Odell Beckham Jr. has skipped almost all of the offseason workouts organized by his new team, but Cleveland Browns Coach Freddie Kitchen repeatedly has offered supportive comments about the wide receiver. On Thursday, though, Kitchens appeared to strike a somewhat different tone.
With a mandatory minicamp looming next week, Kitchens was asked by reporters at the Browns’ training facility what he wants to see from Beckham.
“I just want to see him,” the first-year coach replied.
Asked what Beckham has missed out on by being almost entirely absent since getting traded from the New York Giants in March, Kitchens replied: “A lot. The offense.”
Kitchens has taken pains to note in previous media sessions this offseason that all of the Browns’ practices so far have been voluntary and Beckham has been entirely within his rights to spend his time in other ways.
Yet assuming the three-time Pro Bowl pick doesn’t turn up Friday for the last of 10 organized team activities this month, he will have missed all but one of them. In April, he also passed on a three-day voluntary veterans minicamp, which the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement only allows for teams with new head coaches.
Beckham’s sole showing on the Browns’ practice field came in the first OTA, and his only previous appearance with the team was for his introductory news conference April 1. Cleveland acquired him for first- and third-round picks in April’s draft, plus safety Jabrill Peppers, amid high hopes that Beckham could partner with second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield to take the Browns’ offense to explosive new heights.
That may still happen, but while the offense was being installed under Kitchens, who took over as offensive coordinator midway through last season and ascended to head coach in January, Beckham declined chances to get an early start on learning his role.
Instead, he has been spending some time training in Los Angeles. But he also has hit the celebrity circuit, making appearances at the Met Gala and a Formula One race in Monaco.
It probably hasn’t helped Kitchens’s mood that Jarvis Landry, Cleveland’s other starting wide receiver and Beckham’s former teammate at LSU, has been nursing an injury. That has left Mayfield, 2018′s No. 1 draft pick who impressed as a rookie, throwing to backups.
“You let a guy like that be him,” Mayfield said earlier this month of Beckham missing OTAs. “Everybody has their routine. Stick to what is working, and for him, obviously, it has been working for a while. He is going to do what he’s going to do. You have to trust that he is going to be there when it matters, and we know who he is.”
Those comments echoed some made by Kitchens in April when he said of Beckham: “Of course, I would rather him be here than not here, but I understand why. I talk to Odell every day. He knows what we’re doing offensively every day. He will be ready to play. Don’t worry about that.”
Earlier this month, the coach declared, “Under no circumstance am I going to say that I’m pissed off at Odell for not being here. He’ll be ready to play, and ultimately that’s the only thing I want: for him to be ready to play when we start kicking off in September. And he will be — I promise you.”
Shortly thereafter, Kitchens indicated that he wanted Beckham on hand only when the 26-year-old was “mentally ready to be here.” The coach added, “I’m just saying it is better for him to be here when he can present his best self — emotionally, physically, everything.”
On Thursday, Kitchens was decidedly more terse in his comments, which led to speculation about the coach’s thoughts about his top offensive playmaker.
Beckham did recently show that he might be ready to embrace being a Brown. He posted video of a team-colored Rolls-Royce, complete with a custom hood ornament inspired by his famous one-handed catch for New York.