The NFL is in the portion of its calendars where the league’s coaches and players are joining together for Organized Team Activities.
The 10 voluntary OTAs, held across three weeks, are basically an opportunity for coaches to get a first look at their team’s rookie class, veterans to start getting acclimated to any coaching changes, and some work in the weight room and practice field.
It is also an opportunity for media members and some fans to wring their hands over who is not in attendance at the voluntary workouts.
That noise has been amplified this year as more players than usual are not at team facilities at the urging of the NFLPA, which is working to modify the offseason program to preserve players' bodies for the rigors of the regular season.
In Cleveland, the majority of the players not in attendance come from the offensive side of the ball, where every key returning player is currently working out away from Berea.
That is in contrast to some other teams around the league, most notably the Kansas City Chiefs, who reportedly have had around 79 of their 90 players participating.
That would not necessarily be a big deal, except that the Browns are scheduled to open the 2021 regular season against the Chiefs on September 12.
Not having the offense running around together in shorts and helmets does not concern defensive end Myles Garrett, however, is knows that the real test will come that Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium, as he said on Wednesday in a team-provided transcript:
“I am glad (the Chiefs) have attendance, but just because they are getting work in at their facility does not mean that we are not working just because we are away. Our defense is getting the work in and working on their craft, just working from home. We have that freedom and that liberty. When we get to Game 1, we will see who has been gelling better and who has the upper hand.”
Garrett isn’t the only one with his eye on the bigger picture, as head coach Kevin Stefanski continues to do what he does best — focus on making the Browns better every day.
Stefanski said the coaching staff is embracing the current opportunity to work with a smaller number of players, he said according to a team-provided transcript:
“What we are focusing on right now is teaching. We are teaching, and the pace does not have to be full speed. The amount of coaching and learning that is getting done out there has been outstanding. We really value the work that you can get done in a walkthrough and the work you can get done in these individual periods, and these virtual meetings are a huge component to this. I see great strides being made just from guys getting some really close attention with the coaches.”
The voluntary OTAs will draw to a close next week, and then the Browns will return for a mandatory minicamp from June 15 to June 17. At that time, the offensive players will be joining the defense for the final set of practices before training camp opens on July 27, according to cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot:
Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr. and other #Browns offensive players working out elsewhere but will be here for minicamp; Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah reminds Anthony Walker of All-Pro Darius Leonard: OTA takeaways https://t.co/1oISIYGDUE— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) June 2, 2021
It is easy to see a narrative being formed that if the Browns lose to the Chiefs in Week 1, it will be because the Chiefs were in attendance for OTAs and the Browns were not.
Of course, the Browns have lost their Week 1 game every season since 2004, so a loss to the Chiefs this year would really just be par for the course in many ways.
The Browns will have ample time in training camp and the preseason to get ready for what lies ahead this fall.
And, as Garrett said, the truth will be revealed starting Week 1 at Kansas City.