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Browns' revamped strength and condition program features tailorized training for every position

Next level: You want outside the box? You want “next level” thinking? Well, check this out. The Browns have seven strength coaches. That’s right. Seven.

When the Browns entered the NFL in 1950, Paul Brown had a coaching staff of four assistants. Total.

Yes, things evolve over 66 years. But seven strength coaches?

Basically, each position group has its own strength and conditioning coach.

This is the brainchild of Adam Beard, who holds the title of Browns director of high performance.

Beard is a native of Australia who answered the call of a recruiting agency and left as head of physical performance of the Welsh Rugby Union last summer to join the Browns. He spent the entire 2015 season essentially observing the Browns’ operations and American football in general in preparation for revamping the way the Browns think about training their bodies to maximize performance and minimize injuries.

The result is a fairly drastic, non-traditional football approach to strength and conditioning that may be a culture shock to players convening on Monday for the official start of the program.

And the most obvious change to the way the Browns -- and most every NFL team -- have been doing things starts with assigning a specific strength coach to tailor training regimens to the nuances of each position group.

“You look at the coaching structure and you have your head coach and coordinators and position coaches,” Beard told me in a thick Australian accent. “I think it’s important that, in terms of performance, you have to have a look at the needs analyses for different positions.

“I read an interview with Jim Brown and he said when he was a running back it didn’t make sense for him to do the same strength and conditioning as an offensive lineman.”

Beard, who has trained track and field athletes, likens it to a javelin thrower needing different training methods than a sprinter or long-distance runner.

Sport science evolution: When NFL teams first inaugurated strength training as a part of daily football life in the 1980s, the strength coach generally was a former player not good enough to play football professionally who knew the head coach and was tasked with barking at players and motivating them to pump iron months before they had to report to training camp.

The first Browns’ strength coach was Dave “Red Man” Redding, a former Nebraska defensive lineman and a colorful character with an orange beard. Redding developed one of the league’s first conditioning programs under coach Sam Rutigliano, and then followed Rutigliano’s successor, Marty Schottenheimer, to Kansas City, Washington and San Diego before ending his career with the Green Bay Packers and a Super Bowl championship after 24 years in the league.

Nowadays, conditioning is a science. Beard’s resume is long and loaded with international training positions and academic achievements.

He was head of physical performance for the Welsh Rugby Union. Head of fitness for British and Irish Lions rugby. Strength and conditioning coach at Western Australia Institute of Sport, English Institute of Sport and Aspire Academy of Sports Excellence.

He has a masters of sports science in biomechanics and is working toward a doctorate in hypoxic exercise physiology from the Université de Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“It’s a fancy word for altitude,” Beard said. “Hypoxic environment [is] when you’re in a plane.”

With that academic background, Beard last year made recommendations to reduce jet lag on the team’s trips across three time zones to San Diego and Seattle.

Now, if he can just reduce the occurrence of hamstring injuries and concussions.

Keeping up: The appointment of Beard to reorganize and reconstruct the way the Browns look at training and nutrition is a function of the organization’s reliance on analytics and new technology to plot its future direction.

When it comes to training, however, the Browns are not at the forefront, but rather trying to keep pace.

At the NFL owners meetings last month, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians spoke of his team’s use of technology in monitoring players’ training regimens and performance.

“The gadgets we have ... I call our strength coach Gizmo,” Arians said. “He’s got a phone that measures the speed of the ball. They have a chip they put in the ball and they measure the speed, how many revolutions they’re throwing at the start of practice compared to the end of practice after 150 throws.

“The conditioning -- strength drills and warmups -- it’s light-years to where it used to be. So I think all these guys are getting better at [age] 33, 34, 35.

"We have [stuff] all over. [We measure] heart rates, how far they run. There’s a guy, that’s his job. He’s got a computer at the end of the field monitoring all those guys.”

Beard takes over a team that led the NFL with 16 concussion injuries in 2015 and routinely had a dozen players missing practice with assorted soft-tissue injuries.

“The big thing about pro sport is you want to increase performance but you want to decrease injury,” Beard said. “That’s a really hard paradigm. Because you’ve got to push men to the lengths of making them more powerful and stronger than the average man. There are going to be injuries. I’d be lying if I said we’re not going to get any injuries any more. We just have to learn from them.

“I think it’s an evolution. We have to make sure that guys peak on Sunday. You can develop a lot of those physical qualities in its purity away from contact and competition, but it’s how we maximize that and reduce the detriment of power and speed without getting too many injuries.”

More than 30 years ago, the Browns' were at the forefront of the strength and conditioning movement in the NFL. They got flabby and soft and lost their way. And now they have an army of sports scientists and high performance experts to straighten them out.