BEREA — The Browns don’t want to reveal the vaccination rate of their players but are in good shape and “trending in the right direction,” coach Kevin Stefanski said.
He also said it’s important to avoid division within the locker room among players who feel strongly both ways about getting the vaccine for COVID-19.
“Just continue to educate everybody that we have a safe and effective vaccine,” Stefanski said Wednesday before the first full-squad training camp practice. “Want to keep our players safe, keep their families safe, the staff, etc. That’s what we’re discussing with our guys.
“I think the guys know how I feel, I respect everybody’s decision. It is a decision that they get to make, but we’re just going to continue to do our part to educate for guys that maybe want some more information. That’s what we’re here for.”
Receiver Jarvis Landry talked after a morning walkthrough and wore a mask. He wasn’t asked if he’s been vaccinated.
“It’s still a concern in the world, period,” he said of the virus. “But like I spoke about last year, this Cleveland Browns organization has done everything in their power to make sure we’re safe and in the conditions we need to be in to be able to come and play football.”
The NFL has extended its strict protocols from a year ago but has relaxed many for those who are vaccinated, including less frequent testing. Unvaccinated players must test every day, wear masks inside and on the field in some circumstances, can’t eat in the cafeteria with teammates and can’t leave the hotel on the road.
Landry isn’t worried about the differences creating division.
“Not in this organization,” he said. “I think everybody’s been kind of in one accord with what we have to … the rules, the protocols and how we’re trying to do it here, stay safe.”
The Browns dealt with a series of COVID problems during the last half of last season. All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett missed two games with the virus and struggled with his breathing when he returned. The top four wideouts missed the loss to the Jets after contact tracing. And Stefanski and left guard Joel Bitonio missed the wild card playoff win over the Steelers after testing positive.
“I know I went through it and I’m hoping nobody on our team or really in sports has to go through it again,” Garrett said. “Really hoping for everyone to follow the protocols, do the best they can to keep themselves healthy, their families healthy.
“As far as the vaccine, that’s your choice, you have those liberties and those freedoms in the country that we live in. Just do the best that you can for your family.”
Rookie linebacker Tony Fields II, a fifth-round pick, injured his foot while the rookies were practicing earlier in the week. It’s the opposite foot of the one that kept him out of OTAs and minicamp.
Stefanski said Fields will miss some time but didn’t have a long-term update, including whether he’ll need surgery.
** No players were placed on the physically unable to perform list.
Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was the most notable participant after a torn anterior cruciate ligament Oct. 25. He went through individual drills and seven-on-sevens and looked fantastic.
Stefanski said Beckham and the others coming back from injury have individual plans for the final stages of their rehabs.
“Had a good meeting with him last night. He is doing well,” Stefanski said.
** Offensive lineman Chris Hubbard practiced as the second-team right tackle after surgery in December to repair torn ligaments and a dislocated kneecap.
** Safety Grant Delpit (Achilles) practiced but sat out team drills.
** Rookie receiver Anthony Schwartz (hamstring) practiced after missing most of the offseason.
** Receiver Derrick Willies watched most of practice.
** Running back D’Ernest Johnson was excused for personal reasons. He announced on Instagram the birth of daughter Demi Amiri Johnson.
TIME TO COMPETE
Rookie cornerback Greg Newsome II, the No. 26 pick, believes he’s in a battle for a starting job with Greedy Williams, who got the first reps with the first team.
“Oh, yeah, for sure,” Newsome said. “Nothing is given, everything is earned.”
Newsome played on the outside at Northwestern but worked outside and in the slot during minicamp.
“Yeah, I’d definitely be comfortable,” he said of playing inside. “You’ll see out here in a few days that at practice I’m working inside as well, just to try to learn as much as I can and just get a grasp of the whole, entire defense. Because the more you know that’s how you’re going to know where your help’s coming from and things like that. The more I can know, the better I’ll be for the team and showcase my versatility.”
Rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, a second-round pick, didn’t practice as he remains on the COVID-19 list. Linebackers coach Jason Tarver and run game coordinator Ben Bloom are doing what they can to mitigate the precious time lost.
“We have had a lot of practice at those virtual meetings so Coach Tarver and Coach Bloom are doing an outstanding job making sure he is up to speed and getting as much as he can while he is not here,” Stefanski said. “It is not ideal obviously. I am sure he wants to be out here, and we want him out here, but that is the nature of this thing. We will just bring him along as quickly as we can while he is not here.”
Chief of staff Callie Brownson was back on the field and coaching after being suspended during OTAs and minicamp after an OVI conviction in June. She threw passes to receivers then worked with the running backs.
** Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (2006-13) and quarterback Bill Nelsen (1968-72) will be inducted into the Legends program Sept. 26 when the Browns host the Bears. Jackson was the leader and a tackle machine in the middle, and Nelsen threw for 9,584 yards and 71 touchdowns in 54 games. He died in 2019 at 78.
** Former All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas will be the analyst for the two preseason games broadcast by News 5 — at the Jaguars on Aug. 14 and vs. the Giants on Aug. 22. Tom McCarthy will do the play-by-play.
** The first padded practice will be Tuesday after an acclimation period.