Browns transcripts -- Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020

Rob McBurnett

Director, Community & Corporate Communications

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement:

“Injury related, guys are progressing. With (QB) Baker (Mayfield), taking it day by day here, and he is feeling better today so we will see. He will be limited again today. Another note, we had to send (WR) Odell (Beckham Jr.) home today with an illness, and with this day and age, you just have to be so careful in this environment so just want to make sure we are being proactive in that regard.”

On if there is concern Beckham’s may have COVID-19 or if it is an unrelated illness:

“Just with how the protocols are just you have to be careful. I do not want to assume anything, but with all of our guys, we will make sure we just follow the protocols and just be safe.”

On if Mayfield was able to throw at all in practice yesterday:


On if he expects Mayfield will do more in practice today:


On if Mayfield’s injury and ability to play is more of a factor of pain tolerance, mobility or flexibility:

“I think it is all the above. I think with any injury, there is always flexibility and movement and then there is a pain element to all of this, but he is progressing.”

On his confidence in QB Case Keenum if Mayfield is unable to play, particularly given Keenum’s experience:

“Yeah, I think all of our guys, you look back to that last game, guys step up and have to perform. Case has been a backup in this league for a very long time and he has been a starter. He understands how to prepare, if need be.”

On if the Browns are on ‘high alert’ with Beckham’s illness, given what has happened across the league in recent weeks related to COVID-19:

“I think we have been on high alert. I think that is just 2020. We just make sure that we are following every protocol there is and keep everybody safe.”

On if there is anything else the team can do after sending Beckham home:

“I do not think so. (Senior Vice President of Player Health & DevelopmentJoe Sheehan does a great job of making sure we are on top of all this.”

On if Mayfield is producing better play fakes compared to last year:

“I do not want to compare it to last year. I could tell you how he is doing this year. I think he is doing a nice job. We really, really drill that, we emphasize it and he takes it to heart. He is doing everything he can to be a big part of the run game and the play-action game. For him in a lot of runs schemes, you are not blocking the backside defensive end, and we say the quarterback is blocking him by his run fake and by carrying out his fake. He is diligent about that. He knows he owns them, and I think he gets excited when a run comes out of there because he helped [occupy] the backside D end.”

On if Beckham recently tested negative for COVID-19, given the team would have to shut down the facility if it received a positive result for a player:

“Correct. He is just feeling under the weather. You guys have heard it said – abundance of caution.”

On if the Browns will find out more on Beckham’s status tomorrow and Beckham’s most recent COVID-19 test:

“Right. Correct.”

On if the Browns can learn from other opposing defenses’ mistakes against the Steelers offense:

“Yeah, I think throughout the season you do as you play every single one of these games, you kind of file things away. I know the teams we have played both from an offensive perspective and defense perspective, you do see things show up if you do not do a great job of addressing them in the first games. You have heard it said it is a copycat league. Our defense, if something hurts them in a game, I promise you it is going to show up in the next game so that is why corrections are such a big part of this week to week.”

On if not having as many fans this weekend at Heinz Field makes a difference regarding DE Myles Garrett’s situation:

“I do not know. It is hard for me to say. I do know this: in our building, I heard all 12,000 of them.”

On if Beckham Jr. took a COVID-19 test this morning:

[Nods yes]

On the Browns will wait to proceed with Beckham until receiving his COVID-19 test results tomorrow:


On the potential impact if Beckham is unable to play Sunday:

“I do not know if I want to go there yet. I would tell you, obviously – you have heard me say this before – he is a big part of what we do. He works very hard throughout the week. He is doing a nice job.”

On if the Browns feel a need to bring in a third QB after QB Garrett Gilbert signed with the Cowboys from the Browns’ practice squad, particularly with Mayfield working through an injury:

“We have talked about it. We will work in constant communication about ways to get better at all the positions so it is something that we definitely talk about.”

On if it feels riskier to not have as many layers of depth at the QB compared to other positions:

“I think you definitely have contingency plans, and you have to make sure you are smart about it from that perspective, yes.”

On if any Browns players will return to practice today:

“I think we will see. I do not want to speak out of turn. Let’s get through it, and we will give you the update afterward.”

On Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger this year and if Roethlisberger seems to be playing how he did prior to his injury last season:

“Definitely does to me. I have a ton of respect for the player he is and all of the games he has won there. He has done a great job. Just see that offense fits him to a T. He is able to make all the throws. He spreads the ball around to all their playmakers. He does a really, really nice job.”

On special teams coordinator Mike Priefer stating the team will make changes to its coverage units and LB Mack Wilson volunteering to contribute on special teams:

“We have to be better in that phase. That is no mystery. I know our players know that, and I do appreciate guys like Mack and I do appreciate a lot of guys on this team that really just want to help us win. I point out a guy like (LB Sione) Takitaki, who did not have a ton of plays on defense this last game – I want to say he had 15 or so – but he was outstanding on special teams. He affected the game. He helped us win. That is a great attitude that I think permeates throughout our building.”

On what makes the Steelers edge players so good how T Jedrick Wills Jr. has held up against strong players during the first five games:

“There is a speed rush. There is speed to power rush. There is just bull rush. There are different and varying ways the two guys in particular (Steelers OLB Bud) Dupree and (Steelers DE T.J.) Watt how they rush. They have a full arsenal. It is going to be a great challenge for (T) Jack (Conklin). It is going to be a great challenge for Jed. Like we have talked about in the NFL, it seems week to week there is always another guy coming at you, and this will be a big challenge this week.”

On G Joel Bitonio saying Wills is quiet during the week and then shows up ready and prepared to do his job on gameday:

“Yeah, that is fair. He is quiet. He is conscientious. He does a great job.”

