Browns transcripts -- Friday, Dec. 4, 2020

(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Rob McBurnett

Director, Community & Corporate Communications

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement: 

“I know you guys have the injury report there. Ruled a couple of guys out – (WR) Taywan Taylor and (WR) KhaDarel Hodge. Just with injuries, they can’t go.

“Looking forward to the opportunity that we have on Sunday. Really good football team. Really great test for us. The guys put in a good week’s worth of work to get down there and play a great football game. I am looking forward to it.”

On if the Browns will activate a WR from the practice squad with Hodge and Taylor out on Sunday: 

“We likely will, but we will see how that plays out in the next 24 hours.”

On if Hodge sustained an injury to the same hamstring as pregame at Dallas: 

“I do not think so, but I am not 100 percent sure on that. I do not think so, though.”

On how Taylor sustained his injury and the severity of the injury: 

“I do not know how it happened. I can’t comment on how long it will be. I really have no idea. He saw the doctor this morning so we will see how that plays out over the next couple days. Just kind of a fluke thing.”

On if LB Sione Takitaki and DE Joe Jackson will be able to contribute on Sunday after being activated from reserve/COVID-19: 

“Yes, potentially.”

On how DE Myles Garrett looked at practice this week and Garrett’s reps on Sunday: 

“He looks really good. As you would expect, he is excited. We will just monitor him throughout the game and make sure he is ready to go. If we need to give him a blow, we will give him a blow.”

On if the Browns considered isolating a QB this week following the Denver Broncos’ situation last week: 

“We did not consider it. We are not meeting in the building. We have not been meeting in the building for a long time. We follow the protocols to a T. We feel comfortable with what we are doing. In a lot of cases, we go beyond the protocols.”

On if Hodge sustained the hamstring injury in practice yesterday and if the Browns have been unlucky with players sustaining injuries late in the practice week: 

“Yes, it happened yesterday in practice. Just felt it on a route there. That happens. You get to the stadium on Sunday, and we have had it happen in pregame warmup so we just have to adapt.”

On how Hodge had been performing in recent weeks: 

“Like we have spoken about before, he does give us valuable reps. He makes plays when they come his way, a good special teams player and good in the run game. We are going to need some people to step up.”

On if FB Andy Janovich will be monitored in same way as Garrett in the first game back: 

“Yes, correct. He is ready to go. Again, we just have to monitor these guys in their first game action and make sure that they are feeling good.”

On WR Donovan Peoples-Jones’ progress at WR: 

“He is doing a nice job. You saw in that game obviously he made plays. In practice, he does a nice job, knows what to do and does it at a high level. He is somebody that we can definitely count on.”

On if the Browns offense has been running more three TEs sets during the past three weeks compared to the first three weeks of the season: 

“I do not know. It may be accurate. I do not how much percentage-wise we are up. I am not sure.”

On why the Browns like using three TE sets: 

“Every game, we are looking for the right personnel to put out there that we feel gives us a good chance in the run game and the pass game. We have multiple tight ends that are worthy of being out there so that is part of what we do. Week to week, we kind of look at what is the right matchup for that opponent.”

On if Browns players get excited with Garrett retuning this week: 

“I think the guys are excited anytime a player comes back from injury, off the COVID list or whatever it is. Especially with the COVID list, you do not really see people in person and you do not see them for a while. It is great to have all of those guys back out there.”

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DE Myles Garrett:

On how he is feeling: 

“A lot better. It was not the greatest time. I was not one of those asymptomatic cases, even though leading up to it I thought I would be. My parents had it. It kicked their butt. I had it. It kicked my butt. Now, I am back.”

On how rough his experience with COVID-19 was and symptoms: 

“I lost my smell for almost two weeks, had body aches, headaches, my eyes were hurting, coughing, sneezing and fever. I was in pain. It was not great.”

On how much he was able to work on conditioning while away from the facility: 

“Not much. I tried to get just a little bit of weightlifting in, but they told me to stay away from lifting and cardio just because they did not know what kind of effects there would be on my heart and my lungs from having corona. I tried to do my best to get a little bit here and there and try to stretch so I was not so stiff when I came back. Really, I was forced to just sit on the couch and watch my team carry on, and they did well.”

