Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has taken a big first step to earn the respect of the new coaching staff.
He’s shown up for the virtual offseason program.
“He’s all in. he’s bought in, he’s been there and it’s awesome,” offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said Wednesday on a Zoom conference call with area media. “It’s good to have him there. It’s good for him. He’s obviously learning the system.
“But to have him involved, everybody involved — everybody’s attendance has been outstanding — and that’s a tribute to Kevin (Stefanski, coach) and the guys that are buying into the program.”
Beckham was acquired by the Browns in a trade with the Giants in March 2019. He skipped the vast majority of the offseason program, including attending just one of nine organized team activities practices.
He fought through an injury beginning in training camp, didn’t develop the desired chemistry with quarterback Baker Mayfield, was hampered all season and frustrated by the inability to perform to his talent. Beckham played all 16 games, finishing with 74 catches for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns.
He had core muscle surgery in January and is rehabbing in California.
Van Pelt didn’t know Beckham before Stefanski hired him but has enjoyed working with him, albeit remotely.
“It’s been great. I’ve known of Odell, obviously,” Van Pelt said. “Ben McAdoo (coached) Odell in New York and everything that Ben talked to me about with him I’ve seen. He’s a worker, he loves football, he’s smart as hell. He’s just been a model guy this offseason.
“I can’t wait to get him in the building, get him on the field. He’s been outstanding.”
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Training camp is tentatively scheduled to start in late July, with the Browns opening the regular season Sept. 13 in Baltimore. Minicamp this month hasn’t been officially canceled but isn’t expected to happen due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Van Pelt is getting anxious not being in the building and on the field with the players.
“It has been hard. It gets harder each week we are apart,” he said. “You kind of get in the Zoom meeting mode, which is where we are right now, but definitely, definitely dying to get everybody back in that building at some point to get this thing going. Because the more that we are together in these meetings, the more we understand the system and how we are going to attack people with the talent that we acquired now on offense. I am excited. I can’t wait to get back.”
Van Pelt lamented the inability to build a “connection” with players remotely but said the installation of the offensive system has been a success.
“There is a lot of great information from a lot of great coaches that are now recorded. Now it is in a library,” he said. “You can pull up the recordings again and refresh yourself. There are some benefits to it, but it has been different and unique. I think we are getting the most out of it that we can.”
The coaches leave time in the meeting schedule for the players to have casual conversations to develop a bond, and Stefanski has incorporated challenges to add fun and competition. Van Pelt mentioned slam dunk and movie poster challenges.
“The movie poster one, our rookie quarterback (Kevin Davidson) put together a Photoshop picture of the ‘Tiger King’ with the quarterbacks in it,” he said. “That won in my mind. Guys are having fun with it. It is just a way to kind of get away from football and do something to get to know each other a little bit better.”