CLEVELAND, Ohio — Browns receiver Jarvis Landry revealed on a Zoom call this week that he’s a little ahead of schedule in his rehab from hip surgery in February, but he also stressed that he’ll be smart about his return, and that’s exactly what the Browns need.
The target date has always been August, but players usually return on a limited basis and work themselves up to full-go.
“I can’t predict when exactly when I’ll be on the field, whether that’s July, August or September, but obviously, my return date is sometime in August,’’ he said.
Of course, Landry will want to keep his six-year streak of never missing a game alive, but even then, he’ll do what’s best for himself and the team.
“Yeah, it’s in my mind, but I’m really focused on this rehab to make sure that I can be ready for the season,’’ he said.
Landry and the Browns have lofty goals again this season, and he knows he needs to be healthy in November for December even more than September. Granted, the Browns start with a bang with the opener in Baltimore and then a Thursday night game at home against the Bengals, but Landry is striking the right note with this rehab, knowing what’s at stake down the stretch.
Here are some other takeaways from the week:
The Browns have plenty of new players, but they’re finding a way to build camaraderie amid the coronavirus pandemic in this Virtual Period of the offseason program.
“On our weekly calls, Thursday’s been opened up to be kind of ‘player only’ [calls],’’ center JC Tretter said. “Special teams meet and the rest of the guys who aren’t on special teams can sit in a Zoom call and just do what you would have done if you were sitting in the locker room – talk, chat and go over plays. Baker [Mayfield] will run us through different things, and we’ll talk through our calls and do all that, but a lot of it is just a chance to get to know each other and see each other’s personalities.’’
Tretter and other team leaders such as Joel Bitonio have taken the lead in welcoming the new veterans such Jack Conklin and Austin Hooper as well as the rookies. The Browns also have double-digit new defenders on the roster.
“We have a lot of new additions,’’ Tretter said. “That will be something that will be different, just like the rookies. The interaction with rookies is a little bit different than previous years, but trying to find ways just to get to know people as human beings, what their families are like, how are they doing and where are they living. All of that stuff is important so we kind of have that built that into our program, allowing the players to take the lead and go through plays, as well as just be guys and be guys in the locker room, just virtually.”
Linebacker B.J. Goodson, signed as a free agent in March, has already felt welcome despite the online bonding.
“It’s hard to explain the camaraderie that comes with the locker room, so we’re trying to fill that void of us not being around each other. When we’re on those calls and things of that nature, guys are trying to let loose, but not be disrespectful, and show their personality. It’s important that we all have a feel for each other.’’
He said guys such as second-year linebackers Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki have kept things light.
“We have a great room and great camaraderie in the linebacker room,’’ he said. “Those guys are pretty funny.”
Goodson said the linebackers always take a few minutes to talk about life and not football.
“I feel like we are doing a great job as far as that goes,’’ he said.
The Browns are building the team concept in other ways too. Mayfield hosted players for workouts in his hometown of Austin, Texas, and Landry is working out at the same facility as Peoples-Jones in Deerfield Beach, Fla., the Barwis Performance Center where he’s taken the rookie under his wing.
Tretter’s remarks about some NFL players being vulnerable to Covid-19 underscored just how complicated a return to the field in September will be.
“Obviously, the emphasis is always on the elderly population and the effects of the virus, but there are a lot of people with underlying conditions inside our league,’’ Tretter, president of the NFLPA, said. “People see professional athletes as these kind of invincible robots where they’re always in the best shape and there is no kind of chink in their armor, but that’s not really the case. There are a lot of guys with underlying conditions and problems that we have to look out for. That’s something we are always trying to keep top of mind.”
Their families will weigh heavily into the equation too. This week, former Browns and current 49ers running back Raheem Mostert acknowledged this wife, Devon, who’s due with their second child in the fall, is concerned for all involved.
“She has actually cried a couple of times just because she wants to make sure not only myself but those 90 guys that are in the locker room are going to all be safe, and their families as well,” Mostert told the AP this week.
So, no matter how determined the NFL is to start on time, the union won’t put its players on the field until they feel safe, and that won’t be easy.
“This is a contact disease and we play a contact sport,’’ Tretter said.
The Haslams are at the forefront of hiring minority candidates for high-level positions and should be commended for that, especially in an era where too many teams aren’t taking the Rooney Rule seriously enough.
Modifications were made to the rule this week, including teams being required to interview at least two candidates from outside their organization for any vacant head-coaching job; and at least one minority candidate from outside their organization for any offensive, defensive or special-teams coordinator job.
Previously, the Rooney Rule required one minority interview for a head coaching vacancy and none for coordinator.
The Rooney Rule also now applies to other executive positions, with teams and the NFL office required to interview “minorities and/or female applicants” for senior-level positions such as team president and in other areas such as communications, finance, human resources and more.
Fortunately for the Browns, they didn’t need to be coaxed into hiring excellent minority candidates. They’re one of two teams with an African-American GM in Andrew Berry, with the other being Chris Grier of the Dolphins. Berry just hired two minorities for key positions in the personnel department in Vice President of Football Operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and National Scout Charles Walls.
Coach Kevin Stefanski has made minority hiring a priority, and he believes his Chief of Staff Callie Brownson will be a head coach in the NFL one day.
If more teams were like the Browns, the NFL wouldn’t have to drum up incentives such as better draft position (which was tabled last week) for minority hiring.