BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Odell Beckham Jr. reunited with the Giants, sharing a few hugs with some former teammates and coaches.
However, the star wide receiver only watched and was unable to show off his playmaking skills.
Jarvis Landry handled that.
Landry made several catches, including a spectacular, OBJ-like one-handed grab, on Thursday as the Cleveland Browns got the better of New York in the first of two joint practices between the teams in advance of their exhibition game Sunday.
With Beckham still slowed after knee surgery and not cleared to scrimmage, his good friend Landry connected with quarterback Baker Mayfield, finding soft spots in New York’s secondary and making a leaping snag over the middle.
“He’s a very competitive dude,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said of Landry. “He wants to win every drill. He wants to win one-on-ones. He wants to win the team period, so that sets the tone for our team. We understand that wins and losses come on Sunday, but you can come out there and try to win each practice.”
Landry also had a couple of catches during a two-minute drill that ended with Mayfield throwing a TD pass to Rashard Higgins, who was joined in the end zone by teammates for one of his red-carpet walk celebrations.
The over-the-top frolicking didn’t seem to sit well with some Giants defenders, who felt they may have been close enough for a sack to be called.
“They made some good plays, we didn’t make enough,” said Giants safety Jabrill Peppers, who was traded by Cleveland to New York as part of the Beckham blockbuster in 2019. “Higgins caught what I guess would be the game-winner. Can’t allow that to happen. It was great competition, much needed work.”
That’s what Stefanski and Giants coach Joe Judge were hoping for with the practices, which they began planning months ago.
Both coaches were adamant about not wanting tempers to rise or for any punches to be thrown — sometimes a byproduct of NFL joint practices in the summer’s heat.
The second joint practice between the Los Angeles Rams and Las Vegas Raiders was stopped early following a prolonged brawl Thursday.
Other than Browns All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett breaking a cardio machine while he worked out on the side and some playful trash talk, the Browns and Giants kept things professional.
“We had our fights already,” cracked Giants defensive back Logan Ryan, referring to a wild brawl at New York’s camp recently. “So it was just work. We talked before, a couple of leaders on both sides. I just don’t think the intensity was even close to that level to get to that (fight).”
Judge, who has known Stefanski since they played freshmen ball together in Philadelphia, made it clear to his players that he wouldn’t tolerate any misbehavior.
“We’re both giving the message that we’re here to work together,” Judge said prior to the two-hour session. “We don’t have to get on a plane and fly cross-country to come get in a fist fight. We’re out here to play football against a good team and improve what we’re doing as a team.”
After Higgins’ TD, the Giants got their two-minute chance, but quarterback Daniel Jones was intercepted by Browns rookie Greg Newsome II, touching off another exaggerated celebration by Cleveland’s players.
At times, it was as if the Browns and Giants were seeing their recent pasts during the scrimmage.
In addition to Beckham and Peppers facing their former teams, Freddie Kitchens, who was fired as Cleveland’s coach after a miserable ’19 season, was back on practice fields he knows well, this time as a senior offensive assistant for New York.
Kitchens’ popularity may have waned with Browns fans, but star running back Nick Chubb remains grateful for his time with him.
“Freddie, that’s my guy,” Chubb said. “He’s my first NFL running back coach. The biggest thing from him that I remember is every day I stepped on the field he said, ‘Make today your best day.’ That stuck with me forever.
“Every time I go on the field I think about that. I only worry about today, I’ve got to get better today and nothing else matters.”
NOTES: Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki and Jacob Phillips both left the practice with unspecified injuries. Stefanski was waiting to speak with the medical staff before giving an update. … Browns TE David Njoku made several nice catches over New York defensive backs early in the workout. … Judge said Giants star RB Saquon Barkley will not participate in any live drills against the Browns as he continues to progress from a torn knee ligament. Barkley has yet to take part in any team drills since returning two weeks ago.
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