Browns transcripts -- Monday, Nov. 23, 2020

Rob McBurnett

Director, Community & Corporate Communications

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement: 

“I will start with injuries, and I will start the COVID list. (DE) Myles (Garrett) will be out this week. He will stay on the COVID list. (FB) Andy Janovich and (T) Chris Hubbard, we are really waiting to see on those guys so I can’t rule them in or out. Injuries coming from the game, we talked about (S) Ronnie Harrison (Jr.) and got his MRI back. He will be day to day to day with a knee contusion. (S) Sheldrick Redwine also has a knee issue that he is working through – day to day see how he progresses. (CB) Denzel Ward came in with a calf that we are getting MRIs on, and I will update you when I have those results.

“Going back to the game, like we talked about yesterday, guys fought really hard. Some adverse conditions there. Just thought the way the defense played, how hard they played, getting their hands on the ball and constantly going after that team, I thought was really impressive. Able to close it out there and win a situational football game there with our special teams having the hands team out there. Offense being able to take some time off the clock. Good complementary football there to get a W.”

On confirming that Garrett will be out for the Jacksonville game: 


On Browns players not having as much success earlier in the year and then those players producing yesterday without Garrett and factors for it:

“I can’t speak to the first part, but I will tell you, yesterday, those guys were relentless in their pass rush. They played the run really well. A really good collective effort from the defensive line, and it is something that we need from those guys every game.”

On if Ward reported the calf injury today: 


On the severity of Ward’s injury: 

“I really do not know. I will update you guys when we get the (MRI) results.”

On the pride in the team’s ability to make adjustments during the game: 

“That is our job as coaches to see what is going on and make adjustments. I think the misnomer is that they are halftime adjustments. There are adjustments within a series. There are adjustments really happening all the time, whether it be personnel using somebody else out there and putting in different personnel out there. There were a few things we did offensively and we adjusted a few routes on a couple of plays that we had not practiced that way, but watching how they were playing, we thought they might have a chance. We changed some formations up late in the game. Some runs that we had in the gameplan but we ran them out of some different formations based on what we were seeing. Defensively, (defensive coordinator) Joe (Woods) called a couple of different line movements early. What happens is you are trying to call the game that is called for. That is really our job to see what is going on and put our guys in position to succeed.”

On what goes into a team being successful at in-game adjustments: 

“I think you have to have great communication first and foremost. I think that is what I am really hard on our coaches to make sure that during the game we are all communicating well and then getting that information to the players because ultimately, it does not matter what we know; it matters what our players know, what they can handle and what they can put into practice or put into the game.”

On how Garrett is feeling and why Garrett is being ruled out at this point of the week, due to COVID-19 protocols: 

“I am not going to get into specifics per se on how he is feeling. I will just tell you we are ruling him out because that is what the protocols call for. We are just following the rules, and we will continue to do so.”

On WR Jarvis Landry’s lower snap count yesterday: 

“I think that is kind of how the game unfolded there. There were a couple of personnel groups late in the game that culture one receiver, and (WR KhaDarel) Hodge was taking the bulk of those. Jarvis, you guys know how I feel about him, how hard he plays and how he battles, and the plays he is making are making a difference in our wins and losses.”

On if it was surprising that players were not slipping on the field late in the game, given the rainy conditions: 

“It gives me an opportunity to give a shout out to our grounds crew down there who do an outstanding job at the stadium and here in Berea. That does not surprise me. I thought the rain was a little bit heavier earlier in the game than late, but those were the elements, and I thought both teams had to deal with them.”

On if there is an advantage to knowing Garrett has been ruled early in the week rather than on Friday: 

“I guess for the defensive staff and as we put the gameplan together, we know who is available to us. Sometimes you have to wait through the week. Oftentimes, a guy is coming off of an injury and you have to wait and you will not see him on Wednesday, then he practices a little on Thursday and then you have to make a determination Friday. Whatever we have to do in that regard to make sure we have the guys in the right position.”

On who has stepped up on the Browns OL in addition to G Wyatt Teller, who has high Pro Football Focus ratings

“You mentioned (G) Wyatt (Teller). I thought he had a solid day. I think there are some things that I would like him to do better. I think he has a ton of room for improvement. All of it is technique related. I think he understands that, and I think our offensive line as a group understands that they can play a lot better.”

