This wasn’t the kind of crowd he’ll see when he coaches his first regular season game as Browns head coach, but Freddie Kitchens felt compelled to take the mic and show his appreciation after Saturday’s Orange & Brown Scrimmage.
Before a paid crowd of 37,686 -- all funds from the $5 tickets going to the Cleveland Browns Foundation’s newly launched “Get 2 School” campaign -- the Browns went through another, physical practice Saturday. The location was different from the previous eight, as the team did its first work of the summer at FirstEnergy Stadium on a picture perfect late afternoon, but the work was the same.
The atmosphere? That’s why Kitchens ended the day with a microphone in his hands.
“I understand the passion that these fans have, and they demonstrated every opportunity they have to do that. This is no different,” Kitchens said. “This is an opportunity for them to come out, show their support and show their excitement. Yeah, there was adrenaline.”
Check out photos from our Orange and Brown Scrimmage in association with Giant Eagle
It was advertised as a scrimmage, and parts of it indeed fit the requirements to be called a scrimmage, but Saturday very much was another practice in Kitchens' first training camp as head coach. The practice plan followed the familiar structure, and the players began with individual drills before moving to group and special teams work.
But if you were inside (or even outside) FirstEnergy Stadium on Saturday afternoon, you'd never know it was anything less than a game.
Fans filled the entire lower bowl and the upper deck of the west end zone, as well as the south club level, with most arriving before introductions. And boy, were they loud when the Browns took the field -- especially when the receivers were introduced, and lastly, the quarterbacks.
The most notable of that group, second-year starter Baker Mayfield, famously called upon fans to fill up the stadium for the team’s home finale last year against the Bengals. They did just that, and they delivered again Saturday.
“It was not even half-filled and the energy is unreal. You can feel it,” Mayfield said. “People are excited to have football back here. The excitement is justified so now we have to go and make it right for them.”
The fans stuck around and reacted accordingly during one-on-ones when players found success. At one point, tight end Pharaoh Brown threw a ball into the stands after scoring a touchdown, to the delight of those attending.
In all, the excitement was palpable. These fans have waited a long time to see these Browns on the field perched along Lake Erie, and even though it was just a practice, it was more than enough to get their juices flowing.
“It feels good to be back here,” Mayfield said. “Anytime you step on this field, it needs to be a different type of energy. We felt that today.”