Stefanski, Johnson and Ward Monday Transcript

Rob McBurnett

Director, Community & Corporate Communications

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement:

“I will start with injuries. (RB) Nick Chubb has an MCL injury. We will be putting him on IR. It will be a several week injury, but we do expect him back this year. Knowing Nick, he is going to work very hard in rehab. I know that is hard to see your teammate go down like that, but knowing Nick, he will work his butt off to get back. (DT) Larry (Ogunjobi) has an oblique injury. We will see how that goes throughout this week. (WR) KhaDarel Hodge has a hamstring, and that is really week to week and we shall see on that one.

“Just recapping again yesterday, a good team win. The guys are playing very, very hard. I think that shows up on tape. They are really straining to finish. I think you can start it and end it right there at plus-three in the turnover margin. It is such a big deal in terms of winning and losing.”

On how many weeks Chubb may miss with his MCL injury:

“Honestly, I think we have to see how it goes. With Nick Chubb, I hesitate to put a number of weeks on it. I do not know, but it will be several weeks.”

On the Browns’ depth at RB and OL as seen by the team rushing for 300-plus yards yesterday despite Chubb getting injured early in the game:

“That was good to see with those guys stepping up. Like you mentioned, the offensive line, the tight ends and the wide receivers, they are all straining, and the runners were running through arm tackles and breaking tackles so that that was good to see. You lose a player of Nick’s caliber, we are going to need those guys to step up really across the entire offense.”

On the key to the Browns offense’s success in recent weeks despite the opponent:

“I think it is still a work in progress. We are in Year 1 of systems on the offensive and defensive side. As we speak, the coaches are in meetings with the players and there are plenty of things to clean up. It was a productive day for the offense obviously, but there are yards that we are leaving out in the field, and we have to do better. We have to improve throughout the season.”

On what the Browns need to be clean up on defense:

“There are some things we can do better. It always goes back to the alignment, assignment and technique. There are things I know the guys can clean up, and the coaches are going to work hard on that with them. You get in that game and you are going to have to apply pressure to the quarterback, and you are going to have to find a way to get off. Just late in that fourth quarter we could not find a way to get off, but I have to tell you, those guys are straining, they are flying around the field and guys are giving us great, great effort. We got our hands on a few balls that we did not come down with – that is part of it – and I understand that I am being greedy because they got us three [takeaways], but we have to make sure that we are really trying everything we can to get our hands on the ball and secure those interceptions.”

On evaluating S Andrew Sendejo’s play so far this season:

“Playing hard. He is making plays on the ball. He punched that ball out of the runner there yesterday. He can clean things up, just like the whole lot of guys honestly. That is really the message to our offense, our defense and our special teams is let’s find ways to get better today in these meetings.”

On if Chubb’s injury will require surgery:


On RB Kareem Hunt’s physical status today after playing through a groin injury last week:

“He came through pretty good. That dude is a warrior. I love watching that guy play. To make it to that game and to perform how he did, a team player all the way. Really, really proud of him.”

On if DT Sheldon Richardson is OK, given Richardson walked off late in the game:


On if the Browns may have TE David Njoku return to the team this week:

“I think we will, yes.”

On his confidence in the run game’s ability to produce yesterday and moving forward, despite it being hard to replace Chubb:

“Like you said, Nick is tough to replace obviously, but we have to just make sure we put a gameplan together today and tomorrow with the coaches and then find a way to move the rock any which way we can. I trust that we will put that plan together and I trust that guys will step up when they are called upon.”

On the success of the Browns running game through the first four games:

“First, you have to start with the players. It takes 11 guys so I think it is easy to start with the runners who are doing an outstanding job, but you have to look at the entire offense and you have to look at the offensive line knocking guys off the ball, utilizing the correct technique and going to the right people. The tight ends are a huge focal point of what we are doing. The wide receivers are blocking on the perimeter. The quarterback is getting this in the correct play and he is carrying out fakes. It really takes 11 guys to make a run game go. Like I mentioned to you guys yesterday, you have to give credit to the coaches. I think (offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan and the offensive staff continue to put together strong plans. It is a group effort.”

