Browns transcripts -- Monday, Nov. 16, 2020

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Rob McBurnett

Director, Community & Corporate Communications

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement: 

“I know you guys received our statement a few minutes ago. Had a positive test this morning so we closed the building. Just following all the protocols with the league. We will have an update for you as contact tracing finishes up. As you know, what we are trying to do is just make sure we follow all of the rules and keep everybody safe. That is our goal.

“As it relates to yesterday on the injury front, really came out of that pretty well. I do not really have any updates for you in that department. Just on the game, like we talked about yesterday, after watching the tape, I think we played the game that was called for, called the game that was called for based on the conditions and was proud of the team to battle there and come out of there with a W.”

On how disconcerting it is to respond to another player testing positive for COVID-19: 

“We have talked about it going all the way back to April. That is the world we live in right now, and we are ready to do whatever is necessary to keep everybody safe, first and foremost – keep our coaches, players and staff safe. That is really where our mentality is. While doing that, we still have to prepare and get ready to play.”

On if the player who tested positive played in yesterday’s game: 

“I am not going to get into that right now. I will kind of let this play out. We will update you as more information comes in.”

On the improvement by the Browns defense after the bye week: 

“Really pleased with the guys flying around yesterday. Had a couple of opportunities to get their quarterback on the ground and then he made a great play so we credit him and we tip our cap to him. The guys were playing fast and understood the game plan. It was not perfect, and that is what the coaches are meeting with the players now to clean some things up, but I did think that there was a great level of effort out there, and holding those guys to seven points is a big deal.”

On his confidence in the Browns run game to call a run on third-and-3 during the final drive: 

“I think there were moments in that game where running the ball was really almost the only thing you could do. I think the people that were in that stadium and standing on the sideline kind of understood that. Then there were times where it was third-and-longer and then we tried to make a play, but I think both teams understood that game was not for the forward pass at times. On (RB) Nick (Chubb)’s big run, it was third down. Felt confident in getting the first down and also felt confident in using the clock in that moment.”

On if he was satisfied with the Browns’ clock management and use of timeouts at the end of the first half: 

“Yeah, I guess I was satisfied with it. My idea there was they were still running the ball so I looked at it as an opportunity to strip the ball, and if you recover it, you are kicking a field goal so that was the idea behind calling those timeouts.”

On the Browns’ clock management on offense during its final drive of the first half: 

“Yeah, the idea there was we had more than 30 seconds so we felt like we had enough time, but if we did give it back, we wanted to take a few seconds off there where it did not hurt us and potentially hurt them when they got the ball back.”

On using the pistol formation in yesterday’s game: 

“I think we called it twice yesterday. It is something where we kind of look at it as it is in some ways an under center with the running back in the dot, and in other ways, it is shotgun with the quarterback four and a half, five-yards deep from the center. There is a package of plays that you can run out of it, and we will kind of grow that and see if that becomes part of the gameplan this week.”

On if he used the pistol formation with the Vikings: 

“We did a couple times.”

On WR Rashard Higgins’ performance yesterday and Higgins’ reception on third-and-18: 

“That was outstanding. Rashard, as we all know, has a knack for making those plays. Drew a couple of DPIs which again were big plays in that game. To be able to toe-tap there and make the play on a third-and-18, we really need those. You are not going to make many of those. That is a tough percentage to make on third-and-18. When you do get that and extend the drive, it usually is good news for the offense.”

On if that play was an example of QB Baker Mayfield’s trust in Higgins: 

“I do think that Baker has great trust in all the guys out there. I truly believe that. Hollywood is one of those guys, and he has a knack for making plays.”

On WR Jarvis Landry’s taunting penalty and LB Mack Wilson’s unnecessary roughness penalty: 

“We have to be better there. We harp a lot on pre-snap penalties and then really those personal foul penalties – the 15-yarders that happen a lot of times after the play – we can’t have them. Both of those guys know that. It is undisciplined that I do not expect from those two players in particular. I know they would love to take those plays back. With Mack’s, there is a physicality that I want these guys to play with, but you have to play within the rules.”

On determining when to pass in yesterday’s game, given the wind conditions: 

“There were moments there where it was just whipping, and there was no way you could complete a ball. There were times in warmups that you could not throw it 10 yards. It was getting knocked down. I think it was a constant communication with myself and the offensive staff – kind of, ‘Where are we? Has it died down enough to call this play?’ Then a couple of times, we just tried to get Baker on the perimeter and maybe get him an easy completion or run it with him out there on the perimeter. That was what the game called for. We did not know that on Monday and Tuesday when you put a gameplan together, but when you see the weather report and when you get there to that stadium, you kind of have to take all of that into account and understand what it is going to take to go win that game.”

