By BARRY GOODRICH
The excitement surrounding the 2019 Cleveland Browns is palpable. A once dormant franchise is now the talk of the NFL, and Browns’ fans, never shy about expressing their opinions, are primed for the open training camp practices scheduled July 25-Aug. 2.
Since the acquisition of All-Pro receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the hype has been off the charts. But the players who experienced last season’s resurgence know there is plenty of work to be done before the Sept. 8 season opener against Tennessee.
Baker Mayfield is coming off a dynamic season when he set an NFL record for most touchdown passes thrown by a rookie quarterback. But he is well aware that all that matters now is what he does in 2019.
“It is not just getting more reps right now,” said Mayfield during the June minicamp. “It is the experience and the things I saw last year during games and being able to compare and grow and learn from those mistakes.
“We continue to build chemistry as time goes by. I just think we are continuing to do little things right. Everybody has got to be able to do their job and do it the same way.”
Mayfield emerged as a team leader last season as his competitive fire on the field became contagious. Now in his sophomore season, the fiery quarterback will once again be looked to as a motivational force.
“Obviously, the quarterback position, there is a certain leadership role that comes with that but I expect myself to have a much bigger role than just positional leadership,” said Mayfield. “To be able to be that guy for everybody that can count on me when it’s crunch time or just off the field, be around me, be relatable and be that same guy for them.”
“It’s about what we have in this building right now – we care about what you are going to do for this team and how we are going to get better. That is the bottom line.”
Beckham does not anticipate any problems fitting in with the Browns’ explosive offense, of which he is now a key element. “I have always been a pretty smart guy when it comes to the playbook,” he said. “It will not be too hard to pick up. This is not my first rodeo. It is not my first go-round. I just know what it takes to get there.”
Linebacker Christian Kirksey, in his sixth season with the team, has seen the lows the franchise has experienced. He is now ready to enjoy some long-awaited success.
“It is an exciting time to be here,” said Kirksey. “I think the guys in this room feel very confident. We have to black out what people expect us to do and just do what we have to do. At the end of the day we control our destiny and control our faith. Our goal is to win, our goal is to get better and try not to pay attention to too much of what people are saying.”
Browns safety Damarious Randall feels he and his teammates are in the right place at the right time. “I love it here, the fans, the coaches and everybody in charge” said Randall. “Just playing for a football town, a football state, is very special to me.”