BEREA, Ohio — The excitement surrounding the Cleveland Browns is not limited to Northeast Ohio, and professional athletes from the central region of the state made that point known with a trip to training camp at team headquarters in Berea Tuesday.
Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno and center Brandon Dubinsky attended practice, spoke with coach Freddie Kitchens and quarterback Baker Mayfield and gave both their own customized jerseys following the on-field work.
“We’re fans of these guys,” Foligno said. “We’re fans of sports in general, so when we get to meet them, we get excited like a kid would. We hope they feel the same way. It’s really neat to come out and see what they do. We’re so caught up in our world a lot of times that we don’t get to see what these guys go through.
“Their training camp is grueling. Their facility is amazing, but they’ve still got to go through the work out here in 95-degree weather, and they’re not holding back. They’re trying to get as good as they can, and that’s something we’re going to try to do in a month’s time as well.”
Foligno invited Mayfield down for a game later this year, and in an interview with The Athletic, both he and Dubinsky expressed hope that the second-year signal-caller will recreate his famous beer chug to help rev up the Columbus faithful.
Also, Foligno hopes that if Mayfield does come down for a game, there will be another jersey exchange.
“You show that you really do care about what they’re doing, and I think they appreciate what we’re doing south of the border, or south of them I should say,” Foligno said. “South of the border? I’m still in Canada. It’s really cool to have that relationship start to build, and I think we have a lot of people in Cleveland that care about Columbus, and vice versa.”
While Foligno and Dubinsky were in awe over the size and speed of the players, Kitchens was just as much impressed by what the Blue Jackets did this spring in sweeping their way to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time ever despite having to go through the NHL’s best regular-season team, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“The run that they went on was very impressive, and it reminded me of the run we went on in Arizona when we went to the NFC Championship Game,” Kitchens said. “Didn’t really know if they were going to do much once they got in the playoffs, and they just go on a run there. I was very excited watching it.
“What they do is impressive. Have you ever tried to ice skate? I’ve been on skates. That’s the reason it’s so impressive. Are you serious what they do? It’s unbelievable.”
Kitchens was doubly appreciative of the Blue Jackets’ run because he knows how difficult it is to lace up a pair of skates and take the ice, even if it was just a leisurely family activity and not a hockey game.
“I’m from Alabama, and there’s no hockey sticks,” Kitchens said with a laugh. “There’s a football, a baseball, a basketball, and that’s about it. Maybe a track every once in a while, but I’m just talking about ice skating with your family.
“I’m exhausted. I’m like done for two days, and they’re out there doing it at speeds, just making it look easy. They were telling our guys about how they make it look easy (on the football field). It was just like, ‘Hey, don’t give them too much credit. What you guys do? That’s something. That’s impressive.’”