Believe it or not, we're already four episodes into another year of "Building the Browns."
The award-winning docuseries dropped its fourth installment of the season Sunday, and it's packed with plenty of fun and insightful behind-the-scenes footage of all things taking place at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. Players have been in Berea for the last month to complete the offseason program, and the BTB crew has been able to capture plenty of scenes you won't find anywhere else.
Here are some of the top takeaways we have from Episode 4.
1. Team-bonding at the forefront of offseason program
For the first time since the regular season, the Browns were able to gather on the practice fields — albeit with only jerseys and shorts — and conduct walkthrough practices.
"Practice" is always light during Phase Two, a three-week period where teams are allowed to run walkthroughs in addition to weight room work and team meetings. The easy-going environment makes things fun and productive for players and coaches while also allowing plenty of time for team bonding to take place.
The top team-bonding activity, it seems, was by the basketball hoop. Players put some shots up on a hoop by the practice field and enjoyed being able to show their shooting skills in a football setting.
"It's amazing how our guys love to shoot hoops," coach Kevin Stefanski said. "They'll be out there all day it seems. We try to encourage them to do whatever it is, whether it's in this building or outside this building, to develop those relationships, which are such a big part of building this team."
Ron Brewer, the Director of Player Engagement, is the top guy in charge of finding ways to build the Browns' team chemistry together. One of the things he recently organized was a team golf lesson, an idea originally sparked from QB Jacoby Brissett.
"If you study cohesive ways to build a team, it includes doing things outside of work," Brewer said. "That's really what I looked at coming into the season. Jacoby came to me and was looking for some golf lessons. So I just had the idea that maybe a lot of guys are interested in golf and never had the opportunity to be taught how to swing a golf club.
"The next thing you know, I had 20-25 guys that were really interested in learning how to swing the club."
Check out photos of all the Browns rookies in Cleveland — and catch them live on 'Browns Live: Meet the Rookies' on May 18
2. Oklahoma rookies stay tight
One batch of Browns rookies didn't need many off-the-field activities to forge a close bond.
For Perrion Winfrey, Isaiah Thomas and Michael Woods II, the bond was already established at Oklahoma. All three players were drafted by the Browns after big careers with the Sooners, so it felt natural for them to stick together as they arrived in Cleveland and acclimated to a new job in a new home.
"We're all in a new city, and I don't know if any of us have even been to Ohio," Woods said. "It's good even for outside the facility, getting to know where you are and getting submerged into another culture. It's good to have other people with you that you can ask questions and share knowledge with."
Just about every BTB scene with multiple OU players showed them all smiling. As expected, Winfrey — the energetic defensive end— never seemed to lose his grin even as he went through equipment procedures for things as simple as being fitted for a helmet.
It'll be interesting to see how Winfrey and Thomas, a defensive end, will feed off their bond over the next few weeks when Phase Three begins. Practices will be a bit more intense, and it'll likely lead to plenty of scenes showing how each of them use each other's energy.
3. A peek into rookie minicamp operations
Rookie minicamp is a vital step for all new players as they mesh with new coaches and begin to adjust to the speed of the game at the NFL level.
BTB captured a few snippets of how Stefanski conducts the three-day period, starting with a team meeting featuring ice breakers with each of the rookies and coaches. One interesting piece from the scene was from WR David Bell, who said Akron native and NBA legend LeBron James was his favorite athlete growing up.
On the field, pass game coordinator/defensive backs coach Jeff Howard, assistant defensive backs coach Brandon Lynch, defensive line coach Chris Kiffin and linebackers coach Jason Tarver were all mic'd up, providing an interesting look into how a rookie minicamp is ran.
"The goal when we get our hands on these guys is to teach our systems," Stefanski said. "We really want to catch them up to where our veterans are and then get them on the field and in individual drills, where the emphasis is really on teaching. We're going slow, and we want to take our time and dive into the specific techniques of every position."
4. A cool Combine scene with Martin Emerson Jr.
It's always interesting to get a look behind the curtain of NFL Combine meetings with future Browns players. Episode 4 featured one of those bits with third-round pick CB Martin Emerson Jr.
Emerson was sitting down with Lynch, Howard and GM Andrew Berry when Lynch asked Emerson what technique he wanted to be in on a crucial-down situation. Emerson asked a few follow-ups about the ball location and quarterback — Berry said "Patrick Mahomes" — before Emerson gave a straight-forward answer.
"I'd probably play off (coverage)," Emerson said. "The ball is coming out fast, so I'd just play off the sticks, flat-footed, and then just react."
There was a lot of football lingo in that response, but it's the one Lynch and the other Browns coaches wanted to here. They clearly valued Emerson enough to make him their first pick of the draft at 68th overall, and defensive coordinator Joe Woods appeared to spend a decent chunk of time at rookie minicamp working with Emerson to hone his technique.
"He's the type of guy you like because he can match up against the big receivers in the division," Woods said. "I think he's going to fit into our group very well. I know Coach Lynch had a great interview with him during the Combine. I know coming away from (the meeting), they felt he had a very high IQ and could fit into our system."