Brandon Weeden can’t wait for Thursday night.
Yes, it’s only an exhibition game, but it marks his debut for the Dallas Cowboys and perhaps his only start of 2014.
“It’ll be good to be out there with those guys,” Weeden said. “We’ve got some great offensive weapons. I’m excited to be able to go out and compete with those guys. It’s the first time with the star on my helmet, and it feels good. It’s very exciting.”
For a time, Weeden was the man in Cleveland. Now, he is but a backup whom the Cowboys hope never sees the field in the regular season.
Weeden, a first-round pick of the Browns’ in 2012, was signed in the off-season to back up Tony Romo. Romo has been rehabbing his surgically repaired back and won’t play in the preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers.
Weeden could play as much as a half, with Caleb Hanie and Dustin Vaughan taking snaps in the second half.
“He just needs to play,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “If you know his biography, his time he spent in baseball, a two-year stint at Oklahoma State and playing in a couple of different systems in Cleveland.
“He just needs to takes snaps. He has a lot of natural ability. You can see that. He is really good throwing the football. He can throw any kind of ball you want him to throw. He just needs to take snaps, and to see him grow when he gets an opportunity to take snaps, make mistakes, make plays and learn from it all.”
Weeden turns 31 in October, but he is a young quarterback after spending five seasons in professional baseball. He made 20 starts and threw 784 passes for 5,116 yards and 23 touchdowns and 26 interceptions in his two seasons with the Browns.
“I’m still seeing things for the first time,” Weeden said. “I think that gets kind of lost in translation, because of my age. But this league is a big transition coming from college football, especially the system I played in. It’s a lot different.
“When you get to this level, it takes time. It takes time to get your feet wet and see some things that make you comfortable. I’m getting there, but it’s still early. It’s still early in my career.”
Weeden is the least experienced No. 2 quarterback that Garrett has had since he arrived as offensive coordinator in 2007, with Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna and Kyle Orton having far more starts when they arrived in Dallas.
But Romo’s back surgery, and Orton’s retirement, led to valuable reps for Weeden, who is playing in his third system, with his third offensive coordinator and his third head coach in three years. Romo took Tuesday off, giving Weeden yet more experience with the Cowboys’ first team.
It is a new start.
“You’re a No. 1 draft choice, and the expectations are really high for you,” Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said. “Then, the second year, they bring in another [head coach], and the expectations are still there.
“You come here, and I think it’s an opportunity to kind of get a fresh start. He can learn without having the pressure to play right away, hopefully. It will give him a chance to learn and develop.”