Editor’s note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Even more takeaways from Odell Beckham Jr.’s introductory press conference …
Odell Beckham Jr. promised coach Freddie Kitchens he would make it to the opening of the Browns’ offseason conditioning program on Monday.
He didn’t promise he would stay long.
Beckham departed Cleveland a few hours after his introductory meeting with media. He will return at some point, of course, but has not committed to a specific date.
“He did not know that he was going to be in Cleveland up until three weeks ago now,” Kitchens said. “He has some things to tie up, but he thought that it was important enough to be here today, so he was here for his teammates, for himself and for his coaches and things like that. My hat is off to him.
“He told me something a couple of weeks ago, and he made it work. He had to go through some hoops to get here, but it was important enough for him to be here.”
Beckham said, “I want to set the tone. I do not know exactly my offseason plans. I usually train in L.A., but I definitely want to be here and create that bond, that relationship with my new teammates, coaches and everybody so that they can kind of see who I am exactly. I just thought it was important to be here today. I knew that [Jarvis Landry] was going to be here today and that [Baker Mayfield] was going to be here today so I had to come see my guys.”
With the Giants, Beckham was an inconsistent participant in the “voluntary” portion of the offseason workouts – conditioning, OTAs, etc. But he always showed up for the mandatory minicamps.
“We do not really know specifics right now, but he will not be here continually right now,” Kitchens said. “He will be back and forth, but he has some things he has to tie up, and we are getting all of that in order now.”
Not mandatory: Kitchens said he would not hold it against Beckham for missing the voluntary portion of the offseason program.
“This is all voluntary,” he said. “If we wanted to critique people for not coming, then we should make it mandatory as a league. It is not mandatory. As far as like, would I hold a grudge if he is not going to come? No, I would not. There is never going to be a line drawn in the sand from the media in any instance with any player of mine.”
A little later, though, Kitchens termed the offseason program “tremendously important” to the concept of team-building.
“You start forming relationships with people. You start building relationships with your teammates and with your coaches,” he said. “Once those relationships are built, you can ask the player and the player can ask the coach difficult [questions] and you can have difficult conversations. At that point is when you can make advancements the most.
“There is going to be adversity at some point, so I need to feel good with the guys in our room when that adversity hits. Our staff needs to feel good about the rest of our coaches when that adversity hits. Players need to feel good about the guy lined up to his left and to his right and that these guys are going to come out of this thing with me because adversity is going to hit. At that point, we will find out what kind of team we have.
“It is not going to be initially. It is not going to be in training camp. It is not going to be in the second week of the season. I do not know when it is going to hit, but when it does, you are going to find out what kind of team we have and not until then.”
Going, going …: Two notable Browns did not report to the opening of the offseason program – defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and running back Duke Johnson.
Ogbah’s absence was the result of a pending trade, and by the end of the day the Browns confirmed Ogbah was traded to Kansas City for safety Eric Murray.
Johnson’s absence was unexpected and supports a report by Cleveland.com that Johnson has asked the Browns to trade him. But it may not be a request the Browns are willing to grant right now.
“I am not speaking for Duke,” Kitchens said. “Duke chose not to be here, and he has the ability to decide that. It is all voluntary.”
Drew Rosenhaus, Ogbah’s agent, told ESPN Cleveland at NFL owners meetings last week that he expected Ogbah to be traded before the draft. But the sentiment for trading Johnson seemed to wane at the meetings.
GM John Dorsey and Kitchens both expressed no burning desire to short-hand the Browns at running back with newly acquired Kareem Hunt facing an eight-game suspension beginning on Aug. 31.
The trade market for running backs is not great. The Eagles, who expressed interest in Johnson, acquired Bears running back Jordan Howard for a sixth-round draft pick in 2020. Howard averaged 1,123 yards and eight touchdowns – plus 24 receptions -- in three seasons with the Bears.
The key dates in the Johnson drama will be June 4, when Kitchens conducts a mandatory full team minicamp. Johnson will be subject to team fines if he is absent for that.
Kitchens said last week he also will have a veteran minicamp during the week of draft beginning April 25, but that event is not listed on the team’s unofficial schedule of events.
Murray was a fourth-round draft pick of the Chiefs when Dorsey was Kansas City GM in 2016. Murray started 11 games in 45 for the Chiefs, including nine in 2018. Murray’s contract runs through the 2019 season.
The trade for Murray was announced hours after the Browns confirmed the release of safety Derrick Kindred.
The Browns are still expected to draft a safety to compete with Murray for the starting spot in training camp.