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'Beginning of something special': Browns new additions get to work at voluntary OTAs

Za'Darius Smith, Jim Schwartz
Posted at 1:21 PM, May 25, 2023

BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns opened up OTAs this week and during the voluntary workouts, many of the team's newest additions got to work in Berea. While it's early, the team entered the workouts in Berea with high energy—and high hopes—as the 2023 season approaches.

Pass rusher Za'Darius Smith is among the new additions who were in Berea for the off-season workouts, getting his first action in orange and brown since being traded to Cleveland earlier this month.

The former Viking, Raven and Packer has been digging into the playbook and learning about his role in defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's scheme.

"I’ve been in the 3-4 system for the last past eight years, so getting a chance to put my hand back in the dirt and be a natural 4-3 end is going to be big for me," Smith said. "I get a chance to play in the 4-3 system, and that’s something that I never played in while I was in the league. So I was happy, man. And knowing that I get a chance to go be with Dalvin Tomlinson again and get a chance to be with Myles [Garrett], man, it’s a great feeling."

Smith earned praise on the fields for his efforts in practice, quickly showing off his skill set in drills with his teammates. Smith excelled in the reactor sled drills and was quick with his get-offs.

The energy he brought to Berea was something head coach Kevin Stefanski was grateful for.

"Za’Darius has been awesome, just having him in the building. He’s a ball of energy. He’s great around our players, our young players. He practices hard. He does a great job out here. When he’s in the building, in the weight room and the meeting rooms, on the field, he brings some juice to what we’re doing," Stefanski said.

Smith wasn't alone in bringing energy to practice. Another new addition to the team, wide receiver Elijah Moore, was happy to get to work in the facilities for the first time this week after being traded to Cleveland in March.

Moore worked out with his new teammates the week before in Puerto Rico on the workout trip planned by quarterback Deshaun Watson. That's where he said he learned how much Watson loves the game—and that has inspired him.

“Seeing how much he loves football—we were in the hotel, and he's in the playbook, when we’re chilling on the beach, we just got done working out, we all got a workout in, he's still in the playbook," Moore said. "Seeing how he is with that only gives us more confidence like, ‘Okay, let us go look at the playbook one more time,’ so I can't ask for nothing better.”

Moore got plenty of reps in practice with Watson, running 7-on-7 drills, and catching pass after pass with QB1 at the helm.

Getting deep into the playbook won't come this early into off-season workouts. It's basic installation work and conditioning right now. But being in Berea at the facilities still brings something that can't be found in Puerto Rico.

"We were all saying after practice yesterday, ‘It's nothing like being out here, doing it for real,'" Moore said. "I feel good about everything. We're taking it one day at a time, and I feel like it's going to be what we want it to be.”

The Browns will continue working this week at OTAs before a quick break. They'll have their Cleveland Browns Foundation Golf Outing on May 30 and return for the second round of OTAs that week.

All of the early work has the new additions buzzing with excitement, and hopeful that this work can be reflected on the field in real, game action as the season approaches.

"My main goal right now is — get a ring. That's something that I never have experienced. So that's the number one goal is help this team win a Super Bowl," Smith said. "It's the beginning of something special."

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