On the importance of getting WR Odell Beckham Jr. involved early in the game:

“Yeah, I think he is a really good football player so it makes sense to me to get him involved early and often. It has not happened there in a few of those ball games and there are always varying reasons for that, but he is a major part of our attack and we have to make sure that we are utilizing him as best we can.”

On if the reverse to Beckham at the end of the game could be considered a risky play call, given Beckham eluded a potential tackler 10-plus yards behind the line of scrimmage:

“Yeah, the risk in thinking about the result of these plays it is really I try to just think about the process of what got us there because you are right, if he gets tackled, it is a dumb call. ‘What am I thinking?’ At the end of the day, I trust our guys and I trust the players, and that is really where my focus goes.”

On if it is difficult to get WRs to buy into blocking downfield:

“I think the guys understand that they are a huge part of our success, and they get that when we are throwing it, those running backs, those tight ends and the line are blocking for the quarterback and giving him time to get the ball to them. It goes hand in hand in terms of being a good offense. You have to do your job so someone else can have success.”

On if there was some sense of relief Chubb’s injury wasn’t an ACL injury and Chubb’s mindset since the injury: 

“Yes, I would say there is always relief when it is not a season ending injury. You never like to see your players on the ground like that. Again, Nick does not say much as you guys know, but he is a leader of this football team. His teammates really respond to him and the way he goes about his business. He is disappointed, but I can promise you he is going to attack this rehab.”

On RB D’Ernest Johnson’s performance and personality, referring to Johnson spending 2018 working on a fishing charter: 

“He does a nice job. From the moment I got here and watching how he prepares and how he goes about his business, he grinds on this thing. I think (run game coordinator/running backs coach) Stump (Mitchell) does a great job with that running back room and really holds all those guys accountable, and he makes sure they are ready to play. You saw that. D’Ernest was standing at the ready.”

On if the field position following the Cowboys’ squib onside kick affected the play call on the last TD run:

“Yeah, a little bit. Probably would not have done that very far backed up so yeah, it did affect it.”

On what occurred when WR Donovan Peoples-Jones let the ball go on the deep kickoff that reached the goal line:

“I do not know. I was running down the sideline. He needs to make sure he makes great decisions there. He did a nice job yesterday for us and he is going to continue to do a nice job for us, but that is one that I would like to make sure is going in the end zone for him to be like that.”

On if the rules on touchbacks and letting the ball go on a kickoff are different in college, given the two different touchback situations in the Browns-Cowboys game yesterday:

“I do not know the rules in college. That was a very unusual play that happened on their kickoff return, and our guys stopped playing because of the signal he gave. That was unique, and we are going to make a phone call to see exactly how they want that officiated.”

On the unique but productive Browns’ offensive numbers, given the Browns had over 300 rushing yards, no one with over 100-yard receivers and approximately 200 passing yards, including WR Jarvis Landry, and a 50-yard run by Beckham in a 49-point effort:

“Every game we kind of go into it thinking about how we get the ball in our guys hands. You mentioned Jarvis, Jarvis had five catches, four for first downs. Those guys are making plays for us. We have to work real hard as an offensive staff to make sure that we are finding creative ways to get it to them because they are really good players. I would mention the tight ends, too. They made some big catches. Yeah, I think unique when you mention those things and the statistics, but I also think there were a ton of plays that were moving the chains, and we will take it any which way we can get it.”

On CB Denzel Ward’s performance yesterday coming off of a groin injury:

“Yeah, I thought he did a nice job yesterday. They threw it over 50 times so they are going to make a few plays, but for him to fight through the injuries that he has been fighting through, to answer the bell and then play the way he is playing and make that play at the end there to seal the game I thought was outstanding.”

On NFL Network’s report that Chubb is expected to miss six weeks due to injury and could return in November:

“I really do not know. I can’t speak to NFL Network, but I can speak to Cleveland Browns. I am just telling you, injury wise we are looking at several weeks. What that ends up being, I do not know. I know Nick Chubb so I really would not put a timeframe on it just yet.”

On which Browns players received game balls after yesterday’s win:

“I think we are going to leave the game balls internal. I will tell you, it was a group effort on all sides, and I thought there was winning effort throughout the game. I just go back to you watch the tape and guys are playing hard and guys are straining. That is the type of style we are looking to play.”