On sticking with the run game and how much of that is philosophical and how much is his belief in RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt: 

“I just think all of those games are their own entities, and that is what yesterday called for. You mentioned Kareem and Nick, I do think that that they are the type of runners that they eventually will pop one. I think we faced a really tough, stout run defense yesterday. They got their fair share of good rushes on us. They defeated blocks so the runs ultimately were not there, like you mentioned in the first half, but I know how close those are. You just look at the (Microsoft) Surface and you look at the pictures on the sideline, and you know how close they are. We just felt like we were going to stick with a balanced approach there, give those guys a few turns and make sure we were making ourselves difficult to defend, and then with their ability to break a couple late in the game I think was how we were able to cement the lead and get out of there with a win.”

On preparing the team to face a team with a 1-9 record: 

“Have our best week of practice first of all and then go down there and play our best to win. We do not think we are good enough to just show up and play. That is definitely not the case with us. There is a ton of room for improvement so our focus really goes to Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and the type of preparation that is required to get a road win.”

On if he reminds the team that opponents have been in close games during all of the Browns’ wins: 

“They have been in all these games. They understand how it is nip and tuck, and our job is to find a way to win any which way we can. I am sure that will be this week, as well.”

On why the Browns like running bootlegs: 

“It is part of our offense. There are certain games where it is a big part or maybe where maybe it is not so much a big part. That is our job as coaches to find out what gameplan matches up against the opponent. We had a couple of opportunities with the quarterback on the perimeter yesterday where he had the time to look down the field and we had a couple double moves there where the guys executed and they did a really nice job. We are always looking to find explosive plays, and those were the plays yesterday. We will see if those are the type of plays that we will have up this week.”

On if playing in bad weather conditions can make a team physically and mentally tougher: 

“I think so. I am glad we played in these last three ball games and played in the elements because that is what you are getting ready to play in when December and January football rolls around. That is Northeast Ohio. We understand that. I think now we are gone down to Jacksonville, I peeked at the weather report and it said 73 (degrees) so now we have to talk about dealing with the heat. Those are the elements, and we have to be ready to play in all of them.”

On if the team has surprised him with how it has adapted and made adjustments during this season: 

“No, I would not say I am surprised. I think those are the type of people that we brought in here. Those were the type of people that were here when I got here. We have talked all season long – again, I go back to those Zoom meetings in April – about resilience was going to be a huge key this year. I think you have seen adversity roll in in a variety of ways this season, and our guys have not blinked. They understand the task at hand, and we really can’t be distracted by the things that maybe are a little unique to 2020.”

On if he has concerns about players participating in community events in person: 

“We are trying to make sure all of our guys are making good decisions. It is very obvious to all of us what is going on in our communities, and we have to make sure that we are doing everything to keep ourselves safe, players and coaches, the staff and their families. We have to make the right decisions now more than ever.”

On if the team has sent out instructions and advice for everyone with Thanksgiving this week: 

“We made sure to educate everybody in the last few weeks about really what is going on, the risks that are involved and things that you can do to hopefully mitigate some of those risks. It is very, very strange times that we are dealing with, and everybody on this call and everybody in the country and in the world is dealing with.”

On QB Baker Mayfield’s missed throws in the end zone and his evaluation of Mayfield’s performance: 

“I thought the weather was a factor. How much of a factor, hard to say. I know Baker can make those throws. I have seen him make those throws so I know weather played into it. By the same token, he made a great throw to (WR) Rashard (Higgins) on that deep ball and made a great throw to KhaDarel on that deep ball. It was a factor, but again, he is hard on himself and he wants to make those throws. He wants to get his guys the ball, I know that.”

On if he sees any issues with Mayfield throwing into the end zone: 

“I do not.”

On if he can quantify how well Ward has played this season: 

“Not sure if I can quantify it. I will tell you, he is making plays on the ball. He is tackling well. He is doing a nice job.”

On if Ward was coached to blitz if the TE does not release on LB Sione Takitaki’s interception or if that was a heads-up play by Ward: 

“There are always calls that we have and then there are also heady plays that guys make in this scenario where a guy is blocking, and he knows he can add. The really good ones I have been around know when to take those risks, and that was one of those times.”

