Organized team activities in the NFL are voluntary, yet when a star player can open himself to criticism by skipping them.
When said player is a recently acquired, arguably generational talent, those critiques are magnified further.
Cleveland Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who joined his team this week for mandatory minicamp, defended his decision to train and prepare his body for the upcoming season away from those OTAs.
“Everybody knows their bodies,” Beckham said Wednesday after practice. “I know my body better than anybody else, so I know what it takes to get me to top physical condition, mental condition, too. All of those things. This isn’t my first rodeo. It’s not my first go-round. I just know what it takes to get there.”
Beckham was the prize acquisition for Cleveland this offseason after the team traded with the New York Giants to pair him with fellow receiver Jarvis Landry and quarterback Baker Mayfield.
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While Beckham was absent from OTAs, rookie head coach Freddie Kitchens apparently became irritated about being asked so many questions regarding Beckham’s training.
“I do not know,” Kitchens said Tuesday with a chuckle after the first mandatory minicamp practice when asked who was the player wearing No. 13 – Beckham’s jersey number.
“… Would I have like him here? Yes. No doubt about it. I want everybody here, but he does not have to be here. It is voluntary.”
Beckham stressed that the Browns front office was kept in the loop about his offseason training.
“Coach and I have a different plan than everybody else,” Beckham added. “We talked and communicated throughout the entire offseason, so he knew my whereabouts and when I’d be here and when I’d be coming in and when I wouldn’t be, so everybody kind of knew the game plan and I’m taking my time to ease back into it. The good thing about it is we play in September.”
Kitchens said last Friday that Beckham missed “a lot” during his OTA absence, emphasizing that the offensive installation was the most pressing. Still, Beckham said that he had been studying the playbook through his team-issued iPad.
“Everybody’s out here, they’re moving fast,” Beckham said. “New plays, new position, everything, just adjusting to it. I’ve always been a pretty smart guy as far as when it comes to the playbook, so it won’t be too hard to pick up.”
Beckham is coming off of a 2018 season with the Giants in which he caught 77 passes for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games.
“Words don’t really even do it justice for being out here,” Beckham said. “I’m almost giddy. I feel like a little kid. The excitement I have seeing Baker, seeing these guys. We talk a lot about this offense, but the defense is something special. The team is really coming together, and the good part about it is it’s only June. We’ve still got a lot of time, we’ve still got a whole training camp to go through and I feel like this team is really going to come together.
“But I’m beyond excited about the opportunity I have to just start over on this new team. Obviously the goal is going to be the same, and that’s to hang banners. We know we have a lot of expectations and a lot of work to do, but I think we’ll get there.”
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.