Freddie Kitchens driving the bus his way for Browns camp

Kitchens emphasizes team, history and family with players

Daryl Ruiter
July 27, 2019 - 7:15 pm

Berea, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Morgan Burnett stood with his defensive teammates on the sidelines during the team portion of the day Saturday morning and into the afternoon.

Last year the presumptive starting strong safety would’ve been on the side in shorts riding a bike.

It is just one subtle example of how new head coach Freddie Kitchens is running the Browns his way.

“I think if you have guys over there on the bike that can practice, they need to go through individual period,” Kitchens said following the first practice of camp in pads Saturday. “They need to stand by their coach in their uniform with their helmet, ready to listen, learn and teach the other guys. Morgan Burnett has been in this league a long time. He knows what is going on. That is just my philosophy. They need to be a part of it. They are part of the team so be part of the team.”

This time last year it was Kitchens, who was the running backs coach at the time, that questioned then head coach Hue Jackson about players who were being given practice to rest but not dressing and riding bikes on the side instead.

The exchange, which also included then offensive coordinator Todd Haley, was featured on HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’ and it went viral. It was a sneak peek into what ultimately doomed Jackson in Cleveland – his failed leadership – and led to his dismissal eight games into the season.

“When we talked about these people missing practice, I think it would help if… I’m fine if [head athletic trainer] Joe [Sheehan] thinks that they need to take the day off,” Kitchens said to Jackson, “but can he be dressed and just put it on me that he won’t get any reps?”

Jackson began admonishing Kitchens when Haley chimed in and said, “If we got guys who haven’t done s*** sitting around doing nothing, I just don’t know how we’re gonna do it” prompting Jackson to remind everyone who is in charge.

“I used to sit in the chair you guys sit in and I used the feel the same way,” Jackson said. “I used to want to kill them, until I sat in this chair and all of the sudden they’re not there…. The chair I sit in is a little different than the chair you guys sit in. At the end of the day I get to drive this bus, and I’m gonna get it the way I want it.”

Now it’s Kitchens driving the bus.

And he’s getting it the way he wants it.

“They have to be available,” Kitchens said. “Their teammates [are] over there sitting on a bike? I don’t know what that is. I have never understood that. I do not want to get into that. That was last year. This is my philosophy, and somebody is going to think I am an idiot, but I do not really care. I am not going to change how I feel because of what somebody else says, what somebody else does or what somebody else thinks of me or how they think I am running the ship. That is what I decided to do because I think it builds teamness and togetherness.”

During the season the collective bargaining agreement limits the amount of times they can practice in pads. Kitchens is a believer the game should be practiced the way it’s played, which is why now that the pads are on for camp, they won’t be coming off.

“I don’t see shorts coming back anytime soon,” Kitchens said.

In addition to preparing for the season with a physical, but smart camp, Kitchens is also making sure his players understand what it means to be a Cleveland Brown.

Former Browns quarterbacks Tim Couch and Brian Sipe along with former defensive tackle Jerry Sherk and guard Robert Jackson observed on the side Saturday.

Kitchens invited them to speak with the team.

“I want these guys to know about the history of the Browns,” Kitchens said. “They can see the fans. They can see the passion that the fans bring, but sometimes it is harder for them to get a feel for the people who have come before them. They are all wearing the same brown and orange. They are still with us in a sense.”

Following Friday’s practice many players took a break to visit with their families – and in some cases, pets.

While it is a scene that has played out under previous head coaches, it just reinforced something else Kitchens stresses as a coach – the importance of family and recognizing the time and toll football takes on them.

“Families sacrifice a lot,” Kitchens said. “Just like our fans… our fans deserve to come out and see us practice, and our families do too. Any moment we can get with them is pretty special.

“Those families sacrifice, and they are going to be a part of this as much as possible.”