On if evaluating Mayfield’s performance is more difficult due to the weather conditions: 

“No, I think you evaluate the quarterback on every play. Getting in and out of the right plays. Obviously as you are handing off, you are grading him. Of course, there were less opportunities to throw it, but in those opportunities, you definitely grade him just the same.”

On the Browns’ resiliency: 

“We talk about it, but I would just tell you it is the type of guys we have. It is the locker room. Those guys have been unfazed with everything that is thrown at them. We anticipate there is going to be something every week, something sometimes every day and you know there is going be something in every game that is not going to go your way. I give credit to how to guys responded in those instances.”

On how exciting it is to be playing meaningful football at this point of the season and in the playoff hunt as a first-year head coach: 

“You probably know how I am going to answer this. We do not get wrapped up in that. I know it is fun for the fans and I get all that, but for us, we kind of try and focus on the task at hand. Today was about learning from yesterday. You try and learn after a win as much as you learn after a loss, and then get ready to play Philly. For our fans, we like having meaningful football games, but for us, really the thing that matters most for us is the game that week.”

On the level of trust he and defensive coordinator Joe Woods have in S Ronnie Harrison Jr. and if Harrison is caught up with the defensive scheme now: 

“I would say to his credit, to (pass game coordinator/defensive backs coach) Jeff Howard, Joe Woods and (assistant defensive backs coach) Brandon Lynch, all of those guys have brought him up to speed. There was a benefit of playing in a similar system down there in Jacksonville, but still, I thought that it was smart with how our defensive staff brought him along. Now you mentioned it, he was all over the field yesterday. He is playing at a high level. He is another player that is all about the ball. I know we did not get one yesterday, but he is very active around the ball, a physical tackler and you mentioned the blitzing. Yeah, I would agree with you in that he was active yesterday.”

On how important it is to have players like Harrison make plays on defense, in addition to CB Denzel Ward and DE Myles Garrett: 

“I put Ronnie in that category of making plays and a guy that we can count on and we are going to continue to count on. I think a lot of guys are contributing and a lot of guys are playing. Certain games, some guys will play more based on how the game is going. I think the guys certainly understand that there is a role to be played, but I do like the role that Ronnie is playing.”

On S Sheldrick Redwine getting more defensive snaps in yesterday’s game: 

“I think it is just we are working through different combinations and getting guys snaps. We will continue to do that really at a bunch of different positions.”

On S Karl Joseph not playing any defense snaps yesterday: 

“I would kind of say it is the combination that we are looking for throughout different games, and we are going to count on Karl. I would tell you he played really well on some snaps on special teams yesterday. We are excited about what all of those guys in the back end can bring in different games this week.”

On how the positive COVID-19 test at the beginning of the week affects the plans moving forward, compared to having one at the end of the week: 

“First time in this scenario for us so we will see. Have to get more information from (Senior Vice President of Player Health & Development) Joe (Sheehan) and the medical staff and then we will plan accordingly. For us, like you mentioned, we have not had one here at this moment so we will kind of see how it shakes out.”

On if Mayfield’s throws during the last drive of the first half were a result of the wind or if Mayfield would like to have some of those throws back: 

“Yes, it was a function of the wind, but I could promise you Baker would want those throws back and complete them. He is hard on himself. We are hard on him. I am also realistic in understanding the conditions.”

On if he has looked at the weather forecast for Sunday: 

“I have looked, but I will wait until later in the week to let it affect us.”

On if he goes into games with two different gameplans if there may be inclement weather: 

“A little bit. What happens is you put a plan together on Monday and Tuesday – your base gameplan, if you will – and you want to make sure that you have enough run and enough pass. If it turns into a game where you need to pass a lot, you are likely going to be in a two-minute mode where you are in your two-minute menu, if you will. If you get into a game where you have to run it a lot, like we did yesterday, you are just going to lean on the runs that you had up already in the base gameplan. I think you saw later in the second half, we got into bigger groupings, got into some 13 [personnel] and some 22 [personnel] there as it became that game. I think you really have enough in your base gameplan to pivot in either direction.”

On how the dynamics of the Browns offense changes with Chubb and G Wyatt Teller back: 

“Obviously, you guys know Nick is a really good player so to have him and (RB) Kareem (Hunt) back there as a one-two punch or No. 1 and No. 1A, whatever you want to call it, I think is pretty unique. You mentioned Wyatt, he has been a productive physical player for us so it was good to see him back out there.”

