Browns transcripts -- Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020

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Rob McBurnett

Director, Community & Corporate Communications

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

On reports that LB Mack Wilson will not need surgery: 

“I can confirm that. He is not going to get surgery.”

On the relief knowing Wilson will not needing surgery and likely will return at some point this season: 

“With all of our guys, you hate to see them go out and then you hope that it is always good news. When they do go out and (Senior Vice President of Player Health and Development) Joe (Sheehan) sidles over to me and whispers in my ear, I always hope it is good news. This is a good development for Mack.”

On if there was a greater concern for injuries following a virtual offseason program: 

“We were very mindful as we put the plan together about that very sentiment and wanted to make sure that we did this safely and had an acclimation period. Also, we fully recognize that injuries are part of this game.”

On goals for this week of practice prior to the first regular season week of practice: 

“We wrapped up install last week so now we are really streamlining our systems on offense, defense and special teams. Now that we are a month into it, we have a pretty good handle on what our players are good at and what they can handle. On offense, defense and special teams, we will start implementing some schemes that we think could be good for us in the first couple weeks of the season.”

On it being a tough year for undrafted rookie free agents and if undrafted rookie free agents have stood out during camp, following a virtual offseason program and no preseason games: 

“I will not single anyone out, but I will just tell you we do miss those [preseason] games from an evaluation standpoint. It is our job to evaluate them in individual period, in seven-on-seven and team periods. We feel pretty confident that we are getting a good evaluation on all these young guys, but they are at a disadvantage without those games.”

On if LB Jacob Phillips has improved throughout training camp and is someone the team can rely on early in the season: 

“Jacob, he runs around and he wants to see ball, get ball. I think he is built athletically to go do that. Like every other rookie at every other position probably with every other team, it is not perfect. There is a growing period to this, and I think he has made strides each and every day he has been out there on the grass.”

On TE Harrison Bryant being voted the Maurice Bassett Award winner for a standout rookie training camp performance:

“Harrison has done a nice job. To his credit, he really, really is a diligent worker, a student of this game. We moved him around the formation and moved him to different positions, and he has not missed a beat. Pleased with where he is and congrats to him on that award.”

On C JC Tretter’s status, his rehab and if the team expects him to play Week 1:

“He is progressing. I think we really want to use every single one of these days to our advantage. The prudent thing would be to wait until next week to really check in to say whether he is going to make it to that first game or not. I am really worried about him today more so than next week.”

On if Tretter could return to the practice this week:

“We will see.”

On the state of the Browns at this point and player leadership throughout a unique training camp:

“It has been unusual for all us and certainly for all the 32 teams, but I think we have the right makeup in our locker room. I think that the leadership from a bunch of the guys on the field and in the building, I have seen it. Pleased with where we are right now, and totally recognizing that we have a bunch more to do before we kick off this season.”

On if DE Myles Garrett and CB Greedy Williams practice today:

“We will see. They are truly day to day. We will take it as it goes.”

On if Garrett’s status as day to day continues to be ‘in an abundance of caution’:


On if anything stood out positively from Sunday’s practice film that may not have been seen live:

“Yeah, I think we played mostly penalty free on either side, which was good to see. We have been really harping on that a lot without having the [preseason] games and without having officials right now. That is something that I thought was good. Like every practice, there are so many things that we can get better at. I thought putting them through some of the situational things was good so that we can talk through some of our adjustments and some of the substitution things that happen in the course of a game. All of that was really good work, and I think we will kind of double-down on that this Friday at the stadium, as well.”

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LB Jacob Phillips:

On areas he improved most and his training camp:

“I learned a lot in training camp. Being around this defense, it is really complex and a lot of plays. Just being able to pick up on that and then after you pick up on that, learning about how can the offense try and target the defense and what are the weak points in each play. Just working through all that. As far as the other question of what have I got better at, I feel like being in this defense just lets me showcase and have more opportunities to be more of a well-rounded player. We do a lot in this defense. We get to cover, we get to blitz, we get to run, block and a whole lot of things. I am enjoying it. It is a fun, fast defense. I can’t wait to play.”

