Odell Beckham Jr.'s 11-month wait to return to football is nearly over.
Beckham, the wide receiver who spent the second half of last season and entire offseason working back from a season-ending ACL injury from 2020, is feeling healthy, quick and eager to add a big boost to a Browns offense that started the season strong — but still needs its star playmaker. He was listed Wednesday as a full participant in practice, which is another big step toward Beckham finally re-joining the Browns offense for the first time in nearly a year.
"Everything is going smooth," Beckham told local reporters Thursday. "It's just been part of the progression the entire time, just working my way back into it. Everything feels good, so I'm just taking it day by day."
The Browns have been hopeful to re-insert Beckham back into their offense ever since he returned to practice during minicamp in June. Beckham wowed teammates and coaches by completing individual drills at full speed with no brace on his surgically-repaired left knee, and he continued to test the joint throughout training camp — although he didn't participate in team drills.
Now, Beckham appears to be back to full speed, although his status for Sunday is still yet to be decided.
"I'm not ruling him out," coach Kevin Stefanski said Wednesday. "He's working really hard. He has a ton of reps between just him and Baker (Mayfield). Has gotten a ton of reps in seven on seven and the team drills. I think the guys recognize that he's a dynamic football player."
Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Chicago Bears
The Browns are certainly ready to welcome Beckham back into a role following news Tuesday that Jarvis Landry would be placed on Injured Reserve for a knee injury. The offense still isn't short on offensive weapons, but Beckham, of course, is an elite receiving talent who is always capable of elevating the unit when he's on the field.
That was evident last season, when Beckham scored four touchdowns in seven games before his season ended. His 50-yard game-sealing touchdown against the Cowboys and 43-yard deep ball touchdown in Week 2 against the Bengals stick out most.
"Whatever day it is, I know I'm just going to be excited," Beckham said. "I've worked extremely hard to get back, improve and try to be better than I ever have been."
Beckham detailed the mental obstacles he went through once he started his recovery, which was the third time in the last four seasons he had undergone a major surgery. He said this recovery wasn't as taxing as his first major surgery for an ankle injury in 2017, nor for his hernia surgery he underwent over the 2020 offseason.
Simple things have helped Beckham persevere. He said he changed a script that said "Odell Beckham Jr. - ACL Rehab" at the EXOS rehab facility he worked at in Arizona to say "spiritual reconstruction" and credits his family, close circle of friends and drive toward being a role model for kids as his biggest motivators each day.
"I know that I have a responsibility (for them)," Beckham said, "and I don't take it lightly. For the kids out there who want to give up on something, that was all I could think about: What message do I want to send to them by giving up now? I haven't reached the goals I wanted to reach. The things I wanted to set in sight are still not out of sight for me. I just find a way to keep going, be resilient and find a way to get better every day."
Beckham flashed his signature pearly smile throughout his interview and emphasized how hard he's worked to look at his injury as a motivation to come back stronger than ever — rather than a reason to doubt he'll be the same player who has reached 1,000-yard seasons five times in his eight-year career.
"I had all the goals of Jerry Rice and all these things just get slowly crushed by injury," he said. "It's just hard to mentally and spiritually stay strong throughout all of it. I found that I'm just in a way better place, my energy and the way I approach anything that goes on. I just have a positive outlook on it, and it changes everything.
"I have a different aura about me at the moment."
Beckham believes that energy will help him make an immediate impact when he makes his season debut. The Browns have yet to announce whether that will be Sunday against the Bears at FirstEnergy Stadium, but they've vowed to give Beckham all the time he needs to be fully healthy and prepared for the rigors of gameday.
The Browns can't wait for it. Beckham can't wait for it.
Both know the wait is ending soon.
"I'm not here for anything but to be the best teammate I can be and player I can be," he said. "I'm just here to play ball."