BEREA, Ohio (AP)Odell Beckham Jr. remains lined up outside – way outside.
The polarizing wide receiver was excused from practice for the second straight day on Thursday as the Cleveland Browns figure out their next move with him, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The team hasn’t reached a conclusion yet on what to do with Beckham, according to the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Beckham has likely played his last game in Cleveland, his exit hastened by his father sharing a video on social media criticizing quarterback Baker Mayfield for not throwing the ball to the three-time Pro Bowler.
Beckham’s silence on the matter underscores his divide with the Browns.
And while the team’s front office works toward a solution, some players expressed a willingness to bring Beckham back.
”Hopefully we can get him back if that’s possible,” said safety John Johnson III. ”I feel like the majority of this locker room would love to have him in this building. Flat out.
”I guess the leaders in this building feel like we can do it without him. Some guys might have a different opinion. So moving forward, hopefully we can get him back somehow. But if not, we’ve got to keep it going. We’ve got a big game coming up, another division game, that’s what my mindset is, just get ready for this week.”
Browns left guard Joel Bitonio, one of the team’s most respected players and leaders, said there is confusion over Beckham’s status.
”Yeah, it’s hard because we don’t know what the situation is,” he said. ”We think he’s a great player when he’s on the field, but we don’t know what the situation is. We don’t know what’s really going on.
”We probably know as much as you guys know from outside the building. But if he wants to come back and be part of the team, I’m sure we’d welcome him with open arms.”
Cleveland could waive Beckham if it doesn’t see a reconciliation, which seems like a long shot at this point.
Beckham turns 29 on Friday. He’s making $15.75 million this season, and the Browns would have to pay him more than half of that if he was waived and not claimed by another team.
Beckham is under contract for two more seasons, but doesn’t have any guaranteed money on his contract after this year.
Amid a major distraction, the Browns (4-4), who have fallen into last place in the AFC North, visit the Cincinnati Bengals (5-3) on Sunday and can’t afford many more losses if they hope to make the playoffs.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski doesn’t speak to reporters on Thursday, but his coordinators were all available and said he’s handling the circumstances with aplomb.
”Kevin has done a nice job as a leader of the coaching staff and of our football team,” said special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. ”The guys in the locker room, we have a bunch of professional football players who really know what their job is and what the task at hand for the Cleveland Browns this week against the Cincinnati Bengals, a very, very good football team on the road.
”That is where our concern is.”
One of Beckham’s closest friends, Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry, normally speaks with reporters on Thursday but did not hold a session.
Beckham’s stormy tenure in Cleveland appears to be coming to an end after a disruptive few days.
On Tuesday, Odell Beckham Sr. shared an 11-minute video highlighting plays in which his son was open and Mayfield either missed him or ignored him completely.
The Browns told Beckham not to report to practice Wednesday and afterward Mayfield said he had not spoken to his teammate. Mayfield said he was caught off guard by the personal attack, which came a few hours before the NFL trade deadline.
”I’ve had conversations with his dad before, man to man, face to face,” Mayfield said. ”I was pretty surprised by the video and the intentions and the feelings behind it. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. But hurt? Nah, I’m good. I’ll be all right.”
Mayfield is caught in the middle of a potentially divisive situation with players picking sides.
”I don’t get that vibe,” Johnson said. ”I just feel like as a competitor, as a player, you want to see your guys have success, you want to see your guys do as well as they can and when that doesn’t happen, you obviously feel a certain type of way, but I don’t think it’s dividing the team any type of way.”
Stefanski also said he had not heard from Beckham, who hasn’t produced as expected since coming to the Browns in a 2019 trade from the New York Giants.
Beckham has had only two 100-yard games in 2 1/2 seasons with Cleveland. When he was hurt and sidelined last year with a knee injury, Mayfield played his best, the Browns ended their playoff drought and won in the playoffs for the first time since 1994.
On Sunday, Mayfield threw just two passes toward Beckham and that seemed to be a tipping point for the 28-year-old.
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