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  • November 6, 2019

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    , Ohio (AP) — Freddie Kitchens got intensely defensive about
    the Browns new offensive star. Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t in any trouble with his
    coach.Kitchens’ voice rising to deliver his message, Cleveland’s first-year
    coach said Saturday he’s not upset that Beckham has skipped the first two phases
    of the team’s voluntary offseason workout program.“Of course, I would rather him
    be here than not here, but I understand why,” Kitchens said. “I talk to Odell
    every day. He knows what we’re doing offensively every day. He will be ready to
    play. Don’t worry about that.”While his teammates — with the exception of
    disgruntled running back Duke Johnson — have been practicing and developing
    camaraderie, Beckham, who was acquired in a March trade with the New York
    Giants, has been training in California.Kitchens dismissed the idea that Beckham
    not being around could have a negative effect on the Browns. He pointed out that
    NFL defensive stars Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald have not been with their teams
    in previous years for offseason workouts.“Now, it benefits and it is better for
    us to have them here us being a new staff, but if we can’t have him ready to
    play when he shows up, they need to find a new head coach and they need to find
    a new position coach,” said Kitchens, hired in January after a successful
    interim stint as offensive coordinator last season.Beckham has drawn some
    criticism for his absence, which some have viewed as more evidence that he’s a
    selfish player.And while Kitchens would prefer Beckham was at every practice and
    meeting, he’s not letting the issue sidetrack the Browns.“I also understand that
    you guys are trying to define and draw lines in the sand between coaches and
    players and players and players and that ain’t gonna happen anymore,” Kitchens
    told reporters. “And there’s no problem with Odell not being here. I’d rather
    him be here. He’s not here. It’s voluntary. That’s what the word voluntary
    means. He can decide to come or he can’t.“But under no circumstance am I going
    to say that I’m pissed off at Odell for not being here. He’ll be ready to play
    and ultimately that’s the only thing I want, for him to be ready to play when we
    start kicking off in September and he will be — I promise you.”Beckham spent
    five sometimes rocky seasons with the Giants. He was excited for a new start in
    Cleveland, but other than coming in for an introductory news conference on April
    1, he’s been elsewhere.Earlier this week, Jarvis Landry posted on social media
    that he’s training and promised Browns fans that he’ll be “the best version of
    myself on and off the field.”Kitchens isn’t concerned about Beckham’s time away
    impacting his connection with Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. The pair has
    trained together in the summer.“I’ll tell you this about Odell Beckham and Baker
    Mayfield,” Kitchens said. “I think they have a pretty good relationship and
    they’ve formed pretty good camaraderie. They’ve worked out for two summers in
    California and I don’t see their camaraderie being a problem.”As for Johnson,
    who asked to be traded after the team signed Kareem Hunt, there had been
    speculation the Browns would deal him this weekend. But that didn’t happen, and
    Kitchens seemed confident Johnson may stay around.“Duke is under contract,” he
    said. “I have said this for like a month now, I don’t know where all this trade
    talk started happening. People just assumed that we are going to trade him
    because we signed another good football player.
    Me Chad Thomas Color Rush
    , personally, I like good football players and I like as many of
    them as we can get. Then, it is our job to get them the ball and to help to
    enable them to help us win in whatever role that is.“Duke Johnson is on this
    football team, Duke Johnson will have a vital role in this football team and
    Duke Johnson will help us win football games. Am I surprised that he’s still
    here? No, not one bit. I haven’t wavered and never said anything different other
    than that.” FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Sam Darnold appeared destined to go to
    Cleveland in the months leading up to the NFL draft.Then, the Browns called an
    audible along the way and went instead with Baker Mayfield at No. 1 overall.
    After the Giants took Saquon Barkley next, the New York Jets ended up with the
    quarterback they wanted all along and Darnold was headed to the Big Apple.“I
    thought I could’ve been there or several other teams,” Darnold said Monday. “I
    honestly haven’t even thought about it since I got drafted by the Jets. With
    (Cleveland) having the (No.) 1 pick, I guess there was a good chance I might
    have gone there, so I was thinking about it before. But ever since the draft, I
    haven’t thought about it.”On Thursday night, Darnold will be in Cleveland. But
    as the enemy — and a reminder to Browns fans of who they might have had.Not that
    Darnold, who’ll be making his third NFL start, has revenge or redemption on his
    mind.“No, I’m just going to go out there and play ball,” he said.Darnold has
    much more pressing matters at hand, such as trying to bounce back from a 20-12
    loss to Miami on Sunday .The No. 3 overall pick struggled at times with some
    missed opportunities and mistakes, as did the rest of the Jets. But Darnold also
    had some positive moments, and at 21 years and 103 days old became the youngest
    player to throw for 300 yards. He finished with 334 yards passing with one
    touchdown and two interceptions.“Other than the two picks, I thought I played
    pretty well,” Darnold said. “So, I’m just going to continue to try to play as
    consistent as possible and find completions when I can and take shots when I
    can.”Meanwhile, Mayfield hasn’t yet taken a regular-season snap for the Browns
    with Tyrod Taylor as the starter. The former Oklahoma star is considered the
    future of the franchise for Cleveland — a label that appeared reserved for
    Darnold.“I was excited to go anywhere,” Darnold said. “Whoever wanted me,
    whoever wanted to pick me. As a top
    pick ,
    it was a dream come true right when it happened. I wasn’t concerned with who was
    picking me, but more with where I was going and where I might need to spend the
    next, for now, three or four years.”The Jets envision Darnold being around for a
    lot longer than that, and Thursday will serve as the next test — and step — in
    the young quarterback’s development.The Browns are still winless since 2016, but
    they have a tie and a three-point loss through the first two games so they’re no
    pushovers.Gregg Williams’ defense has already caused problems for the likes of
    Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and New Orleans’ Drew Brees, and could be
    licking its chops to face a rookie at home in front of the Dawg Pound.“First of
    all, I think his guys are ready to play every single game,” Darnold said. “They
    come out fiery and at the same time, they bring pressures that, sometimes, no
    one’s ever seen before. We’re going to be ready. I’m focused on what we’re
    doing, but also on what the defense is doing and how we can attack them.”The
    Jets and Darnold will have to do a better job than they did for much of the game
    against the Dolphins. New York was just 3 of 10 on third downs, including 1 of 8
    in the first half when it fell behind 20-0.This will be the third game in just
    11 days for the Jets, no easy task for a rookie QB. Darnold recognizes that this
    week’s preparation will be condensed even more than last week, when New York was
    coming off a Monday night game in the opener.“It’s a different challenge,
    something I haven’t necessarily dealt with, but it’s awesome,” Darnold said.
    “It’s just another challenge for this team and we’re going to take it head on.
    Looking at Cleveland last night, it was moving on right after that game. We
    watched that game and then got right to Cleveland. Not the final score that we
    wanted. Obviously, we looked to come out of there with a win, but move on as
    fast as possible and get to Cleveland because it’s a short turnaround.”NOTES: TE
    Neal Sterling (concussion), S Marcus Maye (foot) and LB Josh Martin (concussion)
    did not practice, although it was more of a walkthrough session. LT Kelvin
    Beachum (foot) and LG James Carpenter (foot) were limited. … Jets coach Todd
    Bowles said he liked what he saw from Mayfield while going through the draft
    process. “I thought he was he gritty,” Bowles said. “Had a great workout when we
    worked him out. I think he’s a tough player and he’s going to be a good player.”
    … WR ArDarius Stewart returned from his two-game suspension for violating the
    NFL’s policy on performance enhancers. The Jets have until 4 p.m. Wednesday to
    make a decision on whether to activate or release him.