BEREA — Odell Beckham Jr. may have felt like the “new kid at school,” but he sure looked comfortable in the unfamiliar surroundings.
He lined up wide on the left and right sides and as the slot receiver. He snatched a wayward pass with a spin and another with one hand. He talked to owner Jimmy Haslam.
When Beckham was done practicing with the Browns for the second straight day — third time overall — he addressed a throng of media. He was at ease there, too, dropping a line that will fire up fans, and possibly find its way onto a T-shirt.
“I do see a lot of potential with this team, and not even just because I’m here,” he said Wednesday at minicamp. “I really feel it, and I feel something in the air, something special that Cleveland hasn’t had for a while. And I’m happy to be a part of that. I hope that I can help do whatever I need to do to push that that way.”
The theme of the day was: better late than never.
Beckham attended one of nine organized team activities practices last month and only three days total of the voluntary program. He was scheduled to speak to reporters before practice — for the first time since his introductory news conference April 1 after the trade from the Giants — but bumped it to the afternoon.
“I know my body better than anybody else so I know what it takes to get me in top physical condition, mental, all of those things,” he said of his prolonged absence from the team. “This isn’t my first rodeo.”
He was a limited participant in team drills but caught an out and a slant from Baker Mayfield and worked against young cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams. Beckham included a mid-practice change of cleats from multicolored to gold.
“I feel good just to be back out here,” he said. “It’s what you dreamed all your life in a new place, new environment, so just catching on, catching up with teammates and make sure I get back to where I know I can be at.”
Beckham said he was overwhelmed with emotions.
“I’m almost giddy, I feel like a little kid with the excitement that I have, seeing Baker, seeing these guys,” he said. “I’m beyond excited about the opportunity I have here to start over, a new team.
“Obviously, the goal is always going to be the same — to hang banners, that’s what you play this game for. We know we got a lot of expectations. We got a lot of work to do and I think we’ll get there.”
About 50 media members attended practice, and a semicircle of 11 cameras surrounded Beckham, not including the numerous cell phones. He wasn’t fazed in the least, catching a tape recorder that fell from the stand, playfully taking a swipe at the boom microphone hovering above his head and answering questions for nearly 20 minutes, often with a wide smile.
He echoed coach Freddie Kitchens’ comments that he’s a “smart guy,” has been studying from afar and won’t have trouble picking up the playbook. He added he and Kitchens are from the South so they understand each other.
“Coach and I have a different plan than everybody else,” Beckham said. “We talked and communicated throughout the offseason, so he knew my whereabouts and when I’d be here and when I wouldn’t be, so everybody kind of knew the game plan and I was just taking my time easing back into it. The good thing about it is we play in September.”
Kitchens said he didn’t have any preconceived notions of what it would be like to coach Beckham, who said he’ll bring his new orange, customized Rolls Royce to town.
“I just take the person for who they are and how they are once we get them,” Kitchens said. “I don’t buy into anything else that has happened anywhere else because everywhere else is not here.
“Hopefully we create an environment that brings out the best in people. I have always heard from the people that I trust that Odell is a good guy, and he works his a– off. If he does that, he is going to be successful.”
Beckham created a stir last month when he told GQ his goal was to turn the Browns into a dynasty like the Patriots.
“Who wouldn’t aspire to be the Patriots? Who wouldn’t want to be an 11-5, 12-4 team, win the division, go to the AFC Championship every single year, win your division, go to the championship, go to the Super Bowl?” said Beckham, who added the trade provides extra motivation. “I don’t know why else you got in this game. I didn’t get in this game to get money or anything like that, I got in this game to be a champion. All my life, I’ve never really been a champion.”
He’s hoping that’s the something special in the air.
He still has to pinch himself that he’s reunited with best friend and fellow receiver Jarvis Landry. He can’t say enough good things about Mayfield’s confidence and arm and said they’ll throw a ton in Los Angeles over the summer break.
“This is a different atmosphere, a different energy that we have,” Beckham said. “We’re a bunch of young guys who are hungry and we all speak about greatness and talk about legacy and legendary and it’s something that’s all within us. Just finding ways to bring that out.”