On if the Steelers’ combination of outside players putting pressure on the pocket and the interior players collapsing the pocket places more pressure on the timing of play calls, particularly for pass plays:

“I think it definitely does. I think any time you face a front like this and a team that is applying pressure, you know you can’t hold the ball. That is just the nature of the beast. We have to have plays where guys get open quickly and then have enough plays where we are pushing the ball down the field and being smart about how we do that.”

On how much Steelers WR Chase Claypool’s standout performance last week was due to the Eagles maybe not having as much tape of Claypool’s ability and covering him with LBs, as well as how Claypool has changed the Browns’ preparation this week:

“There is definitely something to that with rookies. You do not have a full book on them. Physically, we, like everybody did on him coming out, physically extremely gifted – size, speed and all of that competing for the ball. Now that you have seen it on tape, I guess it maybe solidifies what you thought about him, but we definitely have to have a plan for all of their guys, and he is a huge part of what they are doing right now.”

# # #

Offensive Coordinator Alex Van Pelt:

On how QB Baker Mayfield looked throwing yesterday and how Mayfield is progressing with his injury:

“Yeah, I did not get the chance to see him [throw]. That was after practice with the training staff. I know he is feeling better just talking to him today. I did catch him in the training room this morning so things are feeling better. He is trending in the right direction.”

On if he has sensed a ‘quiet confidence’ in the building, given LB B.J. Goodson’s comment about it:

“Yeah I think so. I think this is a group of guys that love to work. They love the process of the week that entails each day, learning the system each day, learning the game plan and then going out putting the work in at practice. I think when you do that and your preparation is tight, then you do have a sense of confidence going into each game.”

On WR Odell Beckham Jr. being sent home with an illness today and how confident he is that someone else can step up if Beckham is not able to play this week:

“First and foremost, obviously being very cautious in today’s COVID world. Sending him home for the day, I think obviously is what we had to do there. Hopefully, it is just something that goes away quickly and it is nothing that is long term and we get him back as soon as possible. As far as guys stepping up, I think it is kind of the theme of the year for us right now. We have had guys step up at every position on the offensive side, especially top of my head (T Chris) Hubbard coming in and playing hard and playing extremely well when (G) Wyatt (Teller) went out; (WR Rashard) Higgins coming in and playing when (WR KhaDarel) Hodge went out and catching a touchdown pass; and (RB) D’Ernest (Johnson) coming in when (RB) Nick (Chubb) went down. That is kind of the mindset around here. It is next man up mentality. The coaching staff does a great job of getting those guys ready, no matter if you are a starter or backup.”

On if he is comfortable with Beckham playing Sunday, even if Beckham misses significant practice time:

“Yeah, I know Odell will do a great job of preparation. That is the big part is just making sure you are up with all the changes in the gameplan and all the little tweaks and nuances of the gameplan each week. I know he will do a great job of preparing. He will still be meeting situations, just not in person as he heals up. I expect him if he is available to be ready to go and play well, as he always does.”

On the challenge Steelers OLB Bud Dupree poses for T Jedrick Wills Jr.:

“It is a great one. It really is. Jed has been playing really well and at a high level from the start of the season. That is just a different type of pass rusher now, a guy with tremendous speed and speed to power off that edge. It will just be another guy he will get a chance to face. I know he is up for the challenge, and it will be a great test for him come Sunday.”

On G Joel Bitonio’s comment that Wills is quiet during the week and then shows up prepared and executes well on gameday:

“Yeah, I think that is just his personality. He is not super vocal, but I know he is very smart, and (offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan and (assistant offensive line) Coach (Scott) Peters do a great job of getting him ready every week. He has played well, like I said. I expect him to go out, and it will be a hell of a challenge for him. He knows that, and we are looking forward to seeing what happens.”

On game planning to counter the Steelers pass rush and if the team has to remove some plays from its playbook for the week:

“There are definitely things you do not want to put yourself in situations that expose their strengths. That is definitely part of the deal going in. Some of the things will do will be a little bit different. We definitely are aware of those guys and we are aware of that front. That is a very good front with the power that they have inside and the speed they have on the outside. That is a great challenge for us. We definitely tweak the game plan each week based on our matchups across the board.”

On Hubbard’s versatility and ability to play any position on the OL:

“It is huge. It is a tribute to him. Obviously, he puts the work in going from tackle and playing a ton of reps at guard. I am sure he can play center if we needed him to, as well. He is a great teammate and a great pro. He prepares himself each week, and it shows up. His number was called, he stepped in and he has played well at both spots.”

On TE Austin Hooper and Hooper’s impact in the run game:

“Those tight ends, especially Hoop, in the run game have been good. The things that we ask him to do, sometimes it is dirty work, and he accepts that. We had a play last week where we had him just doing some work on the edge in the chip capacity, helping out the protection, and he ends up catching the ball and getting a big first down for us that led to a scoring drive. He is valuable. We use him in a lot of different ways in protection and the pass game and obviously the run blocking. He has done a hell of a job this year.”

On how the Steelers DL affects what the Browns offense does with the wide-zone scheme and Mayfield’s bootlegs:

“They make it tough to run the bootlegs on keepers. They do a great job of protecting those edges on the outside plays. It will be a challenge for us, no question. We have to be good at the point of attack. If we do and when we do run the wide zone, we have to be great at the point of attack. They do a nice job of trying to close everything in but we are going to have to strain to get those runs off of the wide zone.”

On if the Steelers pass rush means Mayfield has to be better in the pocket and how Mayfield has developed and performed in the pocket:

“I think he has been very good to this point. He does a great job of creating when things are not there within his time clock. He has done a good job of extending plays and moving outside of the pocket. That is just part of his game. That is nothing new for us.”

