Odell Beckham Jr. was a bundle of mixed emotions as the Browns fought to make the playoffs, advanced to the divisional round and then lost to the Chiefs on Sunday while he rehabbed following surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“It was a bittersweet season being on the outside looking in when all I wanted was to be in it with the team,” he posted Wednesday on Instagram. “I had to put my pride aside and just watch it unfold. I’m proud and inspired by this squads (sic) growth and effort this year.”
— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) January 20, 2021
General manager Andrew Berry said the team also missed its superstar receiver as it ended the 17-season playoff drought. He called the success of the team and offense in the second half of the season “really independent” of Beckham’s absence.
“With Odell, you always want to have someone that talented on the field, so maybe the easy (answer) is you always miss him,” Berry said. “He is a great player. He is a dynamic weapon. You like having dynamic weapons on the field.”
Beckham, who was injured Oct. 25 against the Bengals, is under contract through 2023, including a $14.5 million salary and $1 million roster bonus in 2021, most of which will become guaranteed in March while he continues to rehab. Despite the big money and the potential opportunity to trade him, Berry has consistently said Beckham will be part of the team’s future.
The Browns went 6-2 over the second half of the season to make the playoffs, as quarterback Baker Mayfield played much better with more experience in coach Kevin Stefanski’s system. Some have argued the improvement of Mayfield and the offense was due to the absence of Beckham, as Mayfield didn’t feel pressure to force the ball to him.
“I do think that there is an element of our offense just evolved over the course of the year,” Berry said. “Part of that is just chemistry, time on task or you name it. That is really independent of Odell. I have said it multiple times, Odell is a good football player. He acclimated nicely with our program, with Kevin and with his teammates.”
Beckham has posted several videos of his rehab workouts and looks determined to return 100 percent healthy next season.
“This year….. I’m comin back for everything I missed out on…” he wrote in a separate post.
Berry said they talked before the regular-season finale.
“His rehab is going really well,” he said. “He has done a nice job. He looks great. He is in a good mental spot.”
READY TO GO
Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi sounds ready to test the free agent market in March.
“I think I’ll go wherever is just right,” he said. “I’m going to pray about it, I’m going to feel it out, see what the best situation is for me and my family and then go from there, whether that’s in Cleveland or somewhere else. It’s just too early to tell.”
Ogunjobi, a third-round pick in 2017, started 46 games over the last three years and became one of the team leaders, including serving on the social justice committee. He said it wasn’t disappointing the Browns didn’t make more of an effort to sign him to an extension before his contract was set to expire, sighting the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 and the salary cap.
“If it’s supposed to happen, it’s going to happen,” he said. “Of course, I love Cleveland. I love this city, I love the fans and I love being a Brown. But I understand the business aspect of it as far as making sure my family is straight and being in a position to set them up for an extremely long amount of time.
“Either way it’s a new chapter, regardless if it’s here or if it’s somewhere else.”
The Browns expect to get a double dose of help in the secondary next year with the return of safety Grant Delpit (Achilles) and cornerback Greedy Williams (shoulder), who missed all season with injuries suffered in training camp. Delpit was a second-round pick in April and Williams a second-rounder in 2019.
“We are confident in both guys,” Berry said. “You never know with significant injuries how that ultimately unfolds. But the one thing I can tell you about Grant and Greedy, the way that those two have attacked their approach to rehab, staying engaged with the team and really they’ve prepared every week as if they were going to play, even though it became obvious that they weren’t. I’m very optimistic, very bullish on their physical recovery and then ultimately when they do get back being able to play at a high level for us.”
Cornerback Denzel Ward looks forward to having them in the secondary.
“It is very exciting, just being able to get to where we got to as a team and honestly we were not even full strength as a team yet,” he said. “It is exciting to get guys like that back who can make plays and help benefit our team.”
Williams revealed during the latter part of the season he had axillary nerve damage in the shoulder. But Berry isn’t concerned he won’t be able to return to 100 percent.
“That’s not really in our thought process right now,” Berry said. “He’s doing a nice job coming along.”
MONEY FOR MITCH?
Veteran Terrance Mitchell took Williams’ spot in the starting lineup and played nearly every snap. He’s set to become a free agent.
“You can never have enough corners,” Berry said. “You really can’t, but especially in this defense. They’re hard to find.
“And then to Terrance specifically, I thought he did a really nice job probably playing a bigger role than he would have anticipated coming into the year. I thought he did a nice job with zone. He performed for us. He’s fantastic in the building. So really my hat’s off to what he was able to accomplish this year.”
Berry said defensive end Myles Garrett won’t need surgery to repair the oblique injury suffered against the Chiefs. Garrett played through it and got a sack on Kansas City’s final possession.
“He really gutted through an injury that we have actually had several guys who have finished games with it and then missed some time afterwards,” Berry said. “It is nothing that should really impact his availability as we go into the offseason. He will heal up. He will be ready to go. He had a great year.”
** Defensive end Olivier Vernon’s Achilles ruptured in the regular-season finale. He’ll become a free agent in March and his future is unsettled.
“I am heartbroken for him because he did play so well down the stretch and then did not get a chance to enjoy the playoffs with us,” said Berry, who talked to Vernon on Tuesday.
** Ward was in and out of the lineup Sunday after missing two games with COVID-19.
“I was kind of feeling it a little bit in my respiratory and everything,” he said. “I was coming to the sideline and getting oxygen every time I was coming off. Just trying to keep my wind throughout the entire game.”
ADJUST AND ADAPT
The scouting combine won’t be held in Indianapolis for the first time since 1987 due to the ongoing pandemic. Players will work out at college pro days, and all interviews between the prospects and teams will be conducted virtually.
“Maybe I am naïve or underestimating it, but I do not really think it is going to be that big of a deal,” Berry said. “We went through a whole spring where it was virtual really on the fly mid-process. Now at this point, all of us know how to use Zoom, right? I do not really see that as an impediment at all.”