Cleveland’s star receiver reported on time for training camp last week and has joined his teammates in workouts as they begin preparing for the 2020 campaign.
Over the course of the last month, Beckham questioned the wisdom of playing in 2020 with COVID-19 still spreading across the country.
“Having a player of Odell’s stature on the roster, obviously, he generates a lot of attention,” Browns executive vice president of football operations and general manager Andrew Berry said Tuesday in a Zoom video conference with reporters. “Odell is very mindful that he has to be conscientious with his words. That being said, we have had plenty of dialogue and conversation with Odell, not only just through the summer but certainly as he has returned to Cleveland, and that has been a positive thing.
“We feel really good about everything that the league and the [NFL]PA have agreed upon and everything that we have done in Cleveland. I would say in terms of Odell, he has returned and really been focused on working hard. He has been very engaged in everything that we have done in the classroom. He is really focused on having a great year.”
Beckham is coming off what he felt was a disappointing season despite finishing second on the team in catches (74), receiving yards (1,035 and touchdowns (4) while playing through a core muscle injury. He underwent surgery in February and is back to 100%.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal conducted two weeks ago before the NFL and NFLPA agreement on health and safety protocols for the season but not published until Monday, Beckham expressed concerns about playing during a pandemic.
“Obviously with everything that’s going on, it doesn’t make sense why we’re trying to do this,” Beckham told the publication. “I can understand basketball was already in the playoffs. Five-on-five basketball in an arena is going to be more intense than regular-season games. Hooping is different than playing an 11-on-11 contact sport where there’s 80 people in a locker room. Hooping is different than playing an eleven-on-eleven contact sport where there’s 80 people in a locker room.
“We’re not ready for football season. So why are we trying to push forward? It’s obviously for their money. And that bothers me because there’s always been this – and I hate saying it like that – but the owners’ [attitude is], ‘Oh we own you guys,’ and just kind of that unfairness going on that they don’t see us as human. I just feel like the season shouldn't happen and I'm prepared for it to not happen and I wouldn't mind not having it.”
Beckham made similar comments during a YouTube conversation with Cam Newton in July.
The Browns have done all they can to make their training facility comfortable and safe for players coaches and staff by retrofitting it.
The weight room has been converted into a second locker room and the weight room equipment was moved to the field house where it has been spread out for players to lift safetly and socially distant. Hallways and stairwells have been turned into one-way thoroughfares and position group meeting rooms have been converted to video conference centers for coaches to allow for virtual meetings.
The changes likely made Beckham feel more at ease.
“I think the feedback has been largely positive,” Berry said. “I think it is tough until you get in some of these NFL buildings and until you see how stringent and how strict and detailed the protocols are, not just within the facilities but for things that will come down the line, whether it is travel, hotels or busing, you name it. That is kind of hard to visualize in April, May or early June.”
With as much detail that has gone into safety protocols, Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski have stressed the player’s responsibility to do their part away from the facility to remain safe.
“What we have talked a lot about and what Kevin has really emphasized really on a daily basis is the concept of shared responsibility,” Berry said. “This year, more than any other, we are not only responsible for our actions and behaviors in the building but as you mentioned when we are away from the facilities. The consequences of our actions and behaviors, it is not just our players, right? It is our support staff, coaching staff, front office and everybody who is in this bubble throughout the year. What we do can impact not just people in the building but players’, coaches’ and staff’s families, as well.
“Taking that seriously and understanding that it is something we are going to have to be focused on every day.”