The Cleveland Browns opened their three-day rookie minicamp on Friday at team headquarters in Berea.
The weekend presents the first opportunity for head coach Kevin Stefanski and the coaching staff to get a look at the 18 players who make up the team’s draft choices, undrafted free agents, tryout players and players who are not rookies but are still considered first-year players.
It is also the first time that Stefanski has led one of these in person as COVID-19 altered the offseason program in 2020, his first year as head coach.
No matter how small these practices might seem, a return to normalcy left Stefanski feeling good, he said via a team-provided transcript:
“Great to be out on the field today. A beautiful day here in Northeast Ohio. Great to be coaching these kids. A lot of them are swimming as you can imagine with some of the mental things that we are putting on their plate, but they are very coachable. It is just good to see our coaches get their hands on the guys and take them through. We walked through the drills before we did the drills. This is baby steps (today), but it is important to start there with these young players. A lot of really good technique work today.”
Here are some other news and notes from the first day of rookie minicamp.
JOK: My heart is 100 percent healthy
Following the 2021 NFL Draft, there was speculation that linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah fell to the Browns in the second round because of medical concerns about a heart issue.
General manager Andrew Berry was obviously comfortable enough with Owusu-Koramoah’s medical report to select him, and on Friday JOK said that everything is fine:
“Just seeing the reports, just based on something that is not necessarily 100 percent true, it is something where you have to sit back and control the controllables. It is something that the coaches here always talk about of just being able to control what you can control. That was something that I could not control in terms of the reports that came out.
“Nevertheless, what I am worried about again are the things that I am dealing with in terms of whatever my heart is and whatever my heart is not – my heart is 100 percent sure; my heart is 100 percent healthy. You could see that going through the tests, going through the EKGs and going through the past MRIs and things like that. It is not an issue. It is not something that I am worried about. I am looking forward to getting on the field and going.”
Owusu-Koramoah also definitely stated that he will be a linebacker - not a safety - in defensive coordinator Joe Wood’s system:
“Absolutely. It will be similar but not too similar to the position I was playing in today. It will be a WILL linebacker. That is kind of where I am working at right now on third down and things like that. That will add more to it, but for right now, that is what I am studying.”
One rookie missing this weekend
Linebacker Tony Fields II, the club’s fifth-round draft pick, is not practicing this weekend after recently suffering a foot injury.
Fields reported to minicamp and signed his contract, but the foot injury will keep him out of action for a few weeks, according to Stefanski, who added that the injury is “nothing concerning or long term.”
Anthony Schwartz gets an assist from Jarvis Landry
Wide receiver Anthony Schwartz will likely draw a lot of attention during training camp and the preseason given that in most cases he will be the fastest player on the field.
But there is more to the game than just running fast, and Schwartz has been working on that aspect with the help of fellow wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
The two have been training together in Florida, and Landry’s wisdom has helped bring Schwartz up to speed on what it is going to take to make it in the NFL, Schwartz said on Friday:
“... working out with a five-time Pro Bowler and a guy of his caliber, not everyone gets to do that. He is going to help me get a jumpstart on the rest of the rookies out there. He was one of the instrumental players in changing everything and is one of the leaders of the team to be able to pick his brain to get some tips from him on what to expect, what they are expecting out of me, and what I can do to prove myself and making that jump to the next level has been very good.”
The Browns announced the uniform numbers for the rookie class on Friday, along with some changes by returning players.
The numbers for the eight players from the draft class are:
- Greg Newsome II — No. 20
- Jeremiah Owusu Koramoah — No. 28
- Anthony Schwartz — No. 10
- James Hudson III — No. 66
- Tommy Togiai — No. 93
- Tony Fields II — No. 42
- Richard LeCounte III — No. 39
- Demetric Felton — No. 25
The numbers for the nine free agents are (according to cleveland.com):
- Jadeveon Clowney — No. 90
- Troy Hill — No. 23
- Anthony Walker Jr. — No. 54
- Takkarist McKinley — No. 55
- Malik Jackson — No. 97
- John Johnson III — No. 43
- Greg Senat — No. 70
- Damion Square — No. 61
- Malik McDowell — No. 58
Finally, four returning players are switching their numbers, according to Camryn Justice of WEWS in Cleveland:
Four #Browns players have swapped their jersey numbers for the 2021 season:— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) May 14, 2021
DT Jordan Elliott – From 90 to 96
RB John Kelly – From 37 to 49
DE Porter Gustin – From 97 to 94
DE Curtis Weaver – From 61 to 59
- Jordan Elliott, from No. 90 to No. 96
- John Kelly, from No. 37 to No. 49
- Porter Gustin, from No. 97 to No. 94
- Curtis Weaver, from No. 61 to No. 59
The final word
This weekend is just the beginning of a journey for the Browns that many expect will include a deep run into the playoffs and possibly the franchise’s first league championship since 1964.
Even so, the opportunity to learn and get better is always there, according to Stefanski:
“You can learn a lot just even in walkthroughs. There were times out there where guys had the wrong drop on defense, and they got corrected. We did the rep again, and they got it right. That is kind of what I talk about is really starting at the beginning with these guys. We can go at that pace. We are afforded the luxury of going at that pace so that they can get it and so that it can crystalize in their mind.
“That is where the coaches are working really hard in the virtual meeting rooms with them and on the field and making sure that this is something they are constantly improving upon and their knowledge of our systems.”
Cleveland’s rookie minicamp continues through Sunday.