BEREA — Freddie Kitchens’ voice got loud. His cheeks were flushed.
The new Browns coach is fed up with the discussion of receiver Odell Beckham Jr. not attending the voluntary offseason program, including a minicamp this week.
“If we can’t have him ready to play when he shows up, they need to find a new coach,” Kitchens said, pointing out Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald won the league’s last two defensive player of the year awards after sitting out training camp.
Kitchens conceded he’d prefer if all his players attended every workout and meeting — receiver Jarvis Landry and running back Duke Johnson also skipped the minicamp — but refused to criticize Beckham, who was acquired in a March trade with the Giants.
“Of course, I would rather him be here than not here, but I understand why,” Kitchens said. “I talk to Odell every day. He knows what we’re doing offensively every day.
“He will be ready to play. Don’t worry about that.”
Some members of the media and fan base have been outspoken about Beckham not joining the majority of his teammates at Browns headquarters in April. The argument is Beckham’s on a new team with a new coaching staff, so the more time spent together would be beneficial for chemistry and understanding of the playbook and offensive system.
“I also understand that you guys are trying to define and draw lines in the sand between coaches and players and players and players and that ain’t gonna happen anymore,” Kitchens said. “And there’s no problem with Odell not being here. I’d rather him be here. He’s not here. It’s voluntary. That’s what the word voluntary means. He can decide to come or he can’t.
“But under no circumstance am I going to say that I’m pissed off at Odell for not being here. He’ll be ready to play and ultimately that’s the only thing I want, for him to be ready to play when we start kicking off in September and he will be — I promise you.”
Beckham spent five years with the Giants and admitted it took him awhile to “come to grips” with the idea of joining the Browns. He showed up for the first day of the offseason program April 1, gushed about being reunited with longtime close friend Landry, then left town and hasn’t returned.
The organized team activities begin May 14, and Beckham could participate in some of those practice sessions. He tweeted this week he’s training hard and working to give Browns fans the “best version of myself on and off the field”
He spends much of his time in Los Angeles, where he worked out with Landry and quarterback Baker Mayfield last summer.
“I’ll tell you this about Odell Beckham and Baker Mayfield. I think they have a pretty good relationship and they’ve formed pretty good camaraderie,” Kitchens said. “They’ve worked out for two summers in California and I don’t see their camaraderie being a problem.”