On what WR Jarvis Landry showed with his ability to come back after taking a big hit last week, if that impacted Landry’s two drops in the second half and Landry’s status this week:

“That was a big shot he took there on an explosive play. He did a heck of a job, ran a great route and then got hit as he was going down. Jarvis is one of the toughest guys on the team. There is no question about that. He was the captain last week for a reason. We knew that was going to be a tough, hard-hitting game and he fit right in. He took the shot there on the sideline, missed a few plays and then came back and still did some really, really good things in the pass game. The two drops, I am sure he will not tell you that it was due to the injury, but he would love to have those back. The things he did after the fact, the toughness in the run game, him going down and digging out guys and blocking down the field, that is the Jarvis that we all love. He is one of the toughest guys on the team for a reason, and he showed that on Sunday.”

On if he goes into this game needing contingency plans for both Landry and WR Odell Beckham Jr., given their status:

“Yeah, we have to be ready for anything. This is 2020. This is the [sixth week] now and it seems like it has been going on forever in 2020, but that is the way it goes. We will be able to adjust and adapt. That is part of the deal. Whatever Sunday brings, we will have guys ready to go, and we will play tough and hard.”

On key coaching points for Mayfield coming out of the Colts game, which Mayfield said was his worst individual performance of the season:

“Just going back to the game Sunday, really the one interception was the bad play on his part – the first one. The second one was more of an issue where you just needed a split second longer to get the ball out. He took a hit as he was throwing. He just needs to continue to make great decisions, which he has done minus the one play there in the second half. I have been very impressed with him so far. As he continues to grow within the season, just eliminating those big mistakes when we give the ball back to them. We feel like if we can control the ball, keep the ball, end the drive and kick of some sort, we are going to be in good shape.”

# # #

Defensive coordinator Joe Woods:

On the best way to slow down Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger:

“We are still working on that, slowing him down. I have coached against Ben a few times – probably four or five times over the last four or five years. He looks the same to me. You see him throwing the ball with accuracy down the field. You see the underneath throws. He has total command of the offense. He is hard to deal with, and we are definitely going to have to be at our best to come away with the win.”

On the luxury of having a player of CB Terrance Mitchell’s caliber who can step in and start with CB Greedy Williams missing time and being placed on IR:

“It has definitely been good for us. Early on with us being here, I was familiar with Terrance just from his time in Kansas City and I remember interviewing him down at the combine, but we really did not know what he had in him as a player within our scheme. He has played well throughout the early part of the season. He really bounced back last week and really challenged the receivers outside and played a nice game. It is definitely making it easier on me to make some calls with him out there.”

On how much attention the Browns will pay to WR Chase Claypool, given his performance last week against the Eagles, and the talent of the Steelers WRs overall:

“We are definitely paying attention to him, but they have some other weapons. That is one thing playing against these guys is tough. You look across the board – all the receivers, the backs and the tight ends – they have matchup concerns all over the field. We have to do a good job of really executing our techniques and mixing up the coverages but at the same time, having the ability to take away a few guys if we need to.”

On Claypool:

“Size, speed, leaping ability, hands, everything. It really was like a coming out party for him. I know he had a big play early in the season against Denver when you saw him speeding down the sideline on a long touchdown pass. I think he is probably a pleasant surprise, maybe not even a surprise, for Pittsburgh. He is really playing at a high level right now. He is a handful.”

On if he had a feeling DE Myles Garrett was going to come through and make a big play when the Colts offense was backed up:

“I was hoping that. That is the one thing with Myles is he is just a dynamic player. Very hard to block just because of his size, length and his athletic ability. He is just very natural in terms of bending the edge. That is one of the plays we looked at and showed the team in rush and coverage working together. (LB) Sione (Takitaki) did a nice job of coverage. We were in position, we made them just really hold the ball for a second and bought time for Myles to get home.”

On how well equipped Garrett is to handle any high-running emotions on Sunday:

“When I first got here, obviously with him coming out of that situation, we had a brief conversation, but since then, we have really just been focused on him being the best player he can for our team and our defense. I think he has grown from what has happened in the past. I think it is probably behind him right now, and I think he is just looking forward to getting out there, playing his best and getting through this game.”

On if there is a silver lining to players stepping up and succeeding in their roles when required to do so due to injuries to other players:

“Before the season started and we were in training camp, in my mind, I just felt like this was going to be the season where you were going to have to play everybody. Going in to it, I had that mindset. I think it is good for us from an organizational standpoint and from a coaching standpoint that now we have the ability to evaluate a lot of guys on our roster to see if they can play and make decisions on those guys moving forward. I think it has been a benefit for our entire team.”

On if the coaches have to somewhat dial back players heading into a rivalry game and one where emotions may run high:

“When you get into these rivalry games and everything else that goes in it, you always want to try to keep the focus on yourself and what we can do defensively. I always tell them the only thing that is required is for them to do their job. When guys start trying to make plays outside of their responsibilities, that is when mistakes happen. The biggest thing is that guys just stay relaxed, play hard and execute your responsibility, and that will put us in position to play well.”

On how much of a concerted effort has been made with Garrett to cut back on penalties, given Garrett had several offside and roughing the passer calls at the beginning of last season, and if Garrett going for the ball is helping result in a lower number of penalties:

“That is just something that we emphasize. (Defensive line) Coach Chris Kiffin has done a great job just developing that relationship with Myles and really trying to put him in the position where he can make plays. All the things that happened to him in the past, I am really not aware of that because it is kind of like once you got here, it is a new start for everybody, and I feel like he has really bought into the things that we are trying to teach him. I think you guys see that on gameday with just the production that he has had. For Myles, he is really just doing what we are asking, and we are really not talking too much about the other things.”