On going for it on fourth-and-inches instead of kicking a FG, given the significance of scoring first: 

“In most cases when you get down there that tight, I like our chances to score. That was very disappointing that sequence of four plays to not score. That is kind of where I go back and we have to be better. In big games and really every game, if you get down there to the 1-yard line or the 2-yard line, you have to come away with seven. That is our mentality, and it will continue to be our mentality. I know the guys understand that, and we have to do anything – we have run it, pass it or whatever it is – we have to be able to get those yards.”

On if it has become tougher to incorporate something new in the offense as the season has progressed: 

“I do not think so. I think every week we are trying to put together a unique gameplan that is going to be hard on the defense. If we have to get creative at times, that is definitely something we are constantly talking about. There is always a package of plays where we can have multiple backs out there or multiple tight ends. We want to make sure that we are versatile in our approach.”

On if he expects Harrison to play on Sunday, given he listed Harrison as day to day with the knee injury: 

“I am hopeful. I definitely do not want to overstate it, but I think I feel good about it.”

On if he is disappointed for Garrett and that Garrett’s season was interrupted and could impact NFL Defensive Player of the Year consideration: 

“Yeah, I want all of our guys to have individual success. I think that is a big, big deal for all of our guys. I want them to go to the Pro Bowl, put up numbers and win awards like you are talking about. Bottom line is it is a team game. I think Myles understands that completely. We are all about winning, not so much about awards.”

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C JC Tretter:

On how difficult it is to get footing and block in rainy conditions: 

“You have to choose the right cleats. I think probably most guys went with the seven studs yesterday just to give them a little more grip to be able to sink in the field a little bit. It is never easy. As the grass and the dirt get more and more soaked with moisture, it starts getting harder and harder to make sure you have good footing. Both sides are dealing with the same thing. They have to slow down as well in their rush so it is a benefit to us, as well. That is just what you are dealing with.”

On not scoring first-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the first quarter: 

“First play, did not get enough push. We ran a pass down there, as well. They stood up well. They got more penetration than we got movement. We were not able to punch it in. That is something we have to improve on.”

On the team’s confidence now after winning a game without DE Myles Garrett and if he allows himself to start thinking about the playoffs: 

“No, I think there is still a lot more time to go before you need to start worrying about that far ahead. I think it was a great job by our defense. I think everybody stepped up again, like you said. There was a really important piece and really great player in (DE) Myles (Garrett), and everybody had to do more yesterday in order to cover for that and everybody did. The defense played really well. An impressive game all around by them. That is great, but there is still a lot of work to be done before you start worrying about what is going to happen after January.”

On Garrett being ruled out for this week and if he has confidence that the Browns defense can step up again: 

“Yeah, I think we will have to do the same thing. The guys will go into with the same mindset as they did last time. We have a lot of talented players on that side of the ball. Everybody will continue to step up and continue to play well. Every game is different, but I think we all have all of the confidence in the world on that side of the ball.”

On the adjustments made in the run game to get things going at the end of the third quarter: 

“I do not really think we made many adjustments. I think we just kept working, kept pushing and just kept waiting to bust one. We got a good look on that long run by (RB) Nick (Chubb). They ran a cross-dog that we passed off well and open up a big lane for Nick, and that is really all Nick needs is just a little crease and he can make a good play into a big play. You just keep kind of banging and keep trying to get something going. I do not think we changed anything. We did not put in any new plays that we were not calling the first half. We just kept at it.”

On if the Browns coaching staff has been good at making in-game adjustments: 

“Yeah, we talk about a lot on the sidelines of just kind of what we are seeing and what they are seeing, what we are having success with and what we are not, what the defense is presenting and then what we can do to try to beat that defensive that they are putting out there. We go in with plenty of personnel groups and plenty of plays so we have kind of a long list of things you can get to, and then it is just about trying to get to the right things based off what they are showing us. Yeah, I have always been impressed with our coaching staff this year and being able to find those runs that look good after we start getting a feel for what they are trying to do to us.”

