A quick scan of the CrossCountry Mortgage Campus practice field Monday revealed a Browns team that was as healthy as it's been since the start of training camp.
That was the plan, coach Kevin Stefanski said, and Monday was simply the manifestation of it.
After three days away, the Browns welcomed back three players — WR Rashard Higgins, CB Troy Hill and C JC Tretter — who were sidelined during portions of practice last week. The only player sidelined was reserve G Michael Dunn, who has been dealing with a back issue.
No one in the NFL is ever at full strength, but the Browns are close to it as they prepare to open the season against the defending AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs.
"That has been the plan all along is to make sure you are sharp and you are fresh," Stefanski said. "We had some guys working through some injuries and continue to do that, but that has kind of been the plan. Hopefully, guys continue to progress."
Among those who has progressed in a big way since the start of camp is WR Odell Beckham Jr.
The talented, Pro Bowl pass-catcher has steadily worked his way back from a serious knee injury he suffered Week 7 of the 2020 season. Though his work has been mostly limited to individual drills, Beckham has looked like his old self while impressing those closest to him with how quickly he's recovered.
Beckham is among a handful of players whose status for Sunday will be determined as the week progresses, Stefanski said.
Defensively, Monday marked one of the first days in which all of the team's projected starters and major role players were healthy and available at the start of practice. The unit could start as many as seven new faces for Sunday's game, which serves as a rematch of sorts from last year's AFC Divisional Round matchup in the same stadium.
"I would say things are very different," Stefanski said. "Obviously, we are all in a different place. Having a year under the belt for our coaches with our players, we hope provides and advantage, but there are a bunch of teams – including the one we are playing this week – where they have continuity, as well."
Check out exclusive photos from Monday's practice at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus
Chase Gets the Nod
The Browns will enter Week 1 with Chase McLaughlin as their kicker, Stefanski said.
McLaughlin has been with the team since the start of the offseason program and kicked well all throughout training camp. He was the lone kicker on the roster for multiple weeks after incumbent Cody Parkey suffered an injury in pre-game warmups before Cleveland's Week 2 preseason matchup with the Giants. The Browns added Chris Naggar to the practice squad last week, but the move won't affect McLaughlin's status for this particular game, Stefanski said.
"It is a competition at every position throughout the season, but the plan was always to have two kickers on the roster," Stefanski said.
McLaughlin made all but two of his preseason kicks with both misses — 56-yard field goal attempt and an extra point — coming in the preseason finale at Atlanta. McLaughlin, who has spent time on a number of teams since entering the league in 2019, handled kicking duties in four games for two different teams last season. For his career, McLaughlin is 22-of-28 on field goals and 31-of-32 on extra points.
The Browns went through a brief practice Monday, their first since last Thursday, as they take advantage of the extended time leading up to Sunday's season opener. The players are off again Tuesday before starting their traditional game week schedule Wednesday.
"Guys took care of what they needed to take care of and then got some good work in today," Stefanski said. "We are going to go back in and have some meetings and another walkthrough. It is a good workday for us."