On the status of the Browns’ SS:

“We are good. Again, (pass game coordinator/defensive backs) Coach (Jeff) Howard has done a good job throughout training camp just always rotating all the guys we have in the back end. The guys are all familiar with the defense. We have the ability to move pieces around. With (S) Ronnie (Harrison Jr.), it is really day by day with him, but I think we may get him back. We will see. Regardless, we will have guys that will be ready to step up and play.”

On how disappointing it was to see Harrison sustain a concussion shortly after his pick-sick and S Andrew Sendejo’s ability to move over and play SS:

“I did not even know it. It was like somebody came up to me and said, ‘He is out.’ I was like, ‘What?’ He was standing right behind me like a minute before and then he told me what happened. It really I think happened maybe a few plays before that. The biggest concern for us is really his health and just getting him healthy. We would love to have him on the field, but it is more important for him to be at his best. It was just one of those freak things. He made a great play, and all of a sudden he is out. We will see what happens.”

On if Harrison and S Sheldrick Redwine earned more playing time with their interceptions last week:

“I think we have the ability to do that. If things work out, we just have to evaluate where [Harrison] is with the gameplan in terms of executing it and his comfort level because we do not want to put him in a situation he is not ready for. We feel fine moving forward with Sheldrick. He showed playmaking ability as soon as we put him in a game. He was telling me, ‘I have been here before,’ and I was like, ‘I know. I have been here, too.’ He went in and he proved it. We feel fine with Sheldrick if Ronnie can’t make it.”

On Garrett’s strip-sacks and if that comes more naturally to some players, understanding it is something the team practices:

“We emphasize attacking the ball. We do drills. We keep stats on it for practice. We do everything we can because the ball is everything. There is only one football, and we want it more than they do. That is the mindset we try to create. I do believe some guys naturally just have the ability. Guys that can get to the quarterback, if they get there, they just have that knack for trying to get the ball instead of getting a big hit. You see that across the league with some guys. Right now, Myles is doing it. We are happy he is doing it. We want him to continue to do it.”

On the impact if Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey and G David DeCastro are unable to play on Sunday:

“We know those are two of their better players, but anywhere across the league, it is always the next man so whoever they put in, I am sure is capable of performing at a high level. We do not want to underestimate anybody just because somebody comes in like, ‘Oh, hey now we have an advantage.’ We studied some of the guys we feel like may play. We are ready to go, but our plan is really based more on how we want to attack with what we are doing than actually who is in there.”

# # #

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:

On Colts CB Isaiah Rodgers’ success on returns and the biggest issue for the Browns special teams unit last week, particularly the kick-return TD:

“We did not do a very good job of getting off blocks be quite honest with you. Right at the point of attack, we have guys, they are grabbing and holding, but they will never call a hold unless we are trying to get off a block so we did not do a good enough job there – not even close. We missed two tackles there. We missed several tackles against him. He is a very good young returner. They outplayed us on that one play especially, which is disappointing because I thought we did a really nice job in some other phases. We had two huge punts in the fourth quarter. We made all of our kicks. We put pressure on them in our field goal block. To be quite honest, that is the best to play remember in a special teams game. Anytime you give up a score, it is unacceptable, especially here in Cleveland.”

On if the Browns will be make personnel changes on special teams this week:

“Absolutely. We are going to find the right match of guys. We have talked about it before, we were the No. 1 or No. 2 kickoff team in the National Football League last year, and we do not all of a sudden get bad overnight. There are some things we are doing or personnel we are putting out there that are not good enough, and we are going to make those changes.”

On Steelers WR Ray-Ray McCloud looks on returns:

“Ray-Ray is doing a nice job. Coming out of Clemson a few years ago, I thought he was a good returner, but I think he is really starting to hit his stride. It is his third year in the league. He is confident. He is playing strong. He is not a really big guy, but he can break tackles. A very dangerous returner because anytime that you have a confident returner, he may not be (Bears WR) Cordarrelle Patterson, but he is a very, very talented and a very confident, aggressive returner right now. We have to do a better job than we have been doing this year. We have to kick them high and kick them far and we have to cover better.”

On the potential personnel changes available to the Browns on special teams, given who is getting reps on offense and defense and current injuries:

“Anytime you look at the injuries and anytime you look at who is going to start an offense or defense, we have to make adjustments on special teams. To be quite honest, I will use (LB Sione) Takitaki for example. He is playing some defense, but he stepped up and played three phases the other day and did a nice job. Those are the type of guys we need. That is the type of attitude we need in our locker room. I think because you give up a big play like that, I have (LB) Mack Wilson asking to be on me on kickoff. I have other guys saying, ‘Hey, Prief, use me wherever you need me.’ Usually, that has been the case anyway and our Head Coach (Kevin Stefanski) has done a good job letting me use players where we need them, especially in certain big plays like punt and kickoff. We have got to do a better job schematically. We have to do a better job of kicking, getting off blocks, covering and tacking to be quite honest. We will be better.”

On P Jamie Gillan’s punt that pinned the Colts back at the 4-yard line prior to the safety:

“Jamie had been hot and cold this year in the first four games, and he really stepped up. He only had the two opportunities in the fourth quarter, but the one that you mentioned was obviously a fair catch that we forced at the 4-yard line. It was a great punt and a great job by (CB) Tavierre (Thomas) being there to force a fair catch. The next play, we got to safety and that made it a nine-point game. Obviously, a really big play. Then he had another one after the kickoff return for a safety, we had a punt from around the plus-50, and we returned it to about the 40, which is a good solid return there and we punted it down to the 13-yard line. I think they had a 6 or 7-yard return, and we tacked them at 13 and that is bad field position, especially when you are up by nine in the fourth quarter. Those two plays to me and the great job Jamie is doing as a holder really helped us win that game the other night.”