On the Browns offense’s red zone efficiency through the first four weeks:

“The red zone, sometimes that comes and goes. Right now, it is going for us and we have to make sure we keep going. Been able to run it pretty effectively down there. Threw it in there a couple times yesterday. It really becomes about attacking the defense and whatever the defensive style calls for in each given week. I am really proud of the guys when they get down there of making sure it is sevens and not threes.”

On the decision to have four RBs active yesterday was related to Hunt overcoming his injury and if the Browns will add a RB with Chubb on IR:

“We will see how that plays out here in the next week. I would say it was maybe a combination of Kareem coming off that injury, but I also point out that both those guys, (RB) Dontrell (Hilliard) and D’Ernest do a great job on special teams so that is a big part of it, as well.”

On if the Browns have made any specific changes to their COVID-19 protocols following the number of positive tests around the league in recent weeks, understanding the team has been vigilant in all of its efforts throughout the season:

“We are following those protocols to a T. We probably met a little bit more virtually as a coaching staff with the recent news, but we are just going to do everything we can to be safe, keep our players safe and keep our staff safe. We are just going to keep following those protocols.”

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RB D’Ernest Johnson:

On confidence the Browns offense can keep up the success in the run game despite the tough loss of RB Nick Chubb for several weeks:

“I think we are pretty confident right now. It sucks that Nick had to get hurt. We are praying for him and praying for a speedy recovery. At the same time, we just have to continue to hold it down for the running back room.”

On the pride the Browns took in rushing for more than 300 yards yesterday:

“We take a lot of pride in running the ball. When your opportunities come, you have to make the best of it, and I think that is what we all did. Each back, me, (RB) Dontrell (Hilliard), (RB) Kareem (Hunt) and Nick, every time we have an opportunity, we try to make the best of it.”

On previously playing predominately on special teams and ultimately earning time on the offense:

“I just stayed patient. I did everything I had to do on special teams, and when my name number was called, I had to make sure I was ready. That is what I did is just made sure I was ready.”

On how he has improved since joining the Browns:

“I think I have improved a lot. This offseason, I worked a lot on my speed and a lot of little stuff like my balance and my football back down in Florida, where I was training. I worked on little things like that. I feel like I improved a lot from last year. I feel like I am a better player than I was last year.”

On where he trained in the offseason:

“I was training at a gym in Florida called NUMA Speed. It is run by a track Olympian. His name is Tim Montgomery.”

On the Browns OL:

“The offensive line, they have been doing a great job this whole season. They have been pushing guys around and moving downfield and getting us opportunities to run through holes. I give all the credit to the offensive line because without them our run game… They have just been doing a great job this whole season. We are looking forward to continuing to run behind them.”

On how he got his nickname ‘Slow Grind’:

“Slow Grind came from me, it is my brand. Slow Grind is my brand. Just coming out of high school, I always had to get it the hard way. I always had to earn everything I did. I had to stay patient no matter what. Something could be right in front of me, and I had to just wait to go get it. Slow Grind stands for staying focused on the ultimate goal. Sometimes the process does not come fast. It takes time. Right now, I am really in a slow grind process because what happened and I got my opportunity, and I am just trying to make the best of it. I have worked hard for it. It has been a long journey. I have just been trying to make sure I seize every moment of it.”

On his relationship with Hunt:

“Kareem is like a big brother. Everyone, we all have a good relationship. All the backs have a good relationship. Kareem stays on top of me. He makes sure my mind is mentally ready. When it was my time to get in the game he said, ‘Go out there and do your thing Slow Grind. Don’t think about anything. Just go out there, and when your opportunity comes, make the best of it.’ That is what I did.”

On if he has talked to Chubb since the injury:

“Yes, I talked to Nick. He is doing pretty good. His mind is right. He is just ready get back to work and work on a speedy recovery. He also told me, ‘Good game. Just keep working. Your opportunity is coming. You just have to keep working and make the best of it.’”

On the significant of the loss with Chubb’s injury, given Chubb is one of the best RBs in the league:

“It is a tough loss. Playing behind a guy like that and just seeing how hard he works throughout this whole process, it is tough. I hate that it happened for him because he is just a great, humble dude. He does not say much, but he is all about his work. I hate for something like that to happen to him. He is a good dude. I have been praying for him. I just pray for a speedy recovery. He is one of the best backs in the league, and he carries himself like that. Every day he is about his work. Every day he is about work. I appreciate a lot about that with Nick.”

