WESTFIELD, Ind. — Quarterback Baker Mayfield has been unable to establish the chemistry he desires with Odell Beckham Jr. because his new superstar receiver can’t get in the lab.
Beckham went through individual drills Wednesday but was sidelined for one-on-one, seven-on-seven and team drills as the Browns practiced against the Colts. Beckham didn’t play Thursday in the preseason opener against Washington and hasn’t practiced in team drills in a padded practice since Aug. 6.
A team source said he’s dealing with a minor hip injury, but it’s not a hip pointer — a bruise on the bone — as reported by ESPN.
The Browns don’t have to report injuries during the preseason and have been vague concerning Beckham.
“He’s got a little bit of something going on but we expect him back pretty soon,” coach Freddie Kitchens said after practice.
Beckham isn’t expected to play Saturday in the preseason game against the Colts but “probably could,” according to Kitchens.
Beckham was acquired in a trade with the Giants in March. He attended only one offseason practice before mandatory minicamp in June.
He was a consistent participant early in training camp but has been limited the last week. The regular-season opener is Sept. 8 against Tennessee.
“He is ready to go mentally,” Kitchens said. “We’ve got to wait and get him ready to go physically, but he’ll be there.”
Mayfield lamented a lack of timing with receiver Jarvis Landry early last season after not working with him during the preseason. Their on-field chemistry improved the more time they spent working together, and Mayfield expects the same with the supremely talented Beckham.
“I think that’ll come with time,” Mayfield said.
In the meantime, Mayfield is trying to find a silver lining.
“It’s getting guys ready. We have the next-man-up mentality,” he said. “Obviously, he’s going to be ready to go when it’s time to play. Him sitting out and doing some of these things mentally is him getting used to the offense and seeing different things and hearing us communicating it. So when he comes out there, he can be full speed and know exactly what to do.
“But it’s great for those other guys to get out there and get a chance to see the change of pace. The more guys that are ready to play with that first group the better.”
Landry was limited but did participate in team drills Wednesday. Rashard Higgins, Derrick Willies and Jaelen Strong got extensive work with the first team.
DON’T BACK DOWN
Kitchens has been adamant he won’t permit his players to fight each other in camp because they “don’t practice penalties.” The one time a skirmish escalated, he made the whole team run sprints.
He takes a different stance when it comes to facing an opponent.
“I just know that we’re not going to take nothing from anybody and at some point you’ve got to stand up for yourself,” Kitchens said. “If it’s a penalty, it’s a penalty.”
The topic was relevant because safety Tigie Sankoh scuffled with Colts running back D’Onta Foreman during a drill. Foreman swung at Sankoh but didn’t appear to connect, and Sankoh’s teammates, including defensive end Myles Garrett, ran to his support.
Kitchens was on the other field with the offense, so he hadn’t seen the incident.
“We’ll see what caused it and what happened and then evaluate the situation,” he said when asked about possible punishment. “But we’re not going to take anything from anybody, either.”
Linebacker Christian Kirksey said players must find the proper balance.
“You’re going to take up for your teammates, but we’re all professionals and we’ve got to handle ourselves accordingly,” he said.
SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM
Kitchens said Monday his physical camp has been a culture shock for the players. Mayfield agreed.
“Absolutely,” he said.
The Browns have been in pads for 12 of 13 possible practices, and Mayfield said he had no idea what was in store.
“Part of the culture change is beating some of that out,” he said of the organization’s losing mentality. “Being a tougher team, being that mentality of coming out and realizing that we’re going the be the tougher people every day and work for it, so I think it’s caught some people off-guard a little bit. But me being around Freddie last year, not so much.”
Mayfield believes the locker room is behind the approach.
“Absolutely. We’ve got guys that are bought in right now and that’s the best part about it,” he said.
Running back Kareem Hunt is getting up to speed in a hurry.
After missing the first week of camp with a groin injury, he returned to team drills Monday and had his best day of practice Wednesday. He had two long runs in a row in team drills and made a one-handed catch on a screen then burst down the field.
“It’s great to have Kareem out there, the special talent that he is,” Mayfield said. “And to get out there with us, because he’s going to have a long wait until he plays, so to get some reps with us to where that itch gets back for him.”
Hunt will open the season on an eight-game suspension.
Cornerback Denzel Ward went through individual drills then watched the rest of practice from the sideline with helmet on and football in his hands. He’s been bothered by an injury for much of camp and been severely limited.
Kitchens said he doesn’t have “any doubt” Ward will be ready for the season.
** Rookie linebacker Sione Takitaki (hamstring) joined the injured list. He didn’t practice, working on the side with the athletic training staff.
** No. 2 running back Dontrell Hilliard had an ice pack on the back of his leg at the end of practice.
** Tight end David Njoku (knee), defensive end Chad Thomas (neck), cornerbacks TJ Carrie (hamstring) and Tavierre Thomas (hamstring), receiver Damion Ratley (hamstring) and defensive end Jarrell Owens (groin) again worked on the side.
** Tight end Seth DeValve, offensive lineman Kyle Kalis and defensive end Brian Price remained out with concussions and didn’t make the trip.
** Receiver Antonio Callaway (ankle) made the trip but didn’t practice.
FROM THE FIELD
The first-team offense had a 16-play drive that stalled at the 5-yard line.
** Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi burst through the middle for a “sack” of quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who was moving up in the pocket because Garrett had beaten the right tackle around the edge.
** Undrafted rookie receiver D.J. Montgomery had another strong day, including a 4-yard touchdown catch in the corner from Garrett Gilbert.
** Kickers Greg Joseph and rookie Austin Seibert each went 5-for-5 in the field goal drill, with longs of 51 yards.
** The first-team defensive line for a couple of snaps was Garrett and Genard Avery at end with Chris Smith and Olivier Vernon at tackle. That’s four ends on the field at the same time.
Former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who coached Mayfield, watched practice.
** CBS’ No. 1 broadcast crew of Jim Nantz, Tony Romo and Tracy Wolfson will be in Cleveland for the opener against the Titans.
** Garrett’s dad made the trip from Berea and watched from the sideline.