On LB Mack Wilson and other Browns players asking to play more on special teams:

“Usually, it is when you are playing really well and they want to be part of something special. Guys understand the importance of that. They understand the importance of special teams and field position. Our kickoff team is our momentum team. We just had a pick-six and the crowd is into it and you are up by 17 points. That is the momentum team. That is what is so disappointing is we let them back in the game. That could have been a completely different outcome. Obviously, we won the game, we won by nine and we did a lot of good things on teams, but you can’t give up that play. It to hurt the momentum. I think there are a lot of guys on the sideline there that would have [asked to contribute on special teams]. (S) Andrew Sendejo is another guy that comes to mind that those guys are going to jump up and step up when we need them. Like (DE) Porter Gustin, who was playing a bunch of D line, he stepped up and played a little bit extra for us when we had an injury. Our locker is pretty awesome that way, and I have the support of our coaches and our players. We just have to get it cleaned up.”

On if Wilson can be more involved on special teams, given Wilson is returning from a knee injury:

“He is going to be more involved, absolutely. I am not going to tell you where, but he will definitely be more involved.”

On the impact offensive line coach Bill Callahan has had on Stefanski and the entire Browns coaching staff:

“Bill not only is he an outstanding offensive line coach, he is a good man and he is a good person. He cares about coaches. He cares about players. He cares about the success of this organization. I can’t say enough good things about Bill. I am glad he is here. He has done a really nice job for us. He has kind of been a sounding board for me because I like to tease him because he is here and I am not the oldest guy on the staff. Bill and (run game coordinator/running backs coach) Stump (Mitchell) are ahead of me. Having the guys like Stump and Bill around, their wisdom and their experiences has been invaluable for our staff, and I know for Kevin, as well.”

On evaluating WR Donovan Peoples-Jones’ early performance as a returner and areas Peoples-Jones can improve like explosiveness and making guys miss:

“Oh, absolutely. I think anytime you get a young returner… He is a confident young man, but he is a cerebral young man. He needs to see it. He needs to experience it. He has never been a kickoff returner before. He did a nice job on the last one. He broke a tackle and got out to the 32-yard line before our last field go drive to go back up by nine. That was a huge play. The one punt return opportunity we had the other night, he let the ball hit the ground and he did not feel comfortable – the ball was spinning weird or whatever. I would like to see him at least fair catch that, but we had a lot of room on that one. We end up getting 5 yards off the bounce. It could have been a 15-20 yard return. The more he experiences it, I think the better he will get.”

On if Peoples-Jones is still finding his way in the league and if he will be faster with more experience:

“I think so. He does need to play faster. He needs to return faster, like he did on that last kickoff return. I tell him he has to cut it loose – believe in his talent, believe in his ability and cut it loose. He understands that when the balls in his hands, he is the most important man in our organization because ball security is so huge for everybody. He understands that aspect of it. I am confident in Donovan. I think he is only going to get better.”

On why it is so tough to play at Heinz Field, in addition to the Steelers’ talent:

“They have that one open end that the winds come in there off the rivers and make it difficult to kick. Pregame will be big for us. Our stadium is no slouch now. Our stadium is pretty tough. We had some weird winds the other night again, and pregame was big for us then, too. We understand our stadium. We understand when the flags are blowing a certain way what the winds are doing. Still, every pregame is huge. No matter where you are and no matter what stadium you go to, you have to get used to the winds and you have to have a plan. Our kicker, punter, snapper and returners talk about those type of things prior to the game and during the game to adjust when you have to adjust to what the winds do.”

On if players can get ‘spooked’ by a place when they have not had success at the stadium:

“I think every day is a new day. Every weather day is a different day. It could be raining. It could be windy. It could be snowing later in the year. I do not know if ‘spooked’ is the right word. I think if you are a confident kicker, you are a confident player or you are a confident returner, it does not matter where you play. You just have to adjust to the venue that you are playing.”

On how the organization has responded to the DE Myles Garrett incident last year and the sentiment around the building as the team prepares for Garrett’s first game against the Steelers since the suspension:

“That is old news to be honest with you. I am just real proud of Myles and how he has responded to it. It is tough on him because he is a prideful guys, and he was criticized by a lot of people. He has done a nice job coming through that, and I am proud of our team and a locker room. No one is even talking about. I think (Steelers Head) Coach (Mike) Tomlin said it best: he is not going to make it a reality TV-type comments. That was a great comment because this is a new team, a new game, a new season and a new staff. I am real proud of Myles and the way he is playing this year, and I think that is what we need to focus on is the positives and what a great job he is doing for us.”

On if there is a Browns-Steelers moment from growing up that he remembers most:

“I do know that when (former Browns QB) Bernie (Kosar) was our quarterback, we won a lot of those games in the ‘80s. I know the ‘70’s they beat us pretty good. Unfortunately, one of the ones I remember as a kid was when (former Browns DE Joe) ‘Turkey’ Jones picked up and threw (pro Football Hall of Fame QB Terry) Bradshaw down. I know that was kind of a cheap play, but for some reason, that sticks in my mind. I did not like Pittsburgh, but that was a pretty nasty play. He was a good football player, Turkey, and I know Bradshaw is a Hall of Famer. I just like the ‘80s better than the ‘70s because I think we won more of those games. You can fact check that for me. I am not really sure what the record was, but I think we won more than we lost against Pittsburgh when Bernie was our quarterback.”

