Browns coach Kevin Stefanski would like to greet his veteran players on Monday for the starter of Phase Three of the team's offseason program. But he may have to modify his plans for the veterans to end their boycott of the voluntary practices. (USA Today)
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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Takeaways from all over the NFL …
Can we talk?
Phase Three of the Browns’ offseason program begins on Monday, and you have to wonder if the coaches will finally modify their original plans in order to get veterans to end their boycott of the voluntary sessions.
Over a dozen NFL coaches have agreed to modify their programs after consulting with their respective player leadership councils. Some have canceled their scheduled mandatory minicamps in June as a concession to concerns of the players about unnecessary physical work in the offseason.
Super Bowl participants Tampa Bay and Kansas City are among the teams that have enjoyed near-100 percent participation in their offseason programs as a result of ceding to players’ wishes.
But not the Browns.
Phase Three lasts four weeks through June 18. During this time, teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.
Coaches such as Andy Reid, Bruce Arians and Frank Reich, have agreed to reduce on-field activity to no-contact “walk-throughs.” As a result, they have been able to conduct meetings and walk-throughs with their entire veteran squads.
The Browns won’t comment on attendance in their offseason program. It is believed attendance has been limited to primarily rookies.
The Browns have not indicated whether they intend to conduct a mandatory minicamp as previously scheduled June 15-17.
On the Ross Tucker Podcast, Browns GM Andrew Berry continued to give every indication that a contract extension for quarterback Baker Mayfield is a priority for the team.
“That is an approach we believe in in terms of identifying pillar guys and trying to retain them as soon as we can,” Berry said. “That being said, each situation truly is unique. But we do want to get into a habit of rewarding our own and identifying those guys. No different than what we did with Myles Garrett last year, we did that with Kareem Hunt last year. I think that’s something you’ll see more often than not within our organization, but that being said it’s not a one size fits all approach.”
Mad Mac v. Lombardi
On a recent in-studio appearance on “The Really Big Show” on 850 ESPN Cleveland, former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, aka “the Punky QB” of Super Bowl Shuffle fame, recalled his brief experience with the Browns under coach Bill Belichick in 1995.
That was a dark season in Browns annals, of course, low-lighted by the secret deal signed by then-owner Art Modell to move the team to Baltimore. Amid all that chaos, McMahon, then 36, was invited to Browns training camp, after which Belichick asked McMahon to stay in Cleveland until he was needed.
“He said, ‘We’ll take care of you. We’ll pay you to sit out,’” McMahon recalled Belichick saying.
McMahon said he moved his family to Brecksville on the promise that he’d be paid until the Browns needed to activate him. But the paychecks never came, according to McMahon, and his anger increased by the week.
Finally, McMahon was signed to the regular squad late in the year. But when McMahon sought to recover the promised checks, he met resistance from Belichick’s top henchman, Mike Lombardi.
“I confronted the GM … what the hell is his name? … Lombardi,” McMahon said. “He’s coming down the hallway and I said, ‘I need my money.’ He looks at me and says, ‘Well, maybe we’ll pay you and maybe we won’t.’ I lost it. I just snapped. Grabbed him by the neck, threw his head at the wall and said you’re going to pay me my money. I stopped. He slid down the wall. I called my attorney and said get me cut right now. Very next day I was gone.”
This anecdote can be heard at the 32nd minute of the full interview here.
Word is that coach Kevin Stefanski would like to schedule joint practices with the New York Giants in Berea prior to their preseason game Aug. 21 in FirstEnergy Stadium. Assuming NFLPA president and Browns center JC Tretter approves, of course.
Where will Houston quarterback DeShaun Watson be playing in 2021? My money is on Philadelphia. The Eagles potentially have three first-round picks in the 2022 draft to use in a trade package and have limited their quarterback room to Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco and undrafted free agent Jamie Newman.
The furor over Urban Meyer’s signing of former Florida Heisman Trophy winning-quarterback Tim Tebow is over the top. Yes, Tebow, 33, hasn’t played in the NFL since 2012. And he is making a position switch to tight end. But Tebow is still an icon in the Jacksonville market and Meyer knows him better than anyone. What’s the harm in bringing him to camp and stirring up some buzz in a dormant NFL market?