On learning LB Mack Wilson’s injury does not require surgery and how Wilson has helped his development:

“Always cheer for my brothers. Always want all of my brothers to be able to play. For him to get hurt, I felt for him. We talked about it. To hear he did not need to have surgery, that is obviously a blessing that he gets to play and have fun. Mack, ever since I got drafted, he has definitely played a part in this transition to the NFL and to this organization and to make sure he shows me the ropes and tells me what to expect. I am glad that he will be coming back.”

On if he felt he might need to take on a bigger role in the defense when Wilson sustained the injury:

“Every day I just go out there and try to put my best foot forward. It is a blessing to have opportunities to be able to go out there every single day and play. I try and take advantage of that. There is no added pressure. I put pressure on myself. I am a big competitor. I want to compete and get better every single day. Nothing really affects my mental drive as far as when to get better play in myself.”

On if he feels like he is ready to play Week 1:

“Yeah, I definitely feel like I am ready. I got a whole lot of confidence from this training camp. Players that we have on offense and being able to compete against them every day and make plays against them is definitely giving me a whole lot of confidence that I can do it against every other team in the league because I know how special our team is here for the Browns. I am definitely ready, and actually, I can’t wait for it.”

On LB B.J. Goodson as a leader to the Browns LBs:

“He is a very good player for us. He does a good job at communicating. He has seen a lot of different things and played in a lot of different defenses. He has some years under his belt. It is definitely helping in that aspect when there are people there who have seen a lot, and then people who have not seen a lot, they can just kind of tap into that and take those gems from that situation.”

On the disappointment seeing S Grant Delpit sustain a season-ending injury and how Delpit has been during his recovery: 

“Grant is a brother to me so I definitely reached out, and I definitely was real, real torn up about the situation. It is football. You have to realize that God has a path for everybody. I try to just tell him to keep your happiness, stay up and do not let this get you down because there are so many things in front of you and so many more goals that can be reached. This is really just a speed bump. I just try to tell him that and make sure he keeps his mentals good.”

On if there was a moment in training camp that he realized he could compete and contribute in the NFL: 

“I really would not point to one exact moment. You kind of just realize like you are really built for this. Going into it, you do not know what to expect. You do not want to think that it is going to be this or it is going to be negative this or positive that. You want to go into it, take every day day by day and just keep laying bricks. I feel like that is what I did. I feel like it came to me, it is coming to me good and I feel like I am ready for it.”

On if he feels less nervous about starting the season, especially after getting more reps with Wilson out: 

“Yeah, definitely. I remember it was the first day in pads, and he was like, ‘Man, when you go out there your first day, you are going to be nervous,’ and I was like, ‘No, I am not going to be nervous.’ I feel like after everything I have experienced and everything I have been put in and so many different situations while we have been practicing, I do not feel nervous for anything. I feel very confident. I feel happy to be in this position and blessed to be progressing like this. I hope to do well during the season.”

On if he has spent most of his time at WILL, MIKE or SAM: 

“In the scrimmage, I played a lot of MIKE and then I played some WILL, also. I would say most of my snaps come from WILL.”

On his coverage skills and if that is something the coaches have spent a lot of time working with him: 

“No, not really. It is just when you have more opportunities to do so or be put in that position, you can showcase that you have that skill. If you are never put in the position, then people just do not know you can do it. I feel like you have been at practice and you see me breaking up passes, covering and doing all those things. I have not, then you will see it in Game 1.”

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TE Harrison Bryant:

On being named the Maurice Bassett Award recipient, given to a standout rookie during training camp:

“Obviously, it is nice for your work and stuff to be noticed, but it is practice and that was my goal to just come out and show what I can do and do whatever I can to make the team and help the team win. I feel like I have done that so far, and I am just looking to continue to improve every day and whenever I get my opportunities the rest of camp or whether that is in season in the games to go out and produce.”

