Bouncing back from an 0-16 effort is serious work for the Cleveland Browns, but there is still time for lighthearted moments on the journey to the season.
That was clear during Tuesday's episode of Hard Knocks, HBO's annual look into training camp and preseason for a chosen NFL team. The Browns are under this year's microscope, and the third episode of the season highlighted some of the more enjoyable aspects of camp before the sobering reality of cuts and an uphill battle to make the playoffs come around.
Cleveland will eventually have to deal with the likes of the Pittsburgh Steelers and others, but Tuesday's calm before the storm introduced fans to Moose the office dog, offensive line coach Bob Wylie calling stretches overrated and highlighting proper blocking techniques with a slideshow of gorillas and rhinoceros, and Hard Knocks favorite Brogan Roback meeting lizards at the Cleveland Botanical Garden.
The fun didn't stop there, as musician Brad Paisley stopped by at practice and even got the chance to see the inside of the famed quarterback RV alongside Baker Mayfield.
It's going to take more than just off-field bonding to bring wins to Cleveland, though, and the wide receiver room could use more depth, considering Corey Coleman was traded to the Buffalo Bills, Antonio Callaway was cited for marijuana possession and Josh Gordon has played just 10 games the last four seasons.
Enter three-time Pro Bowler Dez Bryant, who was a featured player on Tuesday's episode.
The former Dallas Cowboys star introduced himself to potential teammates and plenty of personnel and said he was "just looking for realness" in a meeting with head coach Hue Jackson:
Despite some clear mutual interest and the door remaining open, Bryant is still not a member of the Browns.
There is still reason for optimism when it comes to the receivers after Gordon tweeted Saturday he was returning to the team and said "thank you for your love, support, and most importantly your patience as I took the time needed to ensure my overall mental and physical health," while veteran Jarvis Landry demonstrated some fire during a practice tussle with the defense:
The Browns had the chance to hit another team as well during Tuesday's episode, which chronicled the second preseason game of the year and first at home for the AFC North club.
Cleveland ultimately lost Friday's contest against the Bills, 19-17, but Hard Knocks had plenty of storylines to work with since Cleveland's Tyrod Taylor and Buffalo's Coleman were playing against their old teams.
What's more, Mayfield and Buffalo's Josh Allen were under the spotlight as the Nos. 1 and 7 picks in this year's draft, respectively. Allen (9-of-13 for 60 yards and a touchdown) earned the win and put up better numbers than Mayfield (7-of-13 for 75 yards and no scores), as the Cleveland rookie came back to earth after throwing for 212 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason opener against the New York Giants.
Still, Hard Knocks made it clear Mayfield's performance was better than his final numbers, as he had a touchdown overturned by replay review and another called back for penalty. The future is still bright for the Oklahoma product, especially when his teammates stop making costly mistakes.
The potential of a bright future was on display by the closing credits of the episode, as Hard Knocks captured Gordon working out and preparing for his return as his teammates were exiting following their loss.
The combinations of Taylor, Gordon, Mayfield, Landry and perhaps even Bryant may one day bring future touchdowns and wins for the Browns, but the current version is still building toward a formidable product one episode at a time.