On if there is a balance to understanding this game is a rivalry game but keeping the approach of one week at a time:

“I think that is the best way to handle it because our team knows this is a very, very good football team. They are a physical, tough football team. They take on the mindset of their coach. I think Coach Tomlin has done a great job there over the years in Pittsburgh. I have a lot of respect for him and his staff. This is the next game. It is a divisional game, it is a conference game and it is a huge game for our football team, but it is the next game and that is what we are focused on and how to beat this team. Every week, it changes how you are going to beat a certain opponent. That is what we have been focused on this week.”

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G Joel Bitonio:

On QB Baker Mayfield playing through injury and finishing the game Sunday:

“He is tough. I have seen him do it a few times in games where he has taken some shots and he has gotten back up. He never wants to come out of those games. It is just a testament to him and what he wants to do for this team. I think once you step on the field, he has a pride factor that is out of this world that he wants to finish and be part of it for our guys, and he is going to do everything he can to really get through those games.”

On why it is so tough to play at Heinz Field:

“No. 1 is that they are a good team. They have good players. They have a great defense and Big Ben (Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger) and company on offense. It is just a different atmosphere. You go down there and the fans do a good job of getting loud. It is kind of on the river right there and you get the wind coming in. I think kickers kind of think about that kind of stuff. From a player’s perspective, it is just another game. I think the No. 1 thing for home-field advantage is, is your team good? They have a pretty good team over there so it is going to be a big challenge for us.”

On the Steelers front seven and how they compare to the Colts front seven:

“Good players. They have good players up front. I do not think they have a weak spot in the front seven. You go across the board, every guy is a first-round, Pro Bowl-type player, and they do a good job of playing together, which is pretty good. They know how to close gaps often. They are a little different than the Colts. The Colts are more of a penetrating, fly-to-the-ball group. They still play a little bit of a 3-4, two gapping on the inside with (Steelers DT) Cam (Cameron Heyward). (Steelers DE Stephon) Tuitt and (Steelers DE) Tyson (Alualu). All those guys are kind of two-gappers. (Steelers LB) T.J. (Watt) and (Steelers OLB) Bud (Dupree) kind of funnel everything inside back to those guys. They do it a little bit differently. Both are talented groups, and both are big challenges for us.”

On his message to T Jedrick Wills Jr. about what to expect this week facing the Steelers defense:

“We have talked. (Offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan has done a good job of just stressing the importance of knowing your assignment. It is a little bit different, like you said, then we have played the last two weeks. It is kind of knowing your assignment. We did not go against a 3-4 in training camp and preseason this year, obviously. It is just knowing your assignment and understanding how they are going to play you. Are they going to penetrate on this when they four-down front? Are they going to run with you sideline to sideline? What steps do you need to take? There are all kinds of little nuances that we are going to each week. It is just understanding the play that is called and what we are going to expect from their defense.”

On how prepared Wills is for this week’s challenge:

“Oh, it is good. We still have a couple days of practice. He is focused. He is a quiet guy, but he is always in there, he is focused, he is taking notes and he is ready to work in practice. That is all you can ask. They have a good challenge up front, but I think he is prepared. And I think we will be prepared come Sunday.”

On how T Chris Hubbard played at RG on Sunday and how motivated Hubbard will be going up against his former team in a significant game:

“He did a great job. Coming in playing guard for the first time in an NFL game is no easy task. He had to go against some of the better rushers in this league, and he came in and held his own, which is really all you can ask. It was pretty impressive. I know he is excited to get back to Pittsburgh. He was there for his first four years of his career, and he really knows a lot of guys over there. Again, it is a huge challenge this week. They have some good guys, and he is going to have a week for teams to kind of gameplan, but I think he is ready for that. Hub is not a guy that I feel like uses motivation in that sense. I think he is just like the same guy every day and focused and ready to go, but I know he is excited. I think deep down there is some definite excitement for him to get back to Pittsburgh and try and get a win.”

On the significance of playing in a meaningful game against the Steelers when the Browns have not had much success in past seasons in general and at Pittsburgh:

“Yeah, it is fun to be winning games. You never want to start a season where you are looking for your first win in October. That is what we have done. We put ourselves in a position to play meaningful games. Right now, the Steelers are the next guys on our schedule so that is the most important thing for us this week is to focus on the Steelers. We just want to keep building each week and keep improving on things that we need to work. Once we get towards the end of the year, like you said, hopefully, we are still playing for really important things and putting ourselves in contention. I think every week is just a new chapter, and we are just trying to learn ourselves and become the best team that we can become.”

On the most impressive aspect of Wills’ progress through the first five weeks of the season:

“There are a couple things. One of the main things is he is such a quiet guy that I talk to him a lot and I hope he understands. I am like, ‘Alright, you get this right?’ He is just like a quiet dude, and then we get out there, and he does not make mistakes. He does not make simple MAs, assignment errors, where he is doing something wrong where a lot of rookies you see kind of have those issues sometimes. He comes out there and he is doing the right assignment, which is a huge step that you put yourself in the right position. He is so quiet that I am unsure. I am like, ‘Alright, do you get what you are doing here?’ He always comes out and seems to do it right. Just his transition to the left side I think is very impressive because you could tell coming into the training camp he put in the work beforehand. You can’t just come into training camp, and be like, ‘Alright, you are switching sides,’ and have enough reps to really do that. I think that started right when he got drafted, like ‘You are going to play left tackle,’ and he really put in that work and to perform that kick step and the stance on the left side, which are things that I think people take for granted when you switch over. It is a tough assignment. He is learning every week, and he is eager to get better, which is a huge step for a young rookie, as well.”

