CANTON, Ohio — It was hot, it was humid, but it was a perfect day for a short practice and the Browns took full advantage of that, holding a quick 30-minute minicamp session on the field at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. While the practice was light, the Browns got a lot accomplished Wednesday off the field.
The Browns loaded up their 90-man roster, sans wide receiver Anthony Schwartz who was ill and took a trip down the interstate to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The day's lessons began on that bus after head coach Kevin Stefanski asked his team to set aside distractions for the trip to Stark County.
“I think it’s very easy for all of us to get lost on our phones and stare at that thing all day, so just asked them to put it away for 45 minutes on the ride down here," Stefanski said.
With phones away, players were treated to a little entertainment on the ride down, watching "A Football Life: Jim Brown" during the commute. Stefanski wanted to take the opportunity to teach the team about those who wore brown and orange before them and why Cleveland's passion for football is so strong—a message that was well-received.
"You kind of get a respect of why the Browns fans are the way they are. There's such a history, and they kind of want to get back to that point," said veteran offensive lineman Joel Bitonio. "It's pretty spectacular, the history of the team and coach Stefanski has done a good job telling a lot of younger guys, and that's I think the reason we're here today—to see that and be a part of it. It's pretty amazing some of the stuff the organization has done over the years.”
Some players had seen the feature, others it was their first time. For rookie wide receiver David Bell, it was nice to be able to rewatch it now that he's on the Browns.
“I watched that before. Being able to see it again was definitely cool. I grew up with my grandfather, so he used to watch all the old NFL films. Jim Browns was definitely one of his favorite players," Bell said.
Walker, on the other hand, got to see the Jim Brown episode of "A Football Life" for the very first time.
"I thought I'd watched them all but seeing that one I think the biggest takeaway was that he was a special person," Walker said. "The scene where his teammate was like, he got cut, and he was like 'yeah they cut me, man,' and he was like 'nah wait one second, I'll be right back' and then he' on the team again. Who has that kind of power in today's football? It tells you the type of person he was, the type of player he was and what he stood for."
Once in Canton, the Browns filed off the bus and into the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium for a quick practice together. Some positional drills here, some 7-on-7s there. It was a light day of work but an important one nonetheless.
“There’s so much that goes into this, there’s so much from a meeting standpoint, there’s so much from workouts and being out here at practice," Stefanski said. “It’s as much to do with what they can bring on the field with off the field.”
Seeing the team bond together, learn together, and—especially on Wednesday with the temp and heat index skyrocketed,—sweat together, Stefanski was happy with the activities on the field.
Once practice wrapped up and the team was showered and re-dressed, they walked down the halls of the stadium and over to the Pro Football Hall of Fame itself, cooling down from their minicamp session and ramping up their knowledge of the game.
“It's pretty awesome. As a kid, I didn't know as much. You come here and you've seen from '99 till now and the history is there, but it's not the same," Bitonio said. "Then you kind of look back and it was like before the Super Bowl era, I mean 17 Hall of Famers, multiple championships, some of the best players to ever play the game, innovators, some of the best coaches to ever [coach] the game have come through here."
Walker had a day full of firsts, not only seeing the Jim Brown film but touring the Hall of Fame too. It was a trip he had planned to make anyway but the day's practice gave him the perfect opportunity.
"I had actually hit up Ron Brewer [Director of Player Engagement] earlier this year and was like 'hey, do you know someone over at the Hall of Fame? I want to go visit,' and he was like 'uhhh, just wait we're going to go as a team," and I was like 'alright cool.' I’m excited, I’m very excited," Walker said with a smile. "I mean just the history, understanding the players that come before you, the legends that played this game, it’s always a blessing."
Having the Pro Football Hall of fame less than an hour away from the team and their facilities are something that none of the other 31 clubs can say for themselves, and on Wednesday became a resource and a bonding opportunity for the Cleveland Browns as they continue preparing for the 2022 season.
The Browns will hold one more minicamp practice session on Thursday before wrapping up until training camp later this summer. Thursday's session will be held at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Camryn Justice is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.
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