There was a common belief that if the NFL cancelled offseason training activities this season out of caution regarding the pandemic, the Cleveland Browns would be fine, but now that they are having them, the focus is on who isn't in attendance. Again. OTAs have a real value for the Browns this season, but the players who need to be there are already there.
The defense, for the most part, is in Berea and working, which is great. With a unit that is incorporating so many new players, there is far more reason for everyone to be there. Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward are setting the tone as leaders on that sign of the ball, but Anthony Walker helped to explain why it was so important for the defense to be there.
The Browns can't simply expect to be able to step onto the field in September with a defense that is going to immediately click. It could be a work in progress that doesn't really get going for several weeks into the year. So beginning to work on that now has a huge value.
The rookies and most of the young players on the roster are there. Not only is it cheaper for them to be there than training on their own, but they have the most to learn about various systems. Other younger players didn't have the opportunity to participate in OTAs, so for some of them it's about giving themselves the best possible opportunity to secure a roster spot and earn a role.
Many of the starting offensive players are not in attendance at this point. Baker Mayfield, the veteran receivers, running backs, tight ends and offensive linemen are not there. And given how well that side of the ball knows each other, that's not a concern.
They know the offensive terminology and the system. Mayfield already worked out with receivers in Florida this year. Getting additional work is important and OTAs is a way to do it, but it's not the only way.
The virtual component is a game changer in term of OTAs and the offseason in general. The team isn't taking attendance and giving it out to the public, but the players who aren't in Berea actively working with the team on the field are still in those virtual meetings.
It allows players to stay engaged with teammates, coaches and continue their own preparation for the season. For a player like Odell Beckham, that's continuing the work he's doing to rehabilitate his knee in Arizona. Jarvis Landry tends to work out in Jupiter, Florida. Mayfield is usually in Austin, Texas.
It's easy to get in mindset that if a player isn't at OTAs, they are somehow not actively working to better the team or the team is suffering by their lack of attendance.
The team would undoubtedly prefer everyone would be in attendance. They love control and being able to monitor what players are doing. It feels safe and productive. That doesn't mean that the offense is somehow going to be at a disadvantage because they aren't there on June 2nd.
Much of OTAs has been at a walkthrough pace with a significant emphasis on teaching. Offensive players that aren't as concerned about learning the scheme or going over techniques they already know.
Those players can attend virtual meetings and continue focus on their own preparation, which might include focusing on physical training for a more few weeks until mandatory minicamp, then making the full transition back into a normal football schedule.
If the Browns lose their opening game of the season to the Kansas City Chiefs, it won't be due to lack of attendance at OTAs at the start of June. The first important date as it relates to player attendance in Berea will be the mandatory minicamp that runs from the 15th through 17th. Until then, the Browns players are fine.