PHOENIX — Freddie Kitchens has three words for Odell Beckham Jr.
I love you.
Two weeks have passed since the Cleveland Browns pulled off their blockbuster trade for the former New York Giants star, and Kitchens has yet to meet his newest playmaker in person. But the first-year head coach already knows the first thing he’ll say when he lays eyes on Beckham.
“I love you,” Kitchens said at Tuesday’s NFL coaches breakfast at the annual league owners meetings. “Give him a hug. ‘Show me how to catch the ball with one hand.’ "
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Beckham — who was shipped to the Browns in exchange for a first- and second-round pick, plus safety Jabrill Peppers — has yet to don the orange and brown officially. But the anticipation is palpable in Berea, Ohio. The playmaking receiver is one of several offseason acquisitions made by the Browns, but he undoubtedly is the biggest name in the locker room, next to franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Much has been made about how Kitchens will corral the collection of personalities on his team. But the man charged with building the Browns into a winner said he isn’t worried about the cast of characters they’ve assembled in Cleveland. Kitchens stressed that Beckham is similar to his other players in one critical area: They care deeply about winning football games.
“He’s passionate because that increases his chances of being on a winning team in that very game or that very moment," Kitchens said. "Jarvis Landry cares about winning. Baker Mayfield — what do you think he cares about? Does he care about the stats or does he care about winning? All these guys are the same. They want to win. Because they know that their ultimate individual success is going to be tied to winning.
“… These are all little fun events to go to and stuff like that, but this is about winning. And we added a good player. And he has passion for the game. I love passion for the game because that brings you from good/great player to elite. And you have the potential for that passion to go all over your team. And now we’ve got several guys with passion. Well hell, I love it. You guys are worried about me — don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. Cause I love the passion and I love the intelligence and I love the fact that it’s important to those guys because you need that before you can build a team. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
The Giants, meanwhile, are looking to rebuild without Beckham and his passion. But their head coach, Pat Shurmur, insisted Tuesday that there are no hard feelings between the organization and the emotional wide receiver.
“Obviously, Odell is an outstanding player. But it’s business,” Shurmur said in his first public comments about the trade.
He added that he reached out to Beckham after the trade but indicated the two have yet to speak.
“There are many things I admire about Odell," Shurmur said. "We traded Odell and got value. I wish him the best.”
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