On the advantage of having Chubb and RB Kareem Hunt to wear down defenses late in a game: 

“First off, you look at having two top-tier backs in this league. That is a benefit in itself. Again, keeping guys fresh, having that continual fresh legs coming into the game and not being worn down by the end, I think that helps. A lot of it, they can do so many great things with a ball in their hands. We just have to open up a little bit of crease for both of them to go and make a huge play, and even sometimes when we do not, they are going make us look good.”

On how fun it is for the Browns OL to impose its will late in the game: 

“In the end, we have to run the clock out and we have to do certain things. You just keep going. I would not even say it is ‘imposing your will.’ A lot of it is just trying to stick with what we have been working on all week in practice, keep going and understanding we come in with a good plan and the other team is going to come up with a good plan, too. You just have to keep battling and keep trying to find those little plays and little difference makers that we can do to keep the chains moving.”

On if he feels that the Browns’ culture is changing, given LB Mack Wilson’s tweet about sensing a winning culture with the team: 

“I think probably the quickest way to have a winning culture is by winning so I think that probably helps it (laughter). From the moment (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski) got here, I think he has done a really great job of shifting this team into the way he wants us to play, the way he wants us to think and the way he wants us to prepare. That has been evident since the first meeting that we had. We have had the same ideals preached to us day after day of what we need to do to be a successful football team. We continue to embody those ideals. That is something credit to Kevin. That is what he has wanted from us. I think we are doing a good job of doing that. That has to continue. The work is not done. At our current record, we have to keep doing the right things, preparing the right way and playing the right way in order to continue to have that culture shift.”

On if Browns players take on Stefanski’s even-keeled demeanor: 

“Probably a little bit, but I think one of the big things I have talked about a few times with what Kevin has done here is I think he has created a family atmosphere. I think the really good teams go from being coworkers to being family, and I think that makes a big difference on how you play, how you prepare and how you battle on Sundays. That is something that Kevin made a point from the get-go of having us get to know each other as more than just coworkers. That is not easy, especially with the year we have had and the offseason we had with no really in-person work. Kevin really worked hard on creating that environment for us. I just think that is really important in the culture of the team, as well, of having guys look at each other as extensions of their family that they really care about more than just in the building and about who they are as people and what makes them tick. I think that really helps, as well.”

On how the team handled the intensive protocols and if the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 protocols are working across the league:

“I think the protocols are working. We are moving to the enhanced protocols league wide, and we have done a good job of limiting the spread within the walls of the building. That was one of the big things about keeping this season going is having really strict contact tracing and making sure we keep high-risk close contacts out of the building as they have a higher likelihood of turning positive. That way, the spiral of positive cases gets cut off and not allowed to continue. I think that side of the protocols is working well. It is tough for guys to have to miss five days. I think that just preaches to the importance of staying away from each other and staying a part from six feet, wearing masks and doing all the right things to avoid being placed in that high-risk close contact field. As you see, we said it from the beginning, we are kind of susceptible to what the country and what our local communities are going through. We are seeing huge spikes in cases around the country, which just increases the likelihood of cases coming from the outside into the building. That is what you are seeing is as the cases around the country have spiked so have our cases. Our cases having gone up league wide, and that is why the protocols are so important about keeping the season going and keeping guys healthy and not allowing that virus to spread once it gets into the building.”

On the COVID-19 protocols determining when players can return to the building and pathways to return to play in a game:

“The way this is working, I believe the best way to put it is this is not like having an injury where Sunday is the goal and you try to fit the pathway to get back by Sunday. There are certain limitations on days and how long you have to be out because a sprained ankle does not impact the rest of the team; a contagious virus does. There are limitations on how many days you have to be out, what are your symptoms and how you have to come back into the building. It is not the same things of how can we try to get him back by Sunday. There are really set timelines once you start monitoring each person’s individual scenario of the first positive test and whether they are still symptomatic, and all that stuff goes into it.”