On the key to being successful in the run game, regardless of the defenses they face:

“First things first, we just have to continue to keep doing what we are doing. Eliminate the mental errors. Eliminate the little mistakes that we are making. Just go out there and play football. Just go out there have fun. Do what we are doing. Just go out there and do it to the best of our best of ability. That is what we have to do. We are going to be ourselves. That is what coach preaches, just going out there and having fun and just going out there and trying to be the best on the field.”

On his ‘Slow Grind’ brand, given he is wearing a Slow Grind face mask:

“Yeah, I actually have a jacket. I have a website, it is called I have different kinds of t-shirts and hats and stuff up on the site.”

On yesterday’s TV broadcast sharing the story of how he worked on a fishing boat in 2018 and if his family mentioned that to him:

“They did tell me about that. They said, ‘D’Ernest The Fisherman Johnson’ and stuff so that was pretty funny. Like I said, it was a tough journey for me. Going from in 2018 with the Saints through their mini-camp and not knowing what was going to happen from there so I had to get a job fishing, and I did that for like two months trying to make money. Then I had to get another job working in a gym, and that is when the AAF came along and I got the opportunity to play for them. Then the Browns came along. Now I am sitting here just trying to get better each and every day. I am thankful for every opportunity.”

On if the fishing boat experience crossed his mind after yesterday’s game:

“It crosses my mind every time. Every time I step on the field I am like, ‘Man, look how far I have come. All this hard work I have been through, not knowing two years ago where would I be.’ I am just thankful for everything. I just embrace every moment of it.”

On if Hunt telling him ‘come on I need you’ inspired him yesterday:

“It definitely inspired me just knowing that I can be a big part of helping the team. For him saying that, it made me want to go harder. Every time I was out there, it made me want to go harder just trying to make a play for the team.”

On if the Browns want to rally in some way, including to try to lead the league in team rushing, given the team’s desire for Chubb’s to win the rushing title this year and that being impacted by Chubb’s injury:

“We definitely wanted Nick [to win the rushing title] because Nick was on the way to going for the rushing title this year. We were hoping to get for him the rushing title because last year he fell short a little bit. That is a big accomplishment for him. I know he wanted to accomplish that. We just have to keep working. All the goals are still in front of us as a running back room. We just have to keep working. Next man up. You just have to step up and try to do the best that you can do.”

On if he believes the Browns can be the top rushing offense in the league this year:

“I think we have the backs to do that. I truly believe we have the backs to do that. We just have to attack every day and outwork our opponents, and then let everything come to us. We just have to work and go get it. I feel like we can do that.”

On what he has learned from Chubb and Chubb’s running style:

“I love the way he runs. He runs so aggressive. He is aggressive. He is patient. When he sees a hole, he hits it hard. He breaks tackles. Nick is just an all-around back. It is great to be in the room with him and Kareem, two of the best backs in the league. You can take a lot from them just the way they attack each day coming to work and the way they treat their bodies and the way they do things. Nick does a lot of extra work outside of practice. That is something I want to get better at doing and just following his routes and stuff like that. Nick is just a great back, one of the best backs in the league. I am just proud to be his teammate.”

On the luxury for the Browns having Hunt as the team’s No. 2 RB:

“You get the best of both worlds with Kareem. He can run the ball well and he can catch out of the backfield well. Like I said, he is an all-around back. He can do it all. He comes to work and works hard every day. He just has to keep working. He has a bright future ahead of him. I am just proud of the way that he comes to work. He is focused. I am just proud of the way of how he handles himself. He is a great leader to me and to the other backs. We just learn from each other.”

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CB Denzel Ward:

On the impact of losing a teammate as valuable as RB Nick Chubb:

“That hurts a lot. I hate that happened to Nick. You obviously see what Nick has done for this football team, and he is a big reason why we got some of the wins that we got now. Guys have to step up, and they did tha. Once Nick went down, (RB) D’Ernest (Johnson) had a good running game yesterday; (RB) Kareem (Hunt) and (RB) Dontrell (Hilliard), all those guys ran very well. It definitely hurt having him out and looking forward to getting him back as soon as we can.”

