Training Camp

News & Notes: Nick Chubb shoulders load for thin Browns running back group

Much of the offseason was spent discussing the Browns' rare depth at running back. Beyond Nick Chubb, there was Duke Johnson and new addition Kareem Hunt, prompting players to describe it as opponents having to pick their poison.

On Saturday, only one of those players was available to play.

Chubb was the lone member of that trio to fully suit up and participate in Day 3 of Browns training camp, carrying the load for a group that has been bitten by the injury bug early. Hunt has missed all of camp so far with a groin injury that landed him on the active/non-football injury list, and Johnson sat out Saturday with a hamstring issue.

"It's not much different, but you've got to get your mind right because you know you're going to get most of the reps," Chubb said afterward. "That's what happens when a guy goes down, it carries on to the people behind him. We do a good job of staying fresh. We've got all this time to recover, so it's not too bad." 

It also helps that Dontrell Hilliard and D'Ernest Johnson are healthy and able to play. But few teams will try to get through multiple days with just three running backs, especially when practices are running two-plus hours long.

Just a few hours after practice ended Saturday, the Browns answered that question, signing Ohio University running back A.J. Ouellette to bring the total to available backs to four.

Head coach Freddie Kitchens was uncertain on when Johnson might return.

"We do not know the specifics. We are going to see how it progresses," he said. "Duke is a quick healer, but we want to be cautious from the standpoint of the guy has to play for us. We have to make sure the guy is healthy and that it is not something that lingers. Sometimes with hamstrings, they linger. Duke will be fine. We just need to make sure we err on the side of cautious."

Check out photos from the third day of Browns Camp by team photographer Matt Starkey

-- Linebacker Sione Takitaki nearly sparked the first fracas of camp on Day 1 when he wrapped up Johnson a with a little too much contact. That angered Johnson and led Kitchens to suggest the rookie learn how to practice properly while in shorts.

"He's a physical guy. Sometimes he lets that get the best of him," Kitchens said of Takitaki. "When we're in shorts, I don't want him to change who he is. I just want him to be able to play in shorts and practice in shorts and get better and he's working at that and he's gonna get better at that."

Shorts weren't included in Saturday's camp, meaning the restrictions were off. It was go time for Takitaki.

"He told me that when we were in OTAs, like 'bro, when we put on these pads, bro, it's different. It's gonna be a different me,'" cornerback Greedy Williams said of Takitaki. "We talked about this in OTAs and he got his opportunity to put the pads on today and I thought he did very well."

Takitaki made a play at one point early in practice and was so fired up, he let out a strong howl. He's a player that wins with his physicality, which should shine through as we complete more padded practices. Saturday was just the first taste of it.

-- Speaking of shorts, Kitchens said Saturday we shouldn't clamor for them. Pads are needed to prepare for this season.

"I do not see shorts coming back into play anytime soon," Kitchens said.

-- Receiver Blake Jackson had an excellent day with the second team, and fellow wideout Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi continues to give maximum effort in every practice, resulting in some surprising plays that have caught the attention of everyone associated with the organization. 

Kitchens is noticing and likes what he sees. 

"Just their willingness to get better and continue to learn and take reps," Kitchens said when asked what he likes about Jackson and Sheehy-Guiseppi. "I will tell you something about those two guys, you better be in there in the huddle or they are going to jump in and get your rep. I like that kind of stuff. I like people that want to. I like people that strive to get extra attention because in the National Football League, especially during this time of the year, you are either going to get exposed or you are going to get exposure. I think you would much rather have exposure than getting exposed. Getting exposed means you probably are not going to be here when the calendar turns to September."

Jackson was a standout on Saturday, which we covered more in Fresh Takes.

For more on Sheehy-Guiseppi's improbable path to the Browns, click here.

--The Tour de Berea is cancelled this season. Kitchens went on a bit of a tangent in relation to the policy of other coaches putting players unable to practice or players enjoying a veteran rest day on stationary bikes off to the side, as if to show they're still doing something when not practicing. That won't be happening in Cleveland this season, as Kitchens thinks it's better for those players to be with their teammates, contributing in ways other than actually playing. 

"Morgan (Burnett) still practiced. He just did not get a lot of team reps," Kitchens said. "I think they have to be available. They have to be available. Their teammates over there sitting on a bike? I don't know what that is. I have never understood that. I do not want to get into that. That was last year. This is my philosophy, and somebody is going to think I am an idiot, but I do not really care. I am not going to change how I feel because of what somebody else says, what somebody else does or what somebody else thinks of me or how they think I am running the ship. That is what I decided to do because I think it builds team and togetherness.

"I think if you have guys over there on the bike that can practice, they need to go through individual period. They need to stand by their coach in their uniform with their helmet, ready to listen, learn and teach the other guys. Morgan Burnett has been in this league a long time. He knows what is going on. That is just my philosophy. They need to be a part of it. They are part of the team so be part of the team."

Point heard. This team definitely won't lack face time.

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