Brownie Bites: Za’Darius Smith excited for fresh start, pondering the impact of new kicking rule and why was Jim Schwartz wearing No. 51

BEREA, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – OTA’s or Organized Team Activities got underway Tuesday morning and Wednesday the practice was open to reporters.

Right guard Wyatt Teller joined Afternoon Drive with Nick Wilson and Dustin Fox on 92.3 The Fan and you can listen to their conversation in the audio player above.

Here are our top Brownie Bites from the post practice availability.

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Fresh start – No. 99 is impossible to miss on the field, and Za’Darious Smith is clearly happy to be in Cleveland. Smith was candid about his departures from Baltimore, Green Bay and Minnesota as well as almost ending up back with the Ravens last year, but Smith’s focus is on teaming up with Myles Garrett and making life miserable for opposing quarterbacks this fall.

“I can't wait,” Smith said. “I did get a chance to talk to him once I did get the news. I think they NFL posted it and he sent me a text message telling me that he can’t wait to get going and hopefully we could be the best duo in the league. I was telling him, man, like the D-line, we got to come up with a name for the room. So he's like, ‘I'm going to get some shirts. We're going to make it big.’ So that chemistry already, I could tell is going to be great this year.”

Under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Smith will get to put his hand in the dirt as a traditional defensive end, a role he played in college and feels will make him more productive even coming off double digit sacks three times in four years.

“{Schwartz] was like, ‘Man, we just need you to get off the ball. We know that you haven't had that in the last eight years,’ and if I had the opportunity, I probably would have had 100 sacks by now,” Smith said. “I'm just happy to be here, man. Happy to be with him, happy to be with the coaching staff, man. This is a great organization. Can't wait.”

Smith has only been around for a short period of time since the trade earlier this month with the Vikings , but has already made quite the first impression.

“Za’Darius has been awesome,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said. “Just having him in the building. He’s a ball of energy. He’s great around our players, our young players practices hard. He does a great job out here. When he’s in the building, in the weight room and the meeting rooms on the field, he brings some juice to what we're doing.”

51-special – New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wore a white shirt with 51 on the front and back during Wednesday’s practice. There was a good reason for that.

“He’s telling the players about another player that’s doing it the right way, a guy that’s doing it how we want it done, that’s embodying what we do out on the practice field and in the meeting room,” Stefanski said. “So Coach Schwartz was a fan of Jordan [Kunaszyk] today. You’ll see he’s a fan of a bunch of guys over the course of these practices, but Jordan’s a guy that continues to always do what he's supposed to do. So coach has given him some love for that.”

The get to know you phase of the offseason seems to be going well between Schwartz and his players.

“Right now, he's not really putting guys in a free safety spot, a strong safety spot,” safety Juan Thornhill said. “We're just playing left and right, just basically so we can learn every position, pretty much. So I like him because he just lets guys play football and play fast.

“He got a lot of energy, for sure. He got a lot of energy and he wants his guys to be great and make a lot of plays. So he looks out for his players, for sure.”

Working vacation – After spending last week in Puerto Rico – a trip hosted by quarterback Deshaun Watson, Elijah Moore believes the trip could have lasting benefits.

“It was a smooth week of just connecting and gelling with the teammates, the camaraderie,” Moore said. “I got to learn a lot of them boys from a different perspective. I feel like it's only going to help out here. So we all stayed until like Friday and then we came back and got straight to work.”

Moore has learned a lot about Watson in a short amount of time since being acquired from the Jets earlier this offseason.

“He loves football,” Moore said. “That was the first thing off the rip, I was probably most excited to see up and close, because I heard all the stories growing up. Watching him in college, seeing all those national games and watching him work and stuff like that. So seeing how much he loves football.”

Nowhere was that more evident to Moore than last week while they were on their working vacation.

“We were in the hotel, and he’s in the playbook when we’re chilling on the beach,” Moore said. “We just got done working out. We all got work done, and he's still in the playbook, so seeing how he is with that only gives us more confidence. Like, 'Okay, let us go look at the playbook one more time. I can't ask for nothing better.”

Season of dreams – It’s spring which means high hopes again for the Browns, who haven’t won a division since 1989 or appeared in a Super Bowl but two of their newest players are setting their sights on breaking both streaks.

“My main goal right now is get a ring,” Smith said. “That's something that I never had to experience. So that's the number one goal is help this team win a Super Bowl. Well first of all, win the north, well win the division, sorry, and then go on and play in the Super Bowl.”