On what the win yesterday can do for the Browns’ confidence:

“It meant a lot. The Cowboys, they are a good team. They fought hard until the last play of the game. They are a good team, and I am glad we got to come out with the win on top.”

On what was learned from the Cowboys mounting a comeback and the Browns maintaining the lead in the fourth quarter:

“We just have to make sure that we finish. Once we got those guys up, we just have to do a better job of executing our play calls and doing what we have to do to keep them away, keep them down and do not let them get any hope back and to get back into the game. We just have to finish next time. The end result, all that matters is that we got the win.”

On if he was able to prove anything with his interception to seal the win after playing through injury:

“I am good. I am not injured. If I am out there on that field, I am 100 percent. It definitely meant a lot. I try to do whatever I can to help my team win. I try to be that playmaker that they need and that I know that I am. Whatever I can do to help my team win, that is the biggest thing, and glad that we finished it that way.”

On if it his mentality to play through injury and not think about it if he is on the field:

“No, I feel great. I feel good. Like I said, if I am out there, then I am pretty sure that I feel good. I am able to still run, cut and do everything I need to do. These off days, I felt more hurt than the usual and just the soreness from the game and everything, but I am out there pushing through it with all those guys. Everybody has something that is nicked up and bruised up so we are all fighting and doing what we can to help this team.”

On the Browns’ potential:

“This team can be special. It could be as special as we want to be. It is up to us. We just have to execute what we do, go in and take it one game at a time.”

On if it dangerous for the defense to rely on takeaways or if the Browns defense needs to clean up other areas:

“We still have to clean up other areas, but that is definitely the focus going into every game is getting takeaways and getting our offense out there to have more opportunities to make plays and score touchdowns.”

On what gives him the feeling that the Browns can be special, compared to last season:

“I just feel it is a totally different team compared to last year or years past I have been here so far, just the coaching staff, the players and everything. We are just trying to take it a game at a time, take it from there and not look too far ahead.”

On if he has a lot of game balls at home and if yesterday’s interception was a special one:

“I gave that one to my mom. That interception from yesterday’s game, I gave it to my mom. I know she enjoyed that watching the game.”

On the play where he recorded his interception:

“The coaches, they got us in a great call on that play and put me in position to seal the win and come away with the ball.”

On if it is nice to see the Browns’ key contributors step up and make big plays when needed:

“Definitely. That is what it is all about. Guys with a lot of potential, you want to see that potential out there on the field, and it shows. It has been showing the past few weeks, and definitely yesterday it showed. Guys going out there, making plays and doing what they are supposed to do.”

On what needs to improve in the Browns passing defense:

“It is just all about execution and everybody being on the same pages – DBs, linebackers, everything. We are going to get things sorted out coming into this week and practice and everything. Everything else will take care of itself.”

On how much having different players in different places contributes to the Browns defense not potentially being on the same page in pass defense:

“We are going to get that all sorted out and everything. I am not too concerned about it. I know these guys are going to come in ready to work.”

On how long DE Myles Garrett can keep his strip-sack streak going:

“Myles can keep this up as long as long as he wants to. Myles is in control of what he does. He is obviously a great player, and the sky is the limit for him. He could do whatever he wants to do – he could go do it out there on that field.”

On seeing Garrett elevate his game this season and regularly producing game-changing plays:

“Yeah, it is exciting. I am glad he is on my team, for sure. You just see him detailed in his work out there. It is not just about going for the tackle but he is going for the ball, as well, and trying to change the game.”

On if the recent coronavirus news around the league has made him more vigilant about protecting himself and the team, given he is currently wearing his face mask:

“Definitely. Our coaching staff and (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski does a great job of just keeping us aware that this thing is still out there and the virus is still out there. We have to continue to wear a mask and continue to stay safe if we want to have a season. I know all of us on the Browns, we want to play football, and if wearing our masks is what we have to do to keep that going, that is what we are going to do.”

On WR Odell Beckham Jr.’s performance yesterday and big plays:

“It was very cool. This was definitely a breakout game for him this season, just showing obviously what everyone know he can do. I am glad he went out there and executed. He helped this team win. He was a big reason we won the game yesterday.”

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