On what he will remember about the weather conditions during the national anthem: 

“It was crazy. I will remember getting pelted by sideways hail is what I will remember.”

On how impressive it was for Hunt and the Browns run game to pick up first downs on the final drive, given the field position to start the drive: 

“Yeah, that was a big deal. That game was very, very much in the balance there. For the guys to respond, to chew the clock up and to gain a couple first downs with your back up against the wall and you are in the shadow of your goalposts right there, I thought was key to the victory obviously.”

On how Teller looked in his first game back: 

“He did a nice job. It was not perfect, as you can imagine coming back to your first game. A couple things I think kept him off balance, but you did see the physicality and he was straining. He gave up a sack there, which again is just technique and continue to work, so I think he just was knocking some rust off.”

On if Teller’s presence was immediately felt in the run game and if Teller was a part of its success: 

“Yeah, he was. I do not like singling offensive linemen out because they get in trouble when I do, but (T) Jack Conklin is another guy that was really good yesterday. I might as well mention them all. (G) Joel Bitonio battling through the injury. (C) JC (Tretter) playing very smart ball, playing physical. I thought Jed (T Jedrick Wills Jr.) was good yesterday. He got a bunch of guys in the ground and was straining. I would say all of those guys really took the challenge of that game and knowing that we were going to run it, they knew we were going to run it and I think those guys rose to the occasion.”

On the uncertainly the players go through knowing a teammate tested positive for COVID-19: 

“I mean, this is kind of what 2020 is. It sucks, but it is just the nature of what we are in right now. We have been handling it since the start of training camp as far as wearing our masks, following the right procedures and everything. So, I mean, we are not really fazed by it. We just have to continue to go through the protocols. I know some guys are kind of frustrated about it, but it is just once again the nature of what we got going on. It is one of these things where it takes all of us. It is a shared responsibility. It takes all of us to get it done. So, we are just going take it one day at a time, continue to roll with the punches and do what we have to do.”

On if preparation is harder with the virtual meetings and if practices are different: 

“We got a taste of it last week when we went into intensive protocol. I mean, you still have to practice, you still have to meet, so I feel like it is just a different environment. But being able to kind of be flexible, I think that is what is the biggest thing about it.”

On saying he is not fazed by what is going on: 

“I do not want the word and unfazed to be used in the wrong manner. When I say unfazed it is more or less that it is one of those things where your hands are kind of tied. We have to do what we have to do, you feel me? If you start to let it like affect you and how you think and how you move, it is probably going to affect how you play and how you perform. So, when I say unfazed, I mean that you have to understand that this is just the situation we are in. You can’t complain about it, you can’t cry about it, you have to just handle your business. You are going to have to be flexible. You are going to have to do things that you normally would not have to do. And once again, this is shared responsibility. It is going to take an entire team in order to get it done. COVID is very serious, it is was something that we take very seriously. And that is why we are in intensive protocol. So, when I say unfazed, I say that we can’t cry about the situation, you can’t complain about it, you just have to handle it as it comes, find the best way to just roll with the punches and do what you have to do to make sure you are able to perform your best on Sunday.”

On how instrumental head coach Kevin Stefanski has been in handling these situations: 

“I feel like he has been great. Just his attention to detail, how serious he takes it as far as making sure guys are wearing their masks, making sure we are following the rules and procedures as far as wearing our Kinexon and things of that nature. So, I feel like he is doing a great job of just being able to keep us on the field and allowing us to be in the building when other teams have had to shut down and have not been able to get on the field. So, we have found a way to work around things since we have handled things the right way we were allowed to practice and things of that nature. So, I think he is doing a great job.”

On joining Waterboys: 

“Me and (TE) David (Njoku) had the end SARS thing going on, you know, the SARS thing going on in Nigeria, and (DE) Myles (Garrett) reached out to us. I kind of learned about Waterboys my rookie year through Chris Long and I always wanted to join and Myles ended up becoming the captain about two years ago. So, finally we just got to sit down and had the conversation. I thought it was a great initiative to bring water to a million people. I think we have already brought water to about 390,000 people. We live in a place where I can walk in my bathroom, my sink, in my fridge, and I get running water. That is not a normal occurrence for people in Africa and places that we are trying to provide water to. So, to be able to help those people, I think the average African woman, I can’t remember the exact number and I do not want mess it up, I think it is somewhere between 30 miles just to walk to get a couple gallons of water there and back. That is just insane when I can walk five feet to water. Just to be able to help and be a part of an organization that is going to really change the world as far as something that is really needed is just a blessing to be a part of.”

