The coronavirus pandemic not only canceled teams’ offseason workouts, organized team activities and minicamps, it closed gyms around the country. Coach Kevin Stefanski said his players did a great job adjusting and reported to training camp in shape.
“What is obvious to me is that guys worked very hard in this offseason, both physically and mentally,” he said Friday on a Zoom call. “Watching the walkthroughs and watching the coaches interact with the players, there is a good understanding of what we want to do.
“I have just been impressed with what the guys have been able to retain, going back to the spring. The guys attacked the offseason in the weight room and showed up in really good shape.”
The lack of a traditional offseason left many players improvising for workouts. Quarterback Baker Mayfield went old-school, including more running and cycling at home, before his training facility reopened.
Stefanski said he was impressed, not surprised, that guys showed up ready.
“But I knew that because we were one of the teams that required them to videotape their workouts and send them in to us, so I think there was value in that,” he said. “I have seen guys in their garage using their coolers as a bench rack. I love the message that those workouts sent to their teammates, that nothing was going to hold them back to get their work in. I think we have seen the fruits of that work with the guys showing up here.
“It is not over, I should mention. There is plenty of work to do in the weight room, there is plenty of work to do in the meeting room (and) on the field. I really think the guys made the offseason program count.”
Three of the five Browns to opt out of the season due to coronavirus concerns were guards — Drew Forbes, Colby Gossett and Malcolm Pridgeon.
Starting left guard Joel Bitonio and presumptive starting right guard Wyatt Teller are the only players listed as guards on the roster. Rookie center Nick Harris, tackle Chris Hubbard and center Willie Wright are candidates to move to guard, but the Browns may need to add bodies for when practice begins Aug. 14.
“I know with the opt outs at that position, it is certainly something that we will continue to look at,” Stefanski said. “If we should have a need somewhere, we want to get a good player in here. We want to make sure we are bringing guys in who have a chance to develop.”
NEVER A DOUBT
Despite receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s comments in July saying he didn’t think the season should be played during the pandemic, Stefanski said he wasn’t concerned about Beckham opting out. The deadline passed Thursday.
“My conversations with him have been very positive,” Stefanski said.
Beckham’s comments were made before the NFL and NFLPA agreed to safety guidelines for a return to team facilities, and he has been a full participant in the early days of camp.
Undrafted rookie receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley was activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list. No players remain on the list after five were on it at some point.
** After a day off Saturday, the Browns will consolidate their split squads Sunday and go with one group for the final three days of Phase 1 of camp. The players will also attend in-person meetings for the first time under the new staff, with onsite meetings in the morning and virtual meetings at night.
** With no preseason and limited camp practices, the focus will be on preparing the starters for the season. But Stefanski said in this unusual season the backups also must be ready and will need repetitions.