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Notes: Mike Vrabel makes presence felt on field, in meetings

BEREA — Mike Vrabel was easy to spot.

When a drill moved to the opposite end of the field, he sprinted. When the Browns needed bodies to stand in for the defense during offensive installations, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound former linebacker rushed the passer and dropped in coverage. When special teams took over, he stood to the side of the punter, watched the protection and gave loud and hands-on instruction.

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Vrabel, 48, was hired by the Browns as a coaching and personnel consultant during the offseason after he was fired by the Tennessee Titans following six years as coach. He attended the scouting combine with the organization, helped with the draft and has been in meetings.

The organized team activities practice Thursday was his first time on the field with the media in attendance. The passion for coaching and the game was obvious.

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“I’ve been very vocal about the respect I have for Vrabes and the relationship that we have,” said defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who worked for Vrabel as a senior defensive assistant in 2021-22 as he returned from a medical condition.

Vrabel was born in Akron, went to Walsh Jesuit and Ohio State and won three Super Bowls with the Patriots. He’s been a player, a defensive coordinator and a head coach, so his expertise touches a lot of bases.

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He assisted general manager Andrew Berry during the draft process and has been a resource for coach Kevin Stefanski, special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone and Schwartz. Vrabel has been a key contributor in the meetings to determine how to handle the overhaul of the kickoff rules.

“It’s awesome to have different sounding boards, having guys with experience in different things,” Schwartz said. “And I know he’s been a big help to Kevin. Kevin’s been pretty vocal about that and I’m sure Bubba’s said the same thing. Any time you can add experienced guys that have coach of the year trophies, it’s a good thing for us.”

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TAKING ATTENDANCE

Several big names were absent from the voluntary practice.

Defensive end Myles Garrett, receiver Amari Cooper, tight end David Njoku, left guard Joel Bitonio, defensive tackles Dalvin Tomlinson and Shelby Harris, safety Juan Thornhill and kicker Dustin Hopkins weren’t on the field for the second straight week.

Receiver Jerry Jeudy, rookie defensive tackle Mike Hall Jr., defensive end Za’Darius Smith, linebackers Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Jordan Hicks and cornerback Greg Newsome II were absent Thursday after participating earlier in the OTAs.

** Safety Grant Delpit, left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., running back/returner Nyheim Hines, quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and defensive end Sam Kamara worked on the side.

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** Running back Nick Chubb and right tackle Jack Conklin continue to rehab following knee surgeries.

NEW GUY

Hicks was signed in free agency from the Vikings and will step into a starting role. He played under Schwartz early in his career with the Eagles.

“I have a lot of respect for Jordan,” Schwartz said. “He’s had a lot of success in the NFL in a lot of different schemes.

“No. 1, he’s a playmaker. No. 2, he is an outstanding communicator. And we lost a lot of communication and leadership with losing Sione (Takitaki) and losing AWalk (Anthony Walker Jr.). So, it’s going to fall to Jordan to pick some of that up. And he’s got a great track record of doing those kinds of things.”

HE’S BACK

Kicker Cade York was re-signed in the offseason after the Browns cut him last year following a disastrous preseason. He’s insurance for Hopkins and the Browns like his potential.

“He’s been good since he’s been back,” special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone said. “I think he’s learned a lot. I think that he’s grown up quite a bit, and I think that we’ve seen a good bit of improvement in all areas of his kicking performances to this point.”

EXTRA POINTS

Jim Donovan announced his June retirement from WKYC-TV after 39 years as a sports and news anchor. He’ll continue to be the radio play-by-play voice of the Browns.

** Backup quarterback Jameis Winston was in Louisville earlier this month for the Kentucky Derby and PGA Championship. He said his favorite parts were spending time with family and “experiencing greatness.”

** In addition to York, Lucas Havrisik is in camp as a backup kicker. He’s also getting reps at punter.

“It’s advantageous for us to be able to carry a guy that can both kick and punt, kicks off well and he’s a right-footed guy,” Ventrone said. “So now you have a right-footed punter and a left-footed punter (Corey Bojorquez) in practice.”

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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