Cleveland Browns strength and conditioning program is failing

The Cleveland Browns are earning a failing grade in strength and conditioning. 

This long-overdue article calls out the strength and conditioning program of the Cleveland Browns.

Let’s look at some numbers. Remember, the idea was that the Browns were going to rest up after a long break following the Thursday game, and play the aging, decrepit Steelers, right? Readers of this space were warned that that was not true.

Just look at the injury report.

The Cleveland Browns had 19 players listed on their injury report. The Steelers had only six.

Next week’s opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals, played a terrible game versus the Jets. But you know what? They only had five players on their injury report. Nobody has injury reports like the Browns.

Not only that, Cleveland has four players on their Injured Reserve list with soft tissue injuries: fullback Andy Janovich, halfback Kareem Hunt, defensive back M.J. Stewart, and center Nick Harris. In all, six of the 19 players on the injury list have what appear to be soft tissue injuries.

Three of the six Steelers on the injury list were there with soft tissue injuries, including old Ben Roethlisberger, who always has aches and pains, and Chase Claypool who had a full practice by the end of the week and started. The Steelers do not have anyone on IR with a soft tissue injury.

The Browns and their fans think that they have a premier offensive line, but it’s time to admit that it’s not true, at least not on a week-to-week basis. On a per-snap basis, Baker Mayfield is second in the NFL at getting sacked, having taken 22 sacks in 460 snaps. That’s one sack every 20.9 snaps. Only Justin Fields has had a tougher time, with an astounding 26 sacks in only 408 snaps, or one sack every 15.7 snaps. .

The point is that quarterbacks who are getting pasted like this rarely have good seasons and usually wind up on IR.

Man for man, it could not be more clear that the Pittsburgh defense was able to overpower Cleveland’s offensive line. The Browns players are just weaker than their Pittsburgh counterparts.

This is not a new problem. Back in 2015, running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery called out his players for showing up to summer camp in less than stellar condition, with the result being a rash of minor muscle pulls. He probably could have said the same thing to the entire 2021 team.

“The disappointing thing was that all those guys not being in tip-top shape. I think that was a total setback and now they are climbing back up hill….your job is to get hit and your job is being able to bounce back from injuries really quickly because it’s most like playing a game every week. Each day you’ve got to be healthy and ready to go and you’ve got to play injured, you’ve got to play sore and you’ve got to play banged up. And if you can’t play with those things, you really can’t play.” – Browns running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery, quoted by Mary Kay Cabot, Cleveland.com, Aug 9, 2015

Any one injury might be unavoidable and might not be the fault of the player. Certainly, if the player breaks a bone or ruptures a ligament or something, conditioning is not at fault. Also, it’s one thing if a veteran with several surgeries has recurring problems, but the Browns have first and second-year players routinely missing time with pulled muscles. It’s just the magnitude of the number of injuries.

Is there any other team in the NFL close to the Cleveland Browns in terms of pulling hamstrings? It’s year after year after year and we’ve grown used to it. But this is not normal.

Most of us fans thought at the beginning of the season that Cleveland had a truly deep team with real talent even on the practice squad. This isn’t true. At any point in time, with 15 to 20 players on the injured list, that means that there are only about 35 players who are healthy enough to have practice during the week. This is crazy. The Browns are the thinnest team in the NFL and have to populate the practice field with practice squad players just to have practice.

Something is way wrong with the way that the Browns are carrying out their conditioning program. From the outside, we cannot see what is going wrong, but there must be something wrong, judging from the poor results that are all too apparent.

We cannot say whether it is diet, hydration, cardio, weight training, aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercise, or what. But these soft tissue injuries among young players are a sure sign that something is wrong somewhere and they need to get it fixed.

If Cleveland cannot fix it, they are going to continue to get beat up by the Steelers year after year after year no matter many free agents they sign or how many first round quarterbacks they draft.

So let’s not even talk about drafting some kid in 2022 or trading away a bunch of first-round picks for Deshaun Watson or some other high-priced players to fix the team at the trade deadline this week. Not after losing to the Steelers at home with 19 guys on the injury list and four more on IR with soft tissue injuries. That just isn’t going to fix the team.

I want to know if the Browns have strength and conditioning coaches and trainers who are truly at the top of their profession. Do they understand injury prevention, and how are you able to measure their expertise?

Are they on top of the latest methodologies for avoiding muscle pulls and other injuries? For example, when is the last time each employee took a university class invoving sports medicine and training? What plan do they use, and how do they know it works?

Do the Browns know what the Steelers, Bengals, and Ravens are doing? Whatever the Browns are doing now, they need to be doing something different because the 2021 program is the pits.

If Cleveland is missing eight players due to soft tissue injuries and another half dozen are playing hurt; and the Steelers have only one player out and three playing hurt, who do you think is going to win?

My problem is I believe the Browns have better athletes, but I also believe deep down that, the Steelers, Ravens and even the Bengals just have better strength and conditioning training and it is starting to show at the midpoint of this disappointing season.

They are going to manhandle the Browns down the stretch while key players have to sit on exercise bikes hoping to get well. Better order a few extras, because these hamstring injuries are not going away.