Lions. The challenge to wear the orange jerseys came down to three rounds of extra-point kicks by offensive and defensive linemen. Armonty Bryant was successful for the defense to start the competition. Gilkey followed by making one for the offense. Desmond Bryant missed for the defense. Joe Thomas gave the offense the lead with a good kick. Phil Taylor’s kick didn’t go above waist high, which gave a win to the offense. Both of the offense’s two wins have involved non-team competitions.