On being part of an organization that encourages using his voice: 

“Like I said before, I feel like a lot of times there is a time for words and there is a time for action. And I feel like an organization has done a great job of putting action behind our words. We talked about the things that we wanted to do when we started with the digital divide and social injustice, and to see those things being put into action is amazing. So, I feel like when you are able to put your actions behind your words, I feel like that is good.”

On what the defense learned about themselves during the bye, particularly about getting off the field on third days: 

“That we just have to be better at it, really. That is pretty much it. Just attacking our keys, playing to our strengths, understanding how to put offense, being better on first and second down, I feel like that was the biggest thing. You put yourself in a good position first and second down, you are getting to third-and-long then your percentages of getting off the field go up. So, I feel like that was the main focus to be better on first and second down so that we can put ourselves in a favorable position in third down so we can get off the field.”

On facing Eagles QB Carson Wentz who has 12 interceptions this season and what tendencies he looks for in film study: 

“Takeaways and turnovers come through practice repetitions, actually attacking the ball, being intentional. For DBs in coverages I guess breaking on the ball and things of that nature. I feel like you should be perfect every time you get an opportunity to play the quarterback and I feel like we just got to continue, we are one of the best in the league in takeaways, so we just have to continue to build on that.”

On what life looks like away from the facility this season: 

“It is just different. Like I said, it is a different time. For me personally, I have always been kind of like a homebody, I like to chill at home, kind of keeping myself. So, I mean, not too different to what I usually do. But at the same time, I just understand that there is an aspect where mental health is very important and I feel like, people do not really realize that when you work, we work in a business where that is one of the things that are stressors each and every day. And for me, it is like understanding that some of these guys will go home and it is just them. Or just certain stresses that you can decompress with because you do not have that ability to kind of just get away from it and you come home and it is just you by yourself. So, it is different but at the same time this is a shared responsibility. It is a different type of league this year as far as the things that we have to do in order to make sure that we can all be able to play on Sundays. It is just one of the things like once a game we have to just roll with the punches and just find ways to continue to just keep on going because that is just what it is right now. You have to be able to control the controllable, for me, and right now we can control our contacts by being able to go out and all that kind of stuff. I feel like the risk is not worth the reward, if that makes sense. I feel like a lot of guys understand that right now and you have to stay home, you have to just grind it out, you have to just continue to play so we can all play.”

On handling the weather conditions better this week: 

“When somebody puts a bad taste in your mouth you have to be able to respond. I feel like that is just what it was. We just had what we needed to do. We had a bye week. We saw the problems that we had and worked on them all week. We wanted to correct them and we did. Just being able to take that step forward and continue to build off that is the biggest thing.”

On the season Garrett is having: 

“I think he is doing great. Obviously, he is rushing the passer extremely well. He is playing out of his mind to be honest. And then just how he is becoming so much better in the run. I feel like just becoming that complete player is just really important. And I am just extremely proud of him. I mean, I think the proof is in the pudding, you turn the tape on, he is always flashing and always making plays. And that is just the player he is.”

On how he and Garrett motivate each other: 

“I feel like we always challenge each other, like we work together, we push each other, we talk to each other. I feel like that is just the nature of our relationship. We have high expectations for each other. The sky is the limit for him. We want to continue to see him do well and see continue to see him ball, and I know he will.”

On the resiliency of the team of how much of it can be contributed to Stefanski: 

“I just feel like it is just the message that we came in being able to understand that it is not what you say, it is what you do. Adversity comes, it hits everybody, but being able to respond is the biggest thing. And that is what the year is, it is just all about how you respond. You are going to get thrown curveballs. Some days you are going to be in the building, some days you are not, but it is all about how you respond. I think that is the biggest thing. I feel like the guys really understand that this is a shared responsibility and within that shared responsibility it is all about all about the team. And when you have guys playing for each other, I feel like that is the true difference. And I just see that now that a lot of guys are playing for each other and they understand that when we win, everybody wins and it is a great feeling.”

On if he feels the DL can take off and carry the defense down the stretch: 

“Yeah, I feel like that is the attitude all the time. But you know, just guys understanding their role, understanding what they are here to do and just going out and doing it. I think that is the goal and that is what we want to do. We are just going to continue to build, continue to stack, and just understand that it is just day by day. Each day getting better, mastering your craft and going out there and showing the world.”