On the Steelers interior pass rush:

“They send Bud and T.J. up the field, and they get after the quarterback pretty much anytime they want. They just get to sprint up the field. They have three guys inside this year that are playing really well. They push the pocket. They are powerful guys, and they run their games inside. For us, it is to create the depth of the pocket. We have to give Baker a chance to step up with those edge guys coming around, and we have to pass of those games inside. It is no easy challenge because, like you said, those are some of the best interior guys in the league and they do a great job with their power pushing the pocket and really trying to condense things so other guys can make plays around them.”

On the challenge the Steelers edge rushers present when running boots and rollouts:

“They do a good job. I think we are going to do what we to a certain extent, but those guys get up the field sometimes and those are tough plays when a quarterback has to flip around and see a guy right in his face off the bat. I think we are going to work it in. Really, anything you do against the Steelers is going to be an uphill tough test, and we are working on it. I know (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski is putting together a great gameplan, and hopefully, we get our shots and take our chances.”

On what has impressed him most about Callahan:

“Being in the league for so long, I think he has film or footage on everything. I think every week it has been pretty cool where he will pull something from when he was with the Jets or when he was with the Cowboys, and he will be like, ‘We ran this play against a similar defense, and I think it is going to work for us this week.’ He will throw up a clip and we will watch it a few times, and he will be like, ‘This is what I was teaching the guys. Now, I am doing it a little differently.’ He just has so much experience where each week he can pull something from a defense that he has played against or a coordinator that he feels like gives us a little bit of a chance. Just a small change up that is going to give us a chance to do something big on offense. His in-game demeanor, he is a very intense guy at practice. We are always working on stuff. Then we get in the game, and I feel like he is just like a mad scientist trying to figure out what the next play, what the next run can hit it and work watching the defense and seeing how they are reacting to our formations and motions and all types of gap or zone schemes. It has just been a real pleasure to see how he works and all that knowledge he has stored in there.”

On if there is a specific area he has improved working with Callahan:

“It is really for me getting on guys a little bit quicker in pass pro. He is an advocate. It really depends on what play, but using my hands a little bit better in pass protection and doing things that you see some of the guys that he has coached – (Washington G) Brandon Scherff, (Cowboys G) Zack Martin and some of these guys – that do it really well and just taking little tidbits in pass protection using your hands a little better, shaving angles in the pass protection. Just things that are pretty complex when you go to O line play but things that he has worked with and know work that gives you a little bit of an advantage than other O line coaches.”

On Steelers DE Cameron Heyward saying they want to inflict some good punishment on Mayfield and make Mayfield think about his ribs:

“We have to protect our quarterback. I do not think everybody says it every week, but guys are trying to get after the quarterback in this league. They want to get after him. They want to hit him, and they want to get him off his landmarks. It is our job up front to stop them. It is a challenge. They put a challenge on, and we have to handle our business and do what we can to protect Baker at all costs.”

On when was the last time he shaved, given his long beard:

“Probably end of February.”

On if there is a reason why he has not shaved since February:

“No, I was just letting it grow for the quarantine time when we were social distancing, and then I kind of got here and it was pretty long so I just kind of let it flow, and everybody was like, ‘You can’t cut the beard.’ I just kind of let it go. No exact decision.”

On if there were times in his first six years where he went into Heinz Field discouraged and didn’t think the Browns could win:

“They have had some good teams, but I think every time you take the field on a Sunday, you feel like you have prepped, you feel like you have done your job and you have the mindset that you can go out and it is any given Sunday in the NFL. That has kind of been our mindset every time. We have had some tough games there, but I think once you prepare, you are a professional, you are proud of the work that you out there as an individual and you go into those games really any given Sunday like we can beat any team, we have prepared and we have the right guys in our locker room. It has not worked out obviously, but I think there has never been a mindset where we are like, ‘Oh, we are going in here and we are going to lose this one.’ I do not think that is a football player’s mindset really.”

On how his NFL PLAY60 cartoon happened and if he has had fun with the reactions to it:

“I am working with PLAY60 this year, and we do some fun things. It is hard to get out to the classrooms and the playgrounds and stuff like that. I got to work with them, and they were like, “Oh, we are going to put together this cool video. We need your voice for it and stuff.’ They had some ideas, and I threw some ideas out. It was really just a Zoom call, and I was in the studio giving my voiceover and all that kind of stuff. I have heard some good things. A lot of friends have texted me and said it is stuck in their head and things of that nature. It is fun. We are just trying to promote health, good options and those type of things. It was a pretty cool video. I will be able to show my kids someday that I was a little cartoon character.”

On if the cartoon uses his recipe and if he makes it at home:

“The recipe is a little bit skewed. Those are things that I like in shakes. I do not think I have ever put them all in one shake before, but I am all for it. Give it a try. It is all healthy stuff so it will be good for you.”

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LB B.J. Goodson:

On how to not let the matchup with the Steelers ‘become too big’:

“It is only a big game because it is the next game. That is kind of the approach that we are taking. We are giving them their respect, as well, but we are preparing for it. It is only the biggest game because it is the next game.”

On the biggest problems the Steelers offense presents:

“They present quite a few problems for defenses. We are aware of those things and just being able to adjust and correct mistakes that we have seen other teams make.”

On why the Steelers offense is able to set up easy completions and plays for Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger:

“They disguise, a lot of eye candy. There is really a lot of eye candy, and he takes whatever you give. I have seen a lot of defenses make it easy for him. Just have to be able to challenge those guys.”

On if he has faced Roethlisberger in the past and if Roethlisberger looks the same coming off his elbow injury:

“He is doing great this year. No injuries bothering him this year. He looks great.”

