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New-look strength staff looks to shape Browns with diverse toolbox

Adam Beard moved halfway across the globe and promptly tuned out the noise. Newly hired as the Browns director of high performance, Beard was tasked last season with observing and analyzing a sport rooted in tradition to find "low-hanging fruit," areas that could use a fresh perspective from someone with as diverse of a background as Beard's.

The Australian-born Beard, who picked up a wealth of experience overseas working with many Olympic, world champion and professional sporting organizations, focused exclusively on what he saw between the lines and behind the scenes in the weight room while tuning out everything else that makes the NFL a billion-dollar machine.

"It's a really unique game, it's followed all over the world. Processes have always stayed true," Beard said. "I think with science coming in, you've got to find a way of helping that culture and helping the sport without changing the sport.

"When I first came over, I was asked by (Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam) to pick the low-hanging fruit, but if I would have picked it too early, culturally it may not have been the right way to assist the sport. That was the best thing for me to understand things the way they've always been and how I can enrich that rather than just changing it for the sake of what I've done before."

Now in his second year with the team, Beard is set to implement his high-performance focused program with a new, larger staff of assistants when offseason workouts begin Monday.

The following coaches, six of whom are new additions, will work alongside Beard in the coming season: Evan Marcus (strength and conditioning coordinator), Jason Veltkamp (strength and conditioning coordinator), Art Tolhurst (strength and conditioning assistant), Jamey Mroz (sports scientist), Joe Kim (strength and conditioning/skills development), Derik Keyes (strength and conditioning assistant) and Ian Jones (strength and conditioning intern).

Beard interviewed more than 50 candidates for the six positions. The team is still in the process of hiring a nutritionist, which will be hands-on with the players and coaches throughout the season and offseason.

"I was looking for skill sets, and that's kind of the model of trying to get people who have the skill sets who can stretch themselves but know the goal that it's all about football. There's no sport of strength and conditioning," Beard said. "I don't want eight of me. I wanted people to have better skill sets in areas I'm not.

"(Head athletic trainer Joe Sheehan and I) were kind of drawing on the board what we wanted: NFL experience, college experience, Olympic lifting, understanding running, throw specialist, strength diagnostics, strength science and putting it all together."

The goal of Beard's program is to customize workouts to players in order to maximize their in-game performance while constantly adapting. That means, for example, different exercises and strategies for offensive linemen than what the team's wide receivers experience. The increased staff size will narrow down the player-coach ratio and reflects the evolution of increased staffing all throughout NFL franchises.

"At the end of the day, it's about Sunday. It's about the game. It's not about opinions I've got," Beard said. "I looked at those questions, how can we get better, how can we win, how can we train better. There's a lot of soft tissue (injuries) in the league. It's not unique just to the Browns. You kind of go around the league and there's a lot of soft tissue (injuries). Having a look at how can we help that, how can we prevent that, but also making sure they perform."

Beard came to the Browns after six years with the Welsh Rugby Union, where he oversaw player performance plans from four professional Welsh Rugby franchises and several overseas franchises. A native of Sydney, he's worked as a strength and conditioning coach since 2000.

Veltkamp spent the past four years as the head football strength and conditioning coach at North Carolina State. He held similar positions at the University of Arkansas (2008-12), University of Louisville (2004-07) and University of Utah (2001-2003).

Marcus spent the previous two seasons as the Minnesota Vikings head strength and conditioning coach. The former collegiate offensive lineman held a similar position with the Miami Dolphins (2008-10), Atlanta Falcons (2007) and University of Virginia (2011-13).

Kim has worked with a number of NFL teams over the past two decades, including the Browns, where he began his NFL career from 1992-95 as an assistant strength and conditioning coach/pass rush specialist. He brings a wealth of martial arts knowledge and experience with him as a seventh Dan Black Belt recognized by Kukkiwon, USA Taekwondo and the World Taekwondo Federation.

Mroz was a strength and conditioning coaching assistant with the Bengals in 2015 and has held similar position with Vanderbilt, Southeastern Louisiana University while starting in the NFL as an intern with the New York Giants.

Tolhurst was a strength and conditioning assistant at the college level from 2009-2016. He rose the ranks as a graduate assistant at the University of Oregon and spent one year at the University of California before returning to Oregon in 2012 as a strength and conditioning assistant.

Keyes enters his fourth season with the Browns and fifth in the NFL. He came to Cleveland in 2013 after a season with the Houston Texans, where he assisted in the supervision of weight training and focused on the speed and agility development of players on injured reserve.

Jones comes to the Browns from Penn State, where he served as a strength and conditioning coach for the Nittany Lions' field hockey and men's and women's rugby teams.

"Whatever methods we can utilize to get better, we'll utilize," Beard said. "It's having a look at what helps the sport, not what helps us in the weight room. The weight room should help us on Sunday, that's it."

Cleveland's offseason workout program, which is voluntary, begins Monday, carries through the spring and builds up to the team's mandatory veteran minicamp in June. Beard said he's been in communication with a number of players throughout the offseason.

Their excitement to get started and experience the revamped program, he said, is palpable.

"I've got guys that have led strength and conditioning programs coming in and I think they believe in the model," Beard said. "That's why I've been lucky enough to get them to come on. If they didn't believe it, they wouldn't have come."

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