Odell Beckham Jr

Daryl Ruiter-92.3 The Fan

Odell Beckham's absence Wednesday at OTAs creates another stir

RB Duke Johnson remains MIA during voluntary workouts

May 16, 2019
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Daryl Ruiter-Berea, OH (92.3 The Fan) – After participating in the first of 10 OTAs Tuesday, Odell Beckham Jr. was nowhere to be found Wednesday prompting more questions about the receiver’s commitment to his new team during the time of the year where participation is voluntary.

Key word: voluntary.

“I’m not concerned with it until it becomes mandatory, and that is June 4,” head coach Freddie Kitchens said Wednesday.

The Browns, their fans and the media that cover them are getting a crash course in what it is like to have a true superstar around – or in Beckham’s case, around when he feels the need to be around.

While his absence is legitimate news to be reported, the Browns continue to maintain they are not the least bit bothered by it no matter how many times reporters pepper them with questions about it.

“You let a guy like that be him,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said Wednesday. “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.”

On Tuesday the Browns social media accounts posted the first pictures and video of Beckham working in Berea, a privilege that was denied to the regulars that cover the team Wednesday.

Cleveland is no stranger to stars – LeBron James played 11 seasons here and helped end a 52-year championship drought by leading the Cavs to an historic 2016 NBA title – but where the Browns are concerned, this is new territory.

With the exceptions of a 9-7 2002 playoff team, 10-6 2007 run and 7-8-1 resurrection last year, they’ve stunk for the better part of 20 years since coming back into the league and the primary reason for that has been the lack of star power.

Beckham changes all of that.

Beckham is arguably the LeBron of the NFL with over 13.1 million Instagram followers and just under four million Twitter followers. His every move is documented – by himself – and by those that cover the team he plays for. 

Like James, every word Beckham speaks is dissected, thrown in a blender and spit out by the television network hot take sports talk hosts in whatever narrative that pops into their heads and creates clicks.

Take last week’s interview with GQ Magazine in which Beckham simply said he wanted to help turn the Browns into the new Patriots. That got aggregated into “Beckham claims Browns are the new Patriots!” which isn’t even close to what he actually said.

“Odell was saying that he wanted to get to that point. Hell, I do, too. I want to get to that point,” Kitchens said. “I think the New England Patriots have played 587 playoff games or something like that with the collective team that they have on their roster right now. Tom Brady has played in nine Super Bowls and won six of them. I want to get to there, so we can print that.

“I want to get to be what the Patriots are. Everybody in the National Football League, if they don’t tell you that they want to be what the Patriots are, they are lying to you. I think that is what he was saying. He wasn’t making predictions.”

The bar in Cleveland has been raised from, lets see if we can actually win a game or let’s win the 4-5 a year we usually do to talk of making the playoffs, Super Bowl, and gasp, winning the damn thing.

The horror of it all. 

In case you're confused, this is a good thing. It’s refreshing.

As for Beckham’s schedule, general manager John Dorsey said earlier this offseason he’d be happy to have Beckham in once a week and it appears that’s exactly what is going to happen so we shouldn't be surprised he wasn't around Wednesday.

Kitchens isn’t going to waste time and energy fighting it or worrying about it.

“I have never disputed the fact that it is not important for him to be here, but it is also important for him to be mentally ready to be here,” Kitchens said. “I’m not giving him an out by any stretch of imagination, and nobody here knows the conversations that Odell and I have. I’m just saying it is better for him to be here when he can present his best self – emotionally, physically, everything. Odell Beckham is going to be here in the fall, and he is going to be a good football player in the fall just like he has been.”

Beckham isn’t the only player MIA either.

Running back Duke Johnson hasn’t been seen this offseason – at all. 

His agent has asked for a trade after Johnson's role was reduced last year and the team added Kareem Hunt, who will serve and eight-game suspension at the outset of the coming season, in February.

But there is nothing Kitchens or the Browns can do. The collective bargaining agreement says so.

“It is voluntary. There is nothing I can say,” Kitchens said. “I think what we need to do as a league if we want to keep bringing these things up is make it mandatory. It is voluntary.

“Duke is another one. He can show up and he will know what to do and be ready to play. I fully expect him to be here in minicamp. He knows what is on the line, and he will be back with us in training camp and I guess we will see where we go from there.”