On if he was ‘going crazy’ not being able to work out: 

“It was more crazy watching them on Sundays. Honestly, with everything that was going on and how sick I was, if it was the flu or something less contagious, I feel like I could go out there and play regardless. Especially the second game. I felt almost completely fine. Just the nature of what is going on right now in the world that I just had to watch and hope that they just kept on going. They did their best, and we came out on the right side.”

On if he was worried that he might have lingering effects that could keep him out longer: 

“A little bit towards the end. The last couple days I saw the article about the Buffalo Bills tight end (Tommy Sweeney) with the myocarditis, and that was my main worry. If my lungs are a little bit heavy, if I am tired or if anything happens where I am out of breath, I will fight through that, but there is nothing you can do with the heart. You can’t play with that, and there is no getting around it. If that was what happened then I would just be there for my guys the best I could, but I was very fortunate and blessed to be able to come back and keep on trying to make this push towards the playoffs.”

On how he felt during his first practice back: 

“I felt a little stiff moving around. Felt like I had been on the couch for about a month instead of two weeks. Once I got everything going and moving, I kind of got in the groove of it again.”

On if he was surprised he tested positive after spending multiple days at home with illness symptoms prior to getting the positive test: 

“Just coughing and sneezing, and throat was not clear. I kept on trying to clear my throat, kept on coughing and nose kind of getting congested. I did not much of it, but I did not want to expose anybody to it if those were symptoms leading up to it so I did not want to bring anybody around me or go into the facility and have contact with anybody. I was not expecting to have it, but it just kind of ended up that way. There was not anything significant, unique or peculiar. It was just kind of regular symptoms for any kind of cold. I just did not want to risk anybody else having to sit out.”

On if it was a little bit of a shock when he tested positive: 

“Absolutely. The mystery to me is nobody else in my close circle that I have been around has tested positive – none of my family members, my parents and none of my friends that have been around me. None of them tested positive. It is just strange.”

On if he is relieved that the Browns went 2-0 while he was out: 

“They went the distance. They made it happen. Now, I am just trying to play the role I have been playing, just a playmaker and difference maker on the defensive side of the ball, do what I can and just be there when they need me and my number is called. They were doing that without me, and now, I will just try to add on top of that.”

On if he senses that he will be back to his usual self on the field this week: 

“I am not here to make a cameo appearance or a second-rate arrival. I am here to do the job that I was doing before, and I do not think there will be any drop off. I would not give anything other than my best. I feel like that is at the very top of the defensive line rankings.”

On if the Browns medical staff has told him about any possible long-term effects: 

“They have not told me that I have to worry about anything really. They told me that there was nothing abnormal about my heart or my lungs. I am feeling as normal as I am going to. Really, I am just treating it as if I am picking up right where I left off. None of this business that has been going on through 2020 is going to stop me from trying to put my best foot forward, and these guys deserve it. If we are going to make any kind of push towards the playoffs and a run at it, then I have to just keep on going and put the team first.”

On if he feels he has some catching up to do in the sack standings after missing two games:

“It is just about making the plays that I am supposed to make. If I am out there and I can make some sacks, a forced fumble and some game changing plays, I am going to go do it, but if I can put my teammates in position to do those same things, then I am also going to provide those avenues for them to do the same thing. I am not going to put myself before them and try to get stats. They are empty if they do not lead to a win or lead to us getting off the field or takeaways. I am just trying to do whatever I can for us to have the best chance of succeeding together.”

On if he knows how contracted COVID-19:

“I have no idea how I got it.”

On if bothers him that he does not know how he contracted COVID-19:

“It is kind of worry some because I do not know if I got it here, I do not know if I got it in the game, I do not really go out to eat, I try to stay away from that and I try to eat at home. Not sure. Really not sure whether I got it at the market picking up groceries. 2020 has been interesting. We are all just trying to carry on through that.”

