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There's always so much going on in Northeast Ohio sports, much more than what can fit in our regular Wednesday conversations with Cleveland Plain Dealer sports writer Terry Pluto. Consider it overtime or extra innings.  This is the place to check out Amanda Rabinowitz's ongoing conversations with Terry that are just too good to miss!

The View Beyond Pluto: Browns Look Focused Despite Off Field Drama

a photo of a Browns helmet
There are high expectations for the Cleveland Browns in the upcoming season.

The Cleveland Browns have just wrapped up their mandatory mini-camp and won't return to the field for another six weeks. Our commentator Terry Pluto says based on what he's seen, it's not going to be hard for fans to get excited this year. But there are plenty of off-the-field distractions as the new-look team tries to mesh. 

On the field
Pluto says there's not a whole lot to learn from these off-season workouts. The team is practicing plays and drills without pads. But he says it can provide an inside look at how certain players might perform during the season.

Pluto says a highlight of the mini-camp was rookie cornerback Greedy Williams. 

"He was their second round pick (and was) the top of their draft board ... it looks like he's already starting," Pluto says. "By the time camp closed, he and Denzel Ward were starting at the two cornerback spots."

New star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. didn't show up to eight of the nine voluntary pratices Pluto said he told the media he's been in touch with head coach Freddie Kitchens and has been memorizing the plays on an iPad. Pluto says from what he's seen, he believes it. 

"On the field, he looked in pretty good shape," Pluto says. "Odell, you know, he's just a natural. He's fluid, he runs, he catches the ball.

Beckham was acquired in a trade with the Giants in March. 

As for star quarterback Baker Mayfield, who became a fan-favorite last season, Pluto says he has no doubt in his abilities to help carry the team this season. 

"From my eyes in football, which are not as attuned to the sport as baseball or basketball ... Baker Mayfield is really good. He's an accurate passer," Pluto says. 

Off the field
Mayfield is also one of the players trying to keep the team at peace and focused. 

'When they come back, they will be wearing pads, and we'll see something resembling football'

The Browns have been combatting some drama after running back Duke Johnson made public statements of wanting to be traded. Johnson's remarks came after the team signed running back Kareem Hunt in the off-season. Hunt will serve an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL's private conduct policy. Hunt was captured on video kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel last February. 

But the team refuses to let Johnson's comments affect the season, Pluto says. 

"(The media asks Baker) about Duke Johnson, 'Kind of awkward having this guy around because he wants to be traded.' And Baker looks at us, and says, 'Not awkward. That's a self inflicted wound ... he's either with us or against us. This train's going to be moving on. Either get on or get off.'"

Overall takeaways
Pluto says there are a few other gems within the team, like running back Nick Chubb and defensive end Myles Garrett.

"Nick Chubb is big and fast. You could see it in some of the drills. Myles Garrett and many of these others on defense have a lot of ability."

There might be a few distractions throughout the season, but Pluto says this team isn't the same team that's played in previous seasons. 

"I'm not saying Super Bowl or whatever, but this is not the usual Browns. This is a good team," Pluto says. "But thankfully, they're off six weeks and when they come back, they will be wearing pads, and we'll see something resembling football. And finally, it won't be voluntary or not voluntary. You either show up or you get fined."

The biggest challenge for the team this season?

"How fast can they all come together, because these guys are from all over the place," Pluto says.

Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. After serving as WKSU's Morning Edition host for a dozen years, she moved to afternoons in March of 2022 to become the local host of All Things Considered. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio's sports scene called The View From Pluto. She also hosts and produces Shuffle, a podcast focusing on Northeast Ohio’s music scene.