On the focus of his conversations with TE Austin Hooper:

“Just really the little details. Everyone in the tight end room has been extremely helpful so far throughout camp really welcoming me with open arms. So far, it has been really good. Just picking their brain about the little details of route running and technique within blocking. So far, all the stuff I have picked up from them and they came over and talked to me about, it has really helped out.”

On what areas he has improved most during the last three weeks:

“For me, the biggest thing was technique within the new concepts and new schemes of everything I was learning. The biggest thing for me was just coming in mentally prepared and knowing what to do, and then really the techniques and stuff came along with more reps in practice. That was my biggest thing was really just focusing on fundamentals within run blocking and the detail of just a little route and its intricacies. Hooper and everyone in the tight room has really helped me out, as well as (tight ends) Coach (Drew) Petzing so it has been really eye opening, and I have learned a lot of stuff throughout.”

On how training camp may have been different than expected:

“I talked to a lot of people before I came in. One of my high school coaches played in the NFL. He played fullback. It is different than tight end but it is similar. I kind of had an idea of what the little details were and what I needed to do when I came in. It has been different than what I expected but at the same time similar. It has been really fun so far, and I am just trying to improve every day and really do whatever I can to help the team win.”

On if his mindset was to just come in and do the job but not say much as a rookie:

“I feel like that is one of my foundation things is just going in head down and go to work. I felt so far that I have done that. Just came in worked, keep to myself and just go out and just do whatever I can to help the team win.”

On if playing OL in high school helped him as a run blocker in the NFL:

“In high school, I played offensive tackle. Some of that stuff translates over, little details and stuff, but it is a lot different schemes and a lot different personnel that you are blocking. A little carries over, but it is a new learning curve and a lot of new details that I have had to learn and I will continue to learn.”

On the difference blocking NFL players and if his size makes it more challenging:

“Obviously, every day during camp, going against extremely talented defense ends, D linemen and a great line backing core, it is challenging every day, and I am just looking to continue to improve in that aspect of my game. The biggest thing with blocking is just being willing and just going in there and sticking your head in there because a lot of the times, you are out on the edges with the defensive ends in this league. The biggest thing is just will and continuing to pick up on those little details and techniques that will help you just stay in there and continue to fight.”

On expanding on how the NFL experience has been different than expected:

“I would say similar but different, just in the terms of this is a different year for us and rookies coming in. All the guys that you usually talk to, they have had a different experience with not having COVID. It is just a learning curve for us, but it was the hand we were dealt. Just coming in and making the most of it. For me, personally, it was just all about coming in every day and doing whatever I can to make the team and help the team win.”

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G Joel Bitonio:

On how the Browns OL is coming together and the potential of two rookies starting Week 1: 

“I think every day we are getting a little bit better. There are things to work on. I think every day you find something new that you want to improve on and work on. That is just the whole season really. As you are working with an O line with two young guys that did not get the OTAs and offseason, every day you are just trying to find something to get better. We talk to Jed (T Jedrick Wills Jr.) about one or two things each day to work on, to focus on, to focus on to really try to improve so it really becomes more of a habit. We are getting there. (Offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan and (assistant offensive line) Coach (Scott) Peters, they are putting us in good positions to be successful. Now, we are just continuing to try to work on technique and get as many reps as we can before that first week.”

On Wills and C Nick Harris during training camp: 

“From Nick’s perspective, he is playing center so there is a lot on his plate making calls and things of that nature. He has done a really good job of picking that up. He is an athletic guy. He can move, he is quick and he gets to his position really well. Those are things that are really big positive signs. Jed, kind of the same boat. He has really picked up the offense well. You do not really see many mental errors and things of that nature, which is encouraging for a rookie that is just going through his first training camp ever and his real first practices ever, and just his daily improvement. I know he is going against guys like OV (DE Olivier Vernon), (DE) Myles (Garrett) and guys that have been to Pro Bowls and All-Pro in this league, and he is competing with those guys. It is not pretty all the time, but every day he is fighting and getting better. Not every block in the NFL is pretty. You might have to win sloppy sometimes, and he is learning that is OK. When you are at Alabama and you are playing teams, sometimes you just win every block, and that does not happen all the time in NFL. You learn from those mistakes and you keep improving, and you have seen that fight with him.”