On how the NFLPA has discussed Thanksgiving and COVID-19 with players:

“It is definitely a concern. Like I talked about earlier, the place the country is in right now with spiking cases around the country, it is tough to… You try to look at your family and people you would be bringing in for Thanksgiving, and it is tough to look at it not like you would expect them to have the virus, but how widespread it is at this point, the more people you bring in to your bubble and into your household, the higher risk you take of one of them being sick and passing it on to you. That is a risk. We are continuing to put out information to teams and to individual players about what the best way to do, what type of quarantines are best to ask of your guests to decrease the likelihood that they can spread the virus to you, the best way to set up your house and the best way to have this meal. It is a tough year. It is a tough year for relationships and for families. It is really tough to go a long time without seeing your loved ones. We get it. We get that this is the time of the year – Thanksgiving and Christmas – that you have always expected to bring your family together and have those holidays, really special holidays. It is tough, but this is a crazy year and a lot going on. We just try to provide the best guidance of the best way to keep you safe and keep your family safe, if you choose to do that.”

On if he has been surprised by the Browns’ resiliency this season:

“I would not say surprised. I think every team goes through the loss of players, whether for the year or for short-term pockets of the season, that you have to overcome. You can’t allow injuries to impact what you provide on Sundays, and everybody has to provide more when a guy who is really important to how the team runs goes down. That is just how every team works. I think that is something that the good teams are able to continue to play well, even when different people are not able to play, and they have to put somebody else in there and everybody in that position group needs to step up. That is what good teams do. I would not say that I am surprised by that. That is our expectation is that we have to play up to our standard. Whether certain players can’t play, that does not change our standard, and we have to play up to it.”

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LB B.J. Goodson:

On DE Myles Garrett being ruled out for this week and his confidence that the defense can continue to perform well without Garrett: 

“Myles’ presence will be missed regardless. He is another great leader for us. What he brings to the table is amazing, as well, but we never had any doubt as far the next man up. We never had any doubt about anyone behind him. Going into this next game, we go into it with the same amount of confidence.”

On LB Sione Takitaki’s mindset recently and Takitaki’s performance yesterday when recording an interception-return TD: 

“I am extremely happy for Taki. He definitely deserved the production that he was able to display yesterday. All along, he has been just grinding and just chomping at the bit of getting better each and every day. That is all that you can ask from anyone. He has done that, and yesterday was one the days that he reaped his harvest.”

On if it is a strength of the Browns LBs that each has had big plays and if there is more consistency to come: 

“Coming from me, I could be a little bit biased, but I believe we have a great linebacker corps. I am confident in all of the guys, and I am extremely happy to be able to go to work with those guys. All of us are eager to get better every single day so no one is content with anything, and I love that.”

On stopping the Eagles run game late in the game: 

“Just making the adjustments on the sideline. Making the couple of tweaks and adjustments on the sideline. It was really that simple.”

On what adjustments the Browns defense made to stop the run: 

“I really do not want to say or give away too much. I try not to do that here in my interviews. I will say, we did a great job of making the adjustments on the sideline and carrying it on the field.”

On if the adjustments came from the Browns coaching staff: 

“Yeah, from the coaching staff and kind of what we felt as players on the field.”

On CB Denzel Ward reporting with a calf injury today and if he knew that Ward was potentially battling with it during the game: 

“No, I did not. Denzel is a warrior. I get excited when he makes plays. I get pretty excited. I did not sense any type of injury from him. I guess we will just see how that goes and hope for the best.”

On what it says about Ward to play through an injury, if it was an impact during yesterday’s game:

“To be honest with you, there is probably a very little amount of NFL players who are completely healthy coming out of camp so to say that someone is battling with something going through a game, it is kind of like the norm in our world.”

On if he can see it in the eyes of the offense when the defense starts to make plays and wear down its opponent:

“To be honest with you, you kind of get the feel of when to kind of put your foot on their neck and impose your will. To be honest with you, during the course of the game, that is not the mindset at all because like you know like this past game, the game was close for a while. With it being close for a while, they do not have to change their offense or go out of the way to do anything crazy or like a team would playing from far behind. We are always just focusing on executing and just trying to get off the field and get our offense back the ball.”

On how well S Ronnie Harrison Jr. has played and how integral Harrison has been to the Browns defense:

“Ronnie is a great piece added to the defense. Excited about his play and his production. His chemistry with all of us as far as a feel and a sense, it is kind of hard to explain, but as far as his chemistry with the rest of the guys, hopefully, we have him back this week.”

On his reaction to LB Mack Wilson’s big hit on the sideline yesterday:

“Mack, you have to love it. You have to love it. That is Mack. To us, that is the norm.”

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