On the Eagles having difficulty covering Steelers WR Chase Claypool, including with LBs, and if the Browns LBs are fast enough to match up with Claypool and how the team will cover the Steelers’ playmakers:

“That is all in the gameplan as far as how he will handle those things. Definitely have to be aware of those matchups and things of that nature and making sure we have guys in the right position so that we can challenge them on those plays.”

On how to challenge the Steelers offense:

“I just mean being able to compete. I have seen corners 12-15 yards off, and they are backpedaling. You are giving it to them. Just things of that nature.”

On Steelers RB James Conner:

“He is a good back. Hard-nosed runner. Plays the game the way it is supposed to be played. Looking forward to playing against him.”

On if the team feels a need to provide additional support to DE Myles Garrett this week, given it is Garrett’s first game against the Steelers since returning from suspension:

“No, it really does not. Myles is a great vet. He understands what he means to the team and to our defense. That is honestly not anything we are worried about. Just ready to go in and play together as a unit and compete against those guys.”

On what Garrett means to the Browns and the defense:

“He is a game-changer, man. The guy makes explosive and big plays in big moments. He means a lot to our defense.”

On if there are pros and cons to substituting a variety of LBs for different situations during a game:

“I really do not have a comment on that.”

On if he feels like he is able to get into a rhythm the more he is on the field:

“Most definitely.”

On if he has faced Roethlisberger in the past:


On what it is like trying to tackle or sack Roethlisberger:

“He is big. He is big. Just a big guy. It is that simple. It is that simple. What you guys seen on TV is what it is. He is a big guy. For his size, he has good balance so he is hard to take down.”

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TE Austin Hooper:

On how he is fitting in with the Browns and if the 4-1 start is better than he imagined:

“I feel like I am fitting in pretty well here in terms of just understanding my role and accepting my responsibilities in the run and passing game. It has been a smooth transition. Obviously at first, there was a lot of information I had to review a bunch, being in not necessarily a new system but new terminology. It just forced me to really become a student of the offense and really just understand the language within the offense. Since I have had such a better grasp of it now, it allows me to play in different spots and do some different things. I am feeling good about it.”

On the pride he takes in his play outside of what shows up in his stat line:

“I take a tremendous amount of pride in it. Being in an offense that has been doing very well thus far on the ground, if you want to run to the tight end side, you have to have some tight ends who can create a stretch, create movements and handle their one-on-one matchups. That is a responsibility I definitely do not take lightly because I understand if we want to run an outside zone scheme and pull plays behind me at the point of attack specifically, it has to work with me. I take a great amount of pride in it and just try to get better every day.”

On how the Browns OL has played so far this season:

“They have been doing a tremendous job in terms of communication, just finishing, being nasty and just doing all the things right in the run and pass game. Credit to those five guys. They have really accepted the coaching that (assistant offensive line) Coach (Scott) Peters and obviously (offensive line coach) Bill Callahan have been giving them and just really embracing their roles and doing it to the best of their abilities. A special guy who I do not think gets enough credit for the way how he stepped in the game and played really well was (T) Chris Hubbard. Obviously, (G) Wyatt Teller was playing like the top guard in football right now and him being out and just having a guy like Chris who has not taken that many snaps at guard in general to come in and allow us to not miss a beat, that is a guy who is definitely an unsung hero from last game that I am sure the media did not talk about.”

On if he has a sense for what the Steelers game means to the community and Browns fans:

“Without being able to go out and about like you would be able to in years past in terms of getting a feel for the city but still understanding that there is a rivalry here and understanding just based off like some family friends I have in the area the importance of this game in the sense of just the fun, the intensity and the rivalry to it. This will be my first time being a part of it so I am just going to try to play as fast as possible and just play it like any other game.”

On the biggest rivalry he has played in during his career:

“Falcons-Saints. That would be a good one. You get all fans in New Orleans fresh off Bourbon Street in there, and it would be a fun place to win for sure.”

On a team’s lack of success visiting an opponent can carry over to future games, given the Browns’ previous lack of success at Pittsburgh:

“I am brand new here so all I know is the feeling that has been in the building has been this quiet confidence, and that is all I have experienced. I feel like it is indicative of how we are doing this year. I can’t speak on the past when I have not been a part of it.”

On if the Browns see opportunities to improve on offense when watching film, despite the team’s points per game:

“Absolutely. To be honest, that is the coolest part about all this because we have found some success, but you are always like, “Man, if I…” For example, I want some plays back. Everyone wants some plays back. If we could just find a way to limit those… It is really encouraging to know that we are playing at a solid level, but every game we still feel like we leave so much out there. That is the fun about team sports, right? You are trying to get that perfect effort, and if everyone has that perfect effort, it sounds so cliché, but the scoreboard tends to take care of itself.”

On if he takes pride in the Browns running game and how the RBs have stepped up after the loss of RB Nick Chubb to injury:

“Absolutely. Just same mentality every game. You can’t get too high or too low. You can’t focus in on one thing or another thing too much. You have to just focus in on your job and try to get better every week. I think it is a credit to [RB Kareem Hunt], (RB) D’Ernest (Johnson) and (RB) Dontrell (Hilliard) understanding the urgency within that room when you have one of the best backs in the league like Nick Chubb out. For those three guys to really be able to get in there and – obviously, you guys see them – run hard and run hard behind their pads and really keep that style of football and attitude that we want around here without Nick being here. Credit to those guys. I have said it before, the fact that Kareem Hunt is a No. 2 on any team in the world is absolutely ridiculous.”

On QB Baker Mayfield’s toughness and determination to fight through his injury and play on Sunday:

“He is a tough son of a gun for sure. He sits in there, takes licks every week and handles it like a man. He is the leader of our offense for a reason. You do not get the respect of other grown men in the locker room without having some toughness to you. I think that is a credit to him and what he is all about.”

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