Cleveland Browns: Does Freddie Kitchens have the right approach to training camp?https://www.cleveland.com/browns/2019/08...ining-camp.html
By Terry Pluto, The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio – I love some of Freddie Kitchens’ sayings:
“Football is a tough game played by tough people.”
“The game is played in pads.”
“We don’t practice penalties.”
The rookie Browns head coach has changed business in Berea in terms of how the team prepares for the season. For several years, the Browns seemed to be preparing for the Tour de France with so many players on exercise bikes in training camp, wearing shirts and shorts.
The training camps of former coaches Hue Jackson and Mike Pettine seemed to be especially soft. Now, if the team is in pads, the player not taking part in drills still is on the sidelines in pads and a helmet.
But here’s the problem: If you have practices that last too long and are too physical, guys get hurt.
The idea is to have Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Myles Garrett, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and the other key players get to the regular season in the best shape mentally and physically. Kitchens knows that. He has analytics showing how to handle sore hamstrings, pulled muscles and other soft-tissue injuries.
It’s why I don’t expect the starters to play much against the Colts in Saturday’s second preseason game. When it comes to his starters, Kitchens would rather have hard contact and hitting under his watch in practice as opposed to extended exposure in preseason games.
Beckham has missed 16 of his last 32 games because of injuries. Is it wise to play him in the preseason? If so, how much?
Chubb had a major knee injury in college. He has been healthy for three years. But why make the star running back take a major pounding in the preseason?
But in practice, the coaches can push those players.
It makes sense to have the players in pads as much as rules allow.
The bodies need to become accustomed to being hit, even if players are told by coaches not “tackle all the way to the ground.” The running, bumping and shoving while operating at full speed have to be a significant part of training camp. It’s how the game is played.
The last Browns training camp resembling what Kitchens has held in Berea were those under Eric Mangini (2009-10). He was ridiculed by some in the media for being too demanding and for making them run after committing dumb penalties.
I liked Mangini’s camp because they put mental and physical pressure on players. Mangini’s Browns teams had little talent, no quarterback and produced a pair of 5-11 seasons. But for the most part, I thought Mangini’s teams were disciplined and well-prepared. Both years, they were among the lightest penalized teams in the NFL.
“No self-inflicted wounds,” was one of Mangini’s mantras.
I can’t remember a single thing Jackson or Pettine had for a theme of how they wanted their teams to play.
THE FREDDIE WAY
Kitchens is more like Mangini in a good way. When his players commit penalties because of mental mistakes (off-sides, illegal formations, etc.), they run.
“If we start practicing penalties, there are consequences," Kitchens said.
I was at a practice where rookie Greedy Williams jumped offside. Before anyone said a word, he dropped to the ground and did pushups.
“We won’t practice penalties,” Kitchens said twice in Monday’s media sessions.
The year before Mangini took over in Cleveland, the Browns were flagged for 100 penalties. In his two seasons, they had 77 and 79 penalties, respectively. Jackson’s Browns were flagged for 95 penalties in 2016 and 110 in 2017. Under Pettine, the Browns drew 120 and 116 penalties.
Last year, the Browns were penalized 112 times, which ranked 15th in the NFL.
Kitchens has changed the tone for the better. He talked about it being “culture shock” to some of the players, but said most “have embraced it.”
This much is certain, Kitchens has the players’ attention so far.