Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Takeaways from Day 16 of Browns training camp at joint workouts with the Indianapolis Colts …
1. Battle royal: Before the second joint practice with the Colts, Browns coach Freddie Kitchens challenged his team to be more physical and not back down.
“Message was received,” said receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who did not participate in team drills again but enjoyed the numerous skirmishes that ensued.
"We came to practice, not to fight. But it’s good to see that we do have fight in us."
Prior to the day’s activities, Kitchens spoke directly to receiver Jarvis Landry on the sideline. Not coincidentally, Landry had a very physical block on Colts cornerback Pierre Desir on the very first play in the team period, a simple handoff to Nick Chubb.
Kitchens was all smiles after the two-hour-plus practice, which included two bench-clearing brawls.
“I thought we got a lot accomplished today,” he said. “It was a lot like yesterday. The tempo was more like I like it today than it was yesterday. I think we identified a problem yesterday, not that there was anything wrong with the tempo, but we set the tempo. Nobody else does. I think these guys learned that today.
Kitchens felt the change in setting here got the Browns off to a slow start on Wednesday.
“We just have a way that we are going to treat our practices. That is how we are going to practice. That doesn’t ever change. It doesn’t matter who we are going against. It doesn’t matter if we are going against ourselves. I think we learned a lot about ourselves from the standpoint of that’s how you have to approach it. You keep your tempo. Let everybody else adjust to yours, not the other way around,” he said.
There were skirmishes involving receiver Jaelen Strong and Colts cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, and cornerback Terrance Mitchell and Colts receiver Krishawn Hogan, and tight end Demetrius Harris and Colts linebacker Ben Banogu.
At one point, a Colts coach shouted to Browns fullback Joe Kerridge, “Stop running your mouth, 49!" The chippiness escalated to a boiling point in a punting drill when linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong and Colts cornerback Quincy Wilson squared off. Armstrong threw a few uppercuts before both teams sprinted into a big scrum of shoulder pads.
Linebacker Christian Kirksey emerged with his undershirt torn in two places.
Kitchens pronounced the day a triumph.
“We identified [a] problem last night, and they came out and fixed it,” he said, proudly.
Concluded Beckham: “We came here to impose our will the same way we do in the regular season when it comes up. We are not backing down from anybody, and I love that mentality. That is all I have ever known. Like I said, you do not want [fights] to happen, but it happens sometimes.”
2. OBJ is A-OK: Beckham defused concerns about a possible hip injury and pretty much indicated the Browns’ plan is to keep him out of harm’s way in his first preseason with the club. He missed 16 games with injuries his final two seasons with the Giants, and also suffered a serious injury in a 2017 preseason game in Cleveland.
“I feel good, feel great. It’s just preseason,” he said. “There’s no point in trying to push anything right now.
“Coach Freddie and the training staff have done a great job of figuring out a game-plan of exactly what we want to do, so I’m just following that lead.”
Asked if he’d be out there if this were the regular season, Beckham gave a look that screamed, “What do you think?”
“I’ve been in this position before, headlines been made … ,” he said. “There’s so much good stuff going on with this team, so many players who are out here practicing. And they’re all competing. It’s enjoyable for me to be out there with them and sit and watch and learn the plays.
“For me, I don’t want to focus on me. I’m good. There’s a lot going on we should focus on. A lot of people making plays. Strong coming on, [Rashard] Higgins making plays … I’m just excited to get back out there with them. Just because it looks like so much fun watching them move the ball up and down the field, seeing them be efficient, and not backing down from anybody.
“I love this team’s mentality, love the direction. Just excited to be out there.”
Kitchens had a sly smile on his face when fielding questions about Beckham and whether he will even play in a preseason game.
“I am not worried about Odell at all. He will be ready to go mentally and physically,” the coach affirmed.
3. Chubba, wubba, hub: Nick Chubb took an inside handoff, saw a hole, blasted through and sped 65 yards for a touchdown in a team period.
The play inspired the whole team. Baker Mayfield animatedly exhorted his offensive line on the sideline, as if it were a real game.
Observed Kareem Hunt, “Beautiful vision and he hit it, too. That’s a great run. Props to the O-line, too. They made a nice hole there. You can’t forget about those guys. And Chubb did a good job of finishing the run.”
Kitchens was excited about the run, too. Even though the teams agreed to not tackle to the ground, he agreed Chubb wouldn’t have been tackled on the play.
“This game is built on explosive plays and not turning the ball over,” he said. “Anytime you get an explosive play, everybody understands the significance of that moving forward in a game. That was an explosive play.”
4. Kareem coming around: Hunt concluded a second day of competitive action in team periods and said he is rounding into form after missing more than two weeks with a groin injury.
“Yeah, I feel pretty good,” Hunt said. “I’m still getting a feel. I wouldn’t say I’m at peak, but I’m working my way back.”
Hunt said he wants to play Saturday against the Colts, and probably will. Kitchens would not disclose any play time plans.
5. Brownie bits: Besides Chubb’s run, the offensive highlight was an over-the-shoulder catch of a Mayfield dime of 40 yards by Strong, who beat Ya-Sin down the left sideline. Mayfield completed a five-play, 65-yard scoring drive in a two-minute period on the next play with a dart to Landry from five yards out. “To be able to see him in his element, I love the leader he is, I love his attitude, I love it all about him,” Beckham said ...
In a team period, Colts receiver Daurice Fountain suffered a significant injury to his left ankle on a running play. Reports labeled it a broken and dislocated ankle. Colts coach Frank Reich said afterwards that Fountain was being treated at a local hospital. Onlookers could hear Fountain screaming in pain before being carted off. Practice came to a standstill for about 15 minutes as teammates and Browns players offered their support while Fountain’s leg was immobilized …
Receiver Damion Ratley finally made it back to practice after suffering a hamstring injury on the second day of camp. Kitchens said, “You want to get some good stuff on tape, and time is running out. The clock is ticking. I think the sense of urgency has to be picked up in some areas. I think they are working at that. It just does not happen overnight.” …
Among those sitting out with injuries were: linebacker Sione Takitaki, defensive tackle Devereaux Lawrence (knee), tight end David Njoku (knee), receiver Antonio Callaway (high ankle), Dontrell Hilliard (hamstring), and defensive end Chad Thomas (neck sprain) …
For the second day in a row, rookie Drew Forbes replaced Eric Kush for a few plays as the right guard in a red zone team period. Kitchens said Forbes earned more reps with his performance in the first preseason game. “He has gotten better. He kept his head down when everything around him seemed to be falling apart. He kept his head down and just kept working,” Kitchens said …
The Browns will have a light walk-through on Friday, but no practice.