Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. catches a pass during a joint NFL football training camp practice with the New York Giants, Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, in Berea, Ohio. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. catches a pass during a joint NFL football training camp practice with the New York Giants, Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, in Berea, Ohio. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
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CLEVELAND (AP) — Odell Beckham Jr.'s comeback is closer to completion.

Beckham, who has slowly increased his activities since the Browns opened training camp last month, took his first snaps in team drills during Thursday's practice — a major step in his return from season-ending knee surgery.

Beckham was on the field for a handful of plays in the 11 on 11 period, and the star wide receiver also caught passes in 7 on 7 drills, his most significant work to date.

Beckham suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Week 7 last season against Cincinnati and wasn't a part of Cleveland's run to the playoffs. He arrived at camp in phenomenal shape and well ahead of schedule.

The Browns have taken a cautious approach with Beckham, with the idea of having him ready for the Sept. 12 season opener against the two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs.

That seems more possible now.

Before Thursday's practice, Beckham had only done individual drills and worked on the side with quarterback Baker Mayfield.

A few plays into the team drills, Beckham lined up to the far right side for two plays and blocked as the Browns executed running plays to the left. Later, he ran an out pattern in 7 on 7s and caught a short pass from Mayfield while being covered by rookie cornerback Greg Newsome II.

Earlier, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt expressed optimism that Beckham will be ready for the Chiefs, who beat the Browns in last year's division playoffs.

“I hope so. We’re all hoping for that,” Van Pelt said. “I’m not sure where that’s going right now, but he looks really good. He’s running well. He’s coming in and out of his breaks. He’s cutting well. Hopefully we can get him up there for the opener.”

Before Beckham got injured last season, he and Mayfield struggled to find chemistry. But the pair worked together in Texas during the offseason and Cleveland's coaches have scripted plays for them to do while the Browns are practicing special teams.

“They’re in a really good place right now as far as their mind space, all the work they did in the offseason, spending time together, just continuing to build that bond,” Van Pelt said. “And hopefully that will show this year on the field.”

Mayfield played better after Beckham got hurt. His confidence grew, his statistics improved, and more importantly, the Browns won.

And while there is debate whether Mayfield's success is linked to him not forcing the ball to Beckham, Van Pelt believes the Browns are stronger when that duo is connecting.

“Anytime you can add an elite athlete and a great player like Odell back, it is only going to make you better,” he said.

Late in the practice on an overwhelmingly hot and humid day, Mayfield and Beckham spent time going over some pass routes as they fine-tune things with the season just more than two weeks away.

Beckham's in his third season with the Browns, who acquired him from the New York Giants in 2019. In 23 games for Cleveland, he has 97 catches for 1,354 yards and seven touchdowns.

Van Pelt praised Beckham's resolve to return faster than expected, and his diligence in making himself better.

"Always his work ethic, his ability to go out and just do anything you ask him to do,” Van Pelt said when asked about Beckham's drive. “We stressed him on it last week with some of those series drives and he responds.

"The guy will just do anything you ask for him and he wants to be great and he works at it. All those guys that are great players, they all have that work ethic — and he does.”

Beckham hasn't spoken to reporters during camp.

NOTES: RT Jack Conklin returned to practice after being out ill Wednesday. ... Coach Kevin Stefanski will announce Friday whether he'll play his starters in Sunday's exhibition finale against Atlanta. Van Pelt seemed to hint that Stefanski will continue resting his top players. “You do not win a championship in the preseason if you go undefeated,” he said. “Keeping your guys healthy for the season is important.”

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