CLEVELAND – All manner of emotions enveloped Odell Beckham Jr. from the moment he sprinted out of the tunnel to a roaring ovation.
A few hours later, he had nothing left.
“Exhausted,” Beckham said, slipping into a chair for his post-game press conference. “I lost my voice and I wasn’t even screaming so I don’t know what happened. I’m exhausted. It’s time to go home.
Almost 11 months since his 2020 season ended in Cincinnati with a knee injury that cost him a playoff appearance and sparked debate over his worth, Beckham returned to the field on Sunday. He had an immediate impact as the Browns beat the Bears 26-6.
Beckham caught five passes from Baker Mayfield for 77 yards, added 10 rushing yards, and provided a glimpse of what he could mean for the Cleveland offense – a scoring threat from anywhere on the field.
For Beckham, the grueling rehab sessions, hours of strength training and dedication paid off. His return is over, finally. But there were a few times he felt overwhelmed by his ending.
“There was so much to do in the first return leg,” he said. “I try to play it down, but all the other people close to you and the people around you all kind of a vibe. You try not to think about it and then it’s forced on you.
“I went out and tried not to go crazy in the warm-up or whatever. Just put my legs under me. I got to the game, and I swear I just felt like with every game I couldn’t get them under me. Lots of things to look at and improve on, and that’s all we can do.
While he may not have reached his high standards, Beckham’s first game since October 25 has impressed his teammates.
“He’s back like he’s never gone,” said running back Kareem Hunt, who had 155 yards and a 26-yard touchdown. “I told him. He looked great there. I can’t wait to see many more.
Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett has said Beckham has every right to be exhausted.
“He’s more tired than I am,” said Garrett, who recorded a career-high 4 1/2 sacks. “He looked good. You saw it, those hands are immaculate and the guy is a hell of a road runner so I love being able to watch him.
A play before Beckham’s first reception – a 13-yard grab, appropriately matching his jersey number – he was shot from behind on an incomplete pass. It was the 28-year-old’s first significant contact in a game since his injury last year, and for a second he feared he would be injured again.
“I needed it,” the contact said. “The first hit came on a pass I didn’t catch, and my shoulder came out. I was like, okay, sure, something like that would happen. It was good to feel that and dive back into it.
“The game continued and it was a little smoother.”
Later, he was asked to clarify what had happened to his shoulder and what he meant by not having his legs.
“Football stuff. The shoulder comes out, put it back, keep playing, ”Beckham said. “Like I said, it’s like a boxer you can’t put your legs under you, you don’t have the same bounce. It’s not a lack of explosion or anything, it’s just the emotions of the first game, the energy, whatever goes through you a little bit.
Beckham was excited before his hyped comeback.
He took to the field for pre-game warm-ups wearing gold-colored headphones and a Jarvis “Juice” Landry “t-shirt to honor his injured teammate and close friend, who went to the injured reserve last week. with a sprained knee.
“I had the shirt on before any mishaps happened, I was going to wear it anyway, but it just felt right,” he said.
At one point before the game, Beckham jumped into the front rows of seats to celebrate with his brother, who had come to watch him play.
“It was amazing,” Beckham said. “We kind of kissed like when we were talking about those 10 and a half months and it’s finally here.”
When Beckham fell last year, the Browns took off and made the playoffs without him. His absence spawned theories that Mayfield better not have Beckham.
But the two worked on their chemistry during the offseason and Beckham said he felt the connection when he returned.
“We made a few shots, things I could definitely work on,” he said. “I’m glad I put this one aside. “