CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Browns will head into Phase II of the offseason program Monday, but they’ll keep it virtual for this one-week phase.
Browns rookies will remain at the Browns facility for OTAs after rookie minicamp ends Sunday, but the week will remain all-virtual for veterans instead of the on-field drills with coaches that they’re permitted for the first time, under terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
Some Browns veterans, including safety Grant Delpit, have been working out at the facility in Berea, but it’s mostly players who are rehabbing from their injuries. Delpit (ruptured Achilles) and cornerback Greedy Williams (nerve damage in his shoulder) have both been in and out, and promise to be there more in the future.
When Phase III of the offseason program begins on May 24, the Browns will take to the field for 10 days of of OTAs over the next three weeks, followed by the mandatory minicamp June 15-17. They’re not sure who will attend the volunatary workouts, but they’ll conduct the practices before the minicamp nonetheless. The four-week final phase must conclude by June 18 for all NFL teams.
The Browns are one of about 15 teams whose players have collectively decided to skip the in-person OTAs and work virtually amid the pandemic, like they did last year. What makes the Browns’ situation unique is that center JC Tretter is the president of the NFLPA and a strong advocate of players skipping the in-person voluntary workouts to remain healthy for the season, like they did last year.
Injuries and concussions were down significantly in 2020 largely because of the virtual offseason program. The NFLPA would also like to eliminate the mandatory minicamp, but that must be collectively bargained.
Some players have become conflicted about working out on their own after the Broncos cut right tackle Ja’Waun James Friday in the wake of his season-ending Achilles injury while training away from the team facility. The Broncos now won’t have to pay him his $10 million-plus in salary and bonuses, but he’s considering a grievance, according to ESPN.
Grant Delpit making great progress
A video of Delpit sprinting backward and then reversing field at The House of Athlete in Weston, Fla., is a testament to how hard he’s worked to come back this season. Delpit is ahead of schedule in his rehab from the ruptured Achilles, and is on track to start the season.
If all goes as planned, Delpit, the Browns’ second-round pick in 2020 out of LSU, will start opposite John Johnson III, or at least be a key part of the rotation from the start. The Browns have been thrilled with the progress and work ethic of Delpit and Williams, who’s also on track to be ready for training camp in late July and early August.
LB Tony Fields should be full-go well ahead of training camp
Fields, who suffered a foot injury in a workout before he reported to rookie minicamp and signed his contract on Thursday, will be full-go well before training camp, but might not do much on-field work before then in OTAs in the interest of getting him to camp healthy.
Fields, the fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, is not expected to need a surgical procedure on the foot. Fortunately for him and for the Browns, he mentioned the injury right away and didn’t try to fight through it in rookie camp. The decision could mean the difference between being ready for the season and not.
Anthony Schwartz and Jarvis Landry
The Browns are thrilled that Schwartz is being mentored in Florida this offseason by Landry, who’s a master route-runner with amazing hands. Schwartz needs to improve those two aspects of his game to go along with his blazing 4.26 speed.
Schwartz will be in Berea for OTAs now along with the other rookies, but the time spent with Landry has been invaluable and helped set the foundation.
The Browns hope he can utilize the full route tree so they can get him on the field sooner than later this season.
Ohio State’s Johnnie Dixon getting a tryout
The Browns are giving the former Buckeyes receiver, who went undrafted in 2019, a look at receiver in camp. Dixon is a longshot to stick around, but if he has a nice rookie camp, he’ll remain on the short list, in part as a returner.
He’s one of three tryout players in rookie camp, along with quarterbacks Josh Love and Riley Neal, who were signed primarily to give the Browns some extra arms this weekend.
Malik McDowell looks the part
The Browns have been happy with McDowell, the 2017 second-round pick of the Seahawks out of Michigan State, so far both on and off the field. McDowell, who’s spent time in jail and on probation after pleading guilty in 2019 to several charges, has done everything the Browns have asked of him in terms of a protocol to keep himself on the straight and narrow, and has also worked hard on his game.
At 6-foot-6, 295, he certainly looked the part physically in rookie minicamp on Friday, especially because at 24, he was surrounded by younger players, some of whom are 20. McDowell has a lot to prove, but the Browns are hopeful he’s turned the corner.
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