On how he is helping Wills on the left side of the Browns OL: 

“It starts with communication from the huddle and making sure we know where we are working to and who we are going to and the nuances of each play because each play there is something different that you have to worry about, just from that point in the communicating. Once the plays over with you realize what happened, what went right and what went wrong and kind of learning from those situations. (Former Browns LT) Joe Thomas told me my rookie year, ‘What can this defensive player do to you that is going make this play not work for us?’ You kind of put that in your mindset, you try to eliminate that right away and then kind of go from there. Just little tidbits like that and just helping him try and focus on each and every play and understanding this league you have to play the next play. If there is a penalty, if there is a sack or if there is something that goes wrong, there is another play that is coming right up and you can’t get down on yourself. I think he is understanding that I am not going to bat 100 for 100, but we want to try and get to as close to that number as possible, just play as hard as we can and focus on the next play each and every time we get back in the huddle.”

On if the Browns are on track to be fully prepared for the season opener: 

“I feel like we are in a good spot. I think it took a while to get going with the ramp-up period here – you do not get as much contact and stuff – but the last couple weeks, we have been going pretty steadily. You put your whole playbook in on offense and defense, and now, you are starting to shrink it up and kind of go to the plays that have been working and the plays that you are going to want to run against Baltimore. I think we are in a good spot. It is going to take a good week of practice regardless. We want to come out here and get better this week. We have a four-day block here and then we really get into game week. We are excited with where we are. I think we saw some good things in the scrimmage on Sunday, and we are moving in the right direction. There are a lot of positives out there. You are only as good as your last day so we are going to come out there today, try and have our best practice yet and just keep building on those things.”

On C JC Tretter’s psyche right now and injury status: 

“Medically, I am not sure. I do not know how all that is working. Him and the training staff and (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski probably have a better answer for you on that. Mentally, he has been in every meeting. He is watching practice on his iPad and he is getting focused and ready to roll. I know mentally he is going to be ready to play, if he is ready to go physical. That is not going to be an obstacle. He has always been a smart guy, and he knows where we are play by play and issue by issue. I still talk to him in the meetings and make sure I’m like ‘Hey, this is what we are seeing out there. What would you call in these situations and those type of situations?’ It is definitely different, but if anybody can do it, he has done it the last few years where he has not practiced with high ankle sprains and things of that nature, and he has come into the games and he has been really mentally sharp. That is something that we are not worried about. I know he has been pushing himself. He is here every day just trying to get back and get ready for Week 1.”

On if there will be a greater responsibility for him if Harris is starting Week 1: 

“I think he will be in a good position. I think coach has done a good job of getting him ready, but when we are out there, the five guys got to figure out who we are blocking. If that takes me making a call or (T) Jack (Conklin) making a call or (G) Wyatt (Teller) or even Jed, we are going to figure out who we are going to and try and all be on the same page. Being a guy who has been in this system a little bit and kind of understands like, ‘Hey, this is the nuances of it,’ of course, I will be ready to help him and make a call if we need to, but I think he is on track to be ready mentally. He has done some good things, and I am sure Baltimore has something for us that we have not seen that we will have to adjust to on the sideline. We are getting there, and we have two weeks now to really ramp it up mentally for Baltimore. Yeah, I will be ready to take that step, if it is needed.”

On his evaluation of how Stefanski has dealt with adversity during his first year as head coach: 

“He has been great. He has always come into it with a gameplan, and from Day 1, he understood this season was going to be different. From a COVID perspective and like you talked about from social justice perspective, he has been on top of his game and he has kept his focus. Just not having team meetings together where we are on Zoom calls and stuff like that, all those things are different than normal, where we are doing so much more virtual stuff. He has been really ready, and he has really stressed to us that we have to hit the curveball this year. What are they going to send at us? Whoever deals with these circumstances better is going to have a leg up on the competition. His organization and his focus on those issues has been top-notch.”