Thornhill has enjoyed the interactions he’s had with fans on social media, but he can sense their trepidation when it comes to expecting the Browns to win because of built up trauma from regular disappointment.

“My tweets are not really anything negative,” Thornhill explained. “It’s just like in Kansas City, I use them because that's where I was before. But in Kansas City, like, those fans there, I would not say too cocky, like they were just like, ‘we're going to win this week.’ And the players can feel that. Like when you walk into the stadium, you know that you're going to win and everyone is behind you.

“You don't want to be walking around with fans saying, ‘I don't know if you're going to win or not. I hope we win this year.’ We don't want to see that as a team. We want them guys to be behind us, pushing us every day, and like, we're going to win. And once you have your fans backing you up, they make us want to play harder for you, as fans.”

Thornhill sees a lot of similarities between Chiefs and Browns fans but Kansas City has three Vince Lombardi Trophies in the case whereas in Cleveland, there isn’t even a trophy case.

“It's all good,” Thornhill said. “Like I said, it’s a new start. Whatever happened last year is last year. This is a new year and this is what we're working for, to get to the Super Bowl this season.”

Thornhill is trying to speak success into existence for the Browns and fans.

“They say if you speak negative, negative things will happen. That's what I truly believe,” Thornhill said. “So if you sit there and speak positive, those positive things will happen. If you say you’re going to win and you step on that field believing you’re going to win, more than likely you’re going to win.”

Running man – New special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone got a workout Wednesday. Ventrone ran kickoff coverage reps with his group during practice, which is something you just don’t see every day from coaches or coordinators, but it is something we should get used to seeing.

“Bubba’s in great shape,” Stefanski said. “I get to see Bubba work out. He probably could still play. So it’s the old do as I say, not as I do. Well, he can actually do it and we’ll even watch some tape of Bubba in his meetings. He’ll pull up some tape with the long locks flowing out of that helmet.”

Kicked off – The new fair catch rule potentially could reshape – and ruin – kickoffs in the NFL.

The impact of the rule that would put the ball at the 25 on a fair catch on kickoffs remains to be seen, but it’s not hard to anticipate what it will be.

“I really think it remains to be seen,” Stefanski said. “The kicking game’s very important to us. We’re not going to take the foot out of football, so we always got to make sure that that’s a staple of what we do, is making sure we're great in all of our coverage and return phases.”

Just visiting – Former Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson is visiting the team this week. Wednesday he was on the sidelines chatting with players and coaches.

“I think the world of him, this building thinks the world of him,” Stefanski said. “So he’s visiting with us this week, just having him meet with different people and spend some time with different people and impart some of that knowledge that he’s had over that career. And I think that’s totally invaluable for our young players. What ultimately it means for his future, I think that also remains to be seen.”

Pitching in – Cornerback Greg Newsome and Thornhill threw out first pitches for the Cleveland Guardians this week.

“I wasn't nervous,” Thornhill said. “I’m a natural athlete. So the only thing I wanted to do, I wanted to get to the plate. I wanted to actually throw a strike. It was outside a little bit, but I’m still proud. Proud of my pitch.”

Anthony Walker is scheduled to throw this weekend and the linebacker has been practicing for it all week in the Casey Coleman Field House. We hear it’s been entertaining for those who have watched him.

“I'm excited to see his pitch because it's going to be bad,” Thornhill said. “I already know it is.”

Remembering 32 – Stefanski opened his post practice availability with his own tribute to Hall of Famer Jim Brown who passed away last Thursday at the age of 87.

“I want to start with my very sincere condolences to Monique, to the entire Brown family, to all of the friends and family and fans of Jim Brown,” Stefanski said. “As you all know, we lost somebody very, very important to our franchise, to our league, to our society. The impact that he had was immeasurable. I’m sure there’s people that knew Jim as a player, as a friend much better than I did, so I can’t add a ton to that. But my brief interactions for me are, I’ll never forget just talking to him. The first day I got hired, I got on the phone with him, which was a thrill. I was able to meet Jim over the years a couple times, and just a mountain of a man in many ways. And we lost a very, very, very big part of our family. There will be time as over the next few days, weeks, months, years to memorialize Jim, and we'll let you know what the plans are as we keep moving forward but obviously I just want Monique and her family know that we’re thinking about them and that’s something that I know our players and coaches and staff here are constantly thinking about that.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Daryl Ruiter-92.3 The Fan