On how it felt to get his first half sack yesterday: 

“It was good. Should have been a whole.”

CB Denzel Ward:

On if it is concerning that another Browns player tested positive for COVID-19: 

“Yeah, it is a concern for us and everybody else in the world. That is the world we live in right now. As a team, we are just trying to do as best as we can so if someone does get it to limit the amount of people that that gets it. Just trying to stay safe and continue to wear masks. If someone is down, then it is next man up.”

On missing Friday’s practice during the contact tracing process and not being cleared in time to return to practice: 

“Just waiting to hear back to see what the results were going to be, being a close contact to someone that tested positive. Just waiting to hear back from the training staff and the NFL. Luckily, tested negative. Just prayers up for the guy that did test positive for him and his family.”

On if he was surprised that he was considered a close contact for the player that tested positive last week: 

“No, I was not surprised. Me and that guy’s locker, it is not directly next to each other but we are in close proximity of each other where we can speak to each other and hear each other. I was close enough so I was not surprised by that, though.”

On what his typical day looks like when away from the facility: 

“For me personally, I just hang out at home really and just chill. I do not do too much outside of the facility. Just try to stay out of the way really. Do not get myself any closer to anyone or come into contact with someone with COVID or anything. Just really staying out of the way, go home and watch film and wait for the next day of practice.”

On if his typical daily routine has changed due to COVID-19, including going out for dinner in the past: 

“Yeah, a regular day in times back then yeah, I used to go out to dinner, hang out maybe with some teammates or hang out with some friends. That is just not how it is right now with COVID. If we want a season and want to continue to keep a season, those are some of the things that you can’t do anymore. Just have to stay safe and stay out of the way.”

On what Browns veterans can do to reach out to the younger player to make sure that they feel connected and doing OK when they may be more isolated than past seasons: 

“I think we are all still connected. We are all on virtual meetings and can still communicate with one another. We are able to see each other that way. Even though we may not be in meeting rooms or be directly next to each other, we are still able to see and talk to each other just like this virtual Zoom and FaceTime.”

On S Ronnie Harrison Jr. and how Harrison is meshing with the Browns defense: 

“Ronnie has meshed very well. You guys see he is out there making plays all over the field. He is a great addition to defense and in our secondary. Like I said, he has been making plays everywhere and doing his job. When everybody does their job, we win. Puts us in the best position.”

On seeing the Browns DL get more sacks the past two games and if it offers encouragement the unit is finding its groove:

“Yeah, definitely. Those guys are playmakers up front. We all know that they are capable to get to the quarterback and rush just as anybody else. We have a lot of faith in those guys, I know those guys can ball out, night in and night out.”

On the biggest difference in run defense during yesterday’s game compared to the Raiders game with similar weather conditions:

“It is just a lot of self-inflicted things really. We went back and seeing from that Raiders game what we could fix, things that we messed up on and just being able to get into practice and fix those things and come into next game and fixing those assignments and a better outcome this time.”

On if he ‘perks up’ more when facing an opponent that has a higher tendency to turn the ball over:

“Every game, our goal and our mindset it to go in looking for opportunities to get the ball and create turnovers. Guys have to show night in and night out. Whether they have tendencies of something before, it is a new game come next game, and we have to find a way to get the ball and attack the ball, regardless of who it is.”

On how exciting is it for the Browns to be 6-3 and playing meaningful football games for the second half of the season:

“Yeah, it is fun. Every game is meaningful football. At the beginning of the season, you want to try to win every single game, but it is big for the City of Cleveland just having a winning record, one, so do not want to take that lightly for anybody. Just trying to keep it up, stay focused and take it one game at a time.”

On how much is fighting through adversity is a reflection of Head Coach Kevin Stefanski and where the Browns’ resiliency is coming from this season:

“Yeah, definitely coming from the coaching staff and they are teaching us that throughout practice and throughout offseason and all of that. They are doing a great job of just teaching us next man up, whatever it may be. Everybody can play so when guys get in, they are doing their assignments. May be some setbacks, but guys stepped in well.”

On defending the passing game with yesterday’s weather conditions:

“Yeah, the wind was blowing a little hard. Actually, at the beginning of the game when they were singing the national anthem, that is when the weather was the craziest of the game but then we went back in, so I was hoping we could play in that. Once we got back out, it really was not as bad as when the national anthem was playing. The wind did pick up a little bit, but it was not too bad. It was fun.”

On if he wanted to play in the inclement weather that occurred during the national anthem that caused a delay:

“I do. I do. That is what football is all about.”

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