On how Stefanski has handled this season compared to other head coaches he has played with or how other coaches around the league may be addressing the adversity: 

“It is one of those things that this is kind of a first time in a lifetime type of situation for most NFL teams so it is hard to tell how other franchises have handled it. I just know we are getting our work in, and we are focused as a unit. That is really all we can ask. We do not know what is exactly happening across the league, but Coach Stefanski has had a plan, he is putting it in place and we are making our way towards that goal.”

On if there was a greater concern for injuries coming into camp following a virtual offseason program: 

“I think that is why we were trying to stress – I think JC did a good job with the NFLPA – of having that ramp-up period because no matter how hard you train and you can train in the weight room and running and things like that, until you are really physically battling with somebody, you do not realize how much toll that is on your body. Like you said, a lot of our things have been really unlucky injuries you know with Achilles and stuff like that where it is kind of freak accidents, where I do not know if that would if we had OTAs or something, I do not know if that is changing those scenarios. You wanted to have enough ramp-up period for guys to get their bodies kind of used to pushing and pulling on each other because you never know how you are going to feel when you are blocking a 300-pound guy or two 300-pound guys are tackling and these situations where guys getting rolled up on. It is the soft tissue injuries and those things that you are trying to prevent with the ramp-up period. Some of those football injuries just happen. It is an unfortunate part of the business. Hopefully, we get as healthy as possible going into Week 1 and we have most of our key guys.”

On if TE Harrison Bryant stood out in training camp, given that he was named the Maurice Bassett Award recipient as the top rookie standout in training camp: 

“He is a mature guy. He is focused. He has not talked much, which is good for a rookie. He comes in, and he handles his business. From my perspective, every time the ball comes his way, he is making a play on it, and he pops right up when he gets hit. He is just doing all the right things you want to see in a rookie. He is a little smaller than some other tight ends, but he goes in there and he just tries to fight, and that is all you can really ask for of those tight ends. They are not used to blocking 280-pound defensive ends, and he comes out there, he attacks them and he wants to be a part of it. That is really all you can ask for from a rookie. He is focused and he does not really make those mental mistakes. From what I can see from the receiving aspect, every day he is coming down with a sweet catch or nice touchdown, and those are all exciting things.”

On if DE Myles Garrett missing time in camp has had an impact on the Browns OL’s preparation for the season: 

“He is a great player. He is one of the top rushers in this league, and anytime you get to battle him, you are going to learn things, but we have other good rushes our team. It is not like you are just getting ready for Myles Garrett every week. He is a great player, and it is good to get those looks and good to feel that speed because he has more speed than most edge rushers you are going face. He has been out there. He was banged up early start of practice, but a lot of those were kind of walkthrough days or we were not going against the defense. He has got his looks in, and I know he is going be ready to roll the next couple weeks and we are going to get plenty of looks against him. Anytime you go against a great player, it is good to battle, but I think our coaches have done a good job putting us in positions, moving (DE Olivier Vernon) around. We have other guys, (DT) Sheldon Richardson is a Pro Bowler, and we have guys that can rush the quarterback that we have had to block, and I think we are going to be prepared.”

On his impressions of G Wyatt Teller during training camp: 

“I know Wyatt worked his butt off this offseason. He was truly focused. He wanted to help transform his body a little bit and just be ready to play. He has had some chances his first two years in the league and he has been on a couple different teams, but he understood this right guard spot was going to be a competition and he wanted to work for it. He has done everything he has really needed to. He has come out there, he has competed every day, he has worked hard and he has continued to get better like the rest of us. Every day we are picking one or two things that we want to work on, and he has been part of that. It has been good. He has some experience. He has probably started maybe 15-16 games in his career, and when you have a guy like (C) Nick (Harris) next to you, all that experience helps. Him and (T) Jack (Conklin) working together, they have had a pretty good bond this camp. I think he has done a great job of really putting himself in a position to be successful this year, and I know he has really put in the work, especially this offseason and training camp, to try and give himself the best chance.”

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