Browns’ star joins team drills for first time at practice

Cleveland Browns

Beckham was on the field for a handful of plays in the 11 on 11 period, and the star wide receiver also caught passes in 7 on 7 drills, his most significant work to date.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. catches a pass during a joint NFL football training camp practice with the New York Giants, Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, in Berea, Ohio

AP/Ron Schwane

CLEVELAND (AP) — Odell Beckham Jr.’s comeback is closer to completion.

Beckham, who has slowly increased his activities since the Browns opened training camp last month, took his first snaps in team drills during Thursday’s practice — a major step in his return from season-ending knee surgery.

Beckham was on the field for a handful of plays in the 11 on 11 period, and the star wide receiver also caught passes in 7 on 7 drills, his most significant work to date.

Beckham suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Week 7 last season against Cincinnati and wasn’t a part of Cleveland’s run to the playoffs. He arrived at camp in phenomenal shape and well ahead of schedule.

The Browns have taken a cautious approach with Beckham, who has done individual drills during practice and worked on the side with quarterback Baker Mayfield, but was held out of the scrimmage portions until Thursday.

Beckham lined up to the far right on his first two plays and blocked as the Browns executed running plays to the left. Later, he ran an out pattern in 7 on 7s and caught a short pass from Mayfield while being covered by rookie cornerback Greg Newsome II.

Before practice, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt expressed optimism that Beckham will be ready for the Sept. 12 season opener at Kansas City.

“I hope so. We’re all hoping for that,” Van Pelt said. “I’m not sure where that’s going right now, but he looks really good. He’s running well. He’s coming in and out of his breaks. He’s cutting well. Hopefully we can get him up there for the opener.”

Before he got injured last season, Mayfield and Beckham struggled with their chemistry. But the pair worked together in Texas during the offseason and Cleveland’s coaches have scripted plays for them to do while the Browns are practicing special teams.

“They’re in a really good place right now as far as their mind space, all the work they did in the offseason, spending time together, just continuing to build that bond,” Van Pelt said. “And hopefully that will show this year on the field.”

Beckham’s in his third season with the Browns, who acquired him from the New York Giants in 2019. In 23 games for Cleveland, he has 97 catches for 1,354 yards and seven touchdowns.

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