While unstylish, if not downright hideous, the Guardian Caps mandated by the NFL for certain position groups at training camp practice are designed to guard against concussions. (TheLandOnDemand)
Non-contact knee injury to Anthony Schwartz thwarts his determination to flip the script of his rookie season
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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Takeaways from Day 2 of Browns training camp …
The Browns have held off adding a veteran to their receivers room for the purpose of developing their young, home-grown ones. But now a second one is down through the first two days of training camp.
Second-year receiver Anthony Schwartz pulled up after making a cut running a route in an offensive drill and suffered a non-contact injury to his left knee.
After moving off the field, Schwartz lay on his back for several minutes with a towel covering his face while a trainer tended to him. Schwartz was able to walk to the fieldhouse under his own power.
The Browns had no update on Schwartz after the light practice, other than he would be further evaluated. An MRI is the usual next step.
Schwartz is the second young receiver to miss time after only two days of camp. Rookie David Bell is on the active/PUP list after arriving to camp with a foot injury. Bell is not expected to miss extended time. But Schwartz is an example of how rookie receivers suffer from missing any practice time in their first NFL training camp.
At the June minicamp, Schwartz opened up about how missed practices in OTAs and training camp because of a hamstring injury marred his rookie season. He also missed three games in November with a concussion and never earned the trust of quarterback Baker Mayfield. Schwartz finished his first year with only 10 receptions on 23 targets.
In June, Schwartz said he was determined to work hard to stay on the field and would “flip the script” to “show people what I can do.”
A world-class sprinter who once had Olympic dreams, Schwartz’s blazing 4.25 40 time at his Auburn pro day helped make him a surprise third-round draft pick of the Browns in 2021. They were intent on developing his receiving and route-running skills in his second year to exploit that speed.
If Schwartz loses extended practice time – and with Bell still not cleared to practice – GM Andrew Berry may have to dip into his receivers “ready list” sooner than he had hoped.
Just throw him the damn ball
Receiver Amari Cooper sounded unfazed by the uncertainty of whether Deshaun Watson or Jacoby Brissett will be the Browns starting quarterback to open the season.
Brissett will be the starter if Watson is serving an NFL suspension for violations of the personal conduct policy. (Nothing new on that.)
“To me, no matter who is back there, I just have to make the job easy for whoever it is,” Cooper said. “That’s my goal every time I line up out there. As long as I handle my business, get open, it’s easy on whoever’s back there. And if I don’t get open, it’s hard on whoever’s back there.
“I’m just looking at a ball spiralling to me at the end of the day.”
“They both actually throw a really good ball," Cooper said. [Both throw a] really tight spiral. None of them throw it too hard, like an uncatchable ball or anything like that.”
In Cooper’s eight NFL seasons, he’s caught passes from Derek Carr of the Raiders and Dak Prescott of the Cowboys. He said he would rank Watson “right there at the top” of that list.
“He can do everything. I call him the Magician. He just makes plays out there. He’s incredible, some of the stuff I’ve seen on film going back to Clemson. He just makes it happen. He’s definitely there at the top.”
I asked Cooper if there was any common trait among Carr, Prescott and Watson.
“They all [wear] No. 4,” he said.
The Guardian Cap
The Browns aren’t one of the teams donning an alternate helmet in 2022 – look for them to add one in 2023, by the way – but they did debut their Guardian Caps at Thursday’s practice.
The Guardian Cap is a foam rubber covering worn over the helmet that is supposed to help reduce the incidence of concussions.
In March, the NFL passed a resolution requiring Guardian Caps at practice through the second preseason game. The caps are mandatory for offensive and defensive linemen, linebackers and tight ends. Other players are welcome to wear them as well, but no Browns from other positions volunteered to wear them on Thursday.
“Anything we can do to make our game safer, we are all about,” coach Kevin Stefanski said. “I think the guys are open to it. Like anything, I am sure there is going to be [some] getting used to it and those type of things, but we used them with the rookies in that first camp when we had just the rookies and the quarterbacks out here – we had them on. I think it will just become the norm likely in our game.”
The league mandated wearing them through the first two preseason games because that is the period of the greatest concentration of head injuries during the preseason. According to league data, over the last three years there were 30 documented concussions per year in preseason practices.
Right tackle Jack Conklin worked on his own in front of a trainer, practicing some blocking sets, a further positive sign he could be cleared to practice soon. Conklin has been praised by Stefanski for his diligence in rehabbing from torn patellar tendon surgery …
Safety John Johnson on the difference in his second year with the Browns: “It’s a lot different. The vibe is way better. I don’t know if it’s just me. I feel everybody feels that same vibe. It’s fun. Enjoying it. And can’t wait to get on the field.” …
The ramp up to full-scale practices is slower than ever, thanks to concessions to the NFL players union in the 2021 collective bargaining agreement. On the first day, the Browns held a glorified walk-through wearing T-shirts and shorts and had a conditioning test. On the second, they wore helmets for the first time and increased time on the field to just over an hour, but offense and defense remained separated. First practice open to the public is Saturday. Sunday is the first required off day (every fifth day). And the team won’t practice in pads until Tuesday, Stefanski said.