On how to try to slow down Titans RB Derrick Henry and his role in it:

“Keep him from picking up ahead of steam. That is what you keep to slow him down. This guy, when he gets on the edges, you see he is as tough as anybody and almost tougher than everyone else in the league to get down. He runs hard on the outside and on the edges, and he has a stiff arm that guys fear. You just have to go in there fearless, grab a body part, gator roll him and take him down. Can’t be nervous. Can’t shy away from the challenge. He is going to be up on you in a quick second. He is athletic. He is fast and big. Just kind of like me back there taking the handoffs or trying to run you over. I would like to attack him just like those guys were playing me. Do not show fear. It is just another guy back there playing ball. No disrespect. Just as simple as that. Growing up in the yard, you did not have any fear of your friends, your cousins or whoever came down the street to play so do not show any fear now.”

On if he kept an eye on the Defensive Player of the Year Award developments while out, including Steelers OLB T.J. Watt setting the bar high with recent performances:

“T.J., (Bears OLB) Khalil (Mack), (Rams DT) Aaron (Donald) and all those guys, and (Chargers DE) Joey (Bosa), he had a good game. I just try to keep up with all the defensive guys who have big games – defensive linemen even to the linebackers. Of course, I see T.J., He is not only one of the best in the league, but he is in my division so I have to keep an eye on him, their defense and how they are performing so well. Whether he sets the bar high or not, I just have to go in and perform up to my standards. Whatever happens after that, happens, and I am not going to be too revved up on whether I win DPOY or I do not. I am just hoping that we go to the playoffs and we can win the ultimate prize at the end of the day. If I am able to pick up some individual achievements along that way, then all glory to God.”

On if RB Nick Chubb has been an inspiration after returning from injury and having strong performances:

“This is the first time Nick has been out with something like this. It happened to him in college, and he has picked up right where he left out then. Something like this, he was not worried at all. I know he is going to come back and continue to tear it up just like he was before. The guy is a workhorse and does it as well as anybody we have seen over the last couple of years. I am proud to have him on our team.”

On if his parents had COVID-19 before he did:

“They had it before the season. They had it before the season started, and now, they have not had it again. I was just surprised that everybody around me had not had any symptoms and had not tested positive, and I got it.”

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Pass game coordinator/defensive backs coach Jeff Howard:

On the challenge facing the Titans without S Ronnie Harrison Jr. and CB Denzel Ward: 

“First thing, getting an opportunity to play against the Titans is going to be a great challenge for us. They are a very good team. They do a lot of things well. It starts with the running game and then the complements with the passing game off of it. Obviously, they have some good production from really their whole receiving corps. Having injuries is kind of a part of the NFL. We have navigated it up until this point. I feel like as a teacher and as a developer, it is my job to get the next guy ready. Hopefully, we will do that, and we will get to see that this weekend.”

On if the plan was to have CBs Tavierre Thomas and M.J. Stewart split time at nickel corner based on the half last week: 

“We had to make a lot of adjustments during that game. They ended up playing like you said split time and ended playing a very similar snap counts. Just kind of had to do that with navigating our corner spot situation. We played a lot of guys this week in the slot, and we will see how it goes.”

On how CB Kevin Johnson performed at outside CB last week: 

“I thought Kevin did some good things outside. Challenged him a few times, and I thought he was close and pretty sticky in coverage. There are some things that we talked about this week that we can improve upon and be in better spots, but overall, I thought he did a pretty good job.”

On the importance of having CB Terrance Mitchell available every week with Ward and CB Greedy Williams missing time: 

“Just going back and we watch a lot of tape, especially the Titans this year, probably watched all the games this year and then went all the way back to last year. I was talking Terrance about how much I feel like he has improved just with the details of his game and the technique of his game. We are obviously not perfect, but I feel like we have made an improvement. I am very thankful that T Mitch has been here. He has stepped up to the challenges that we have been given. I am looking forward to watching him play this weekend.”

On Mitchell’s competitiveness and CBs needing to be competitive: 

“Yeah, it is so true. That position, you really have to have a different sense. I talk about life outside of the numbers. Guys that can play out there, their mentality is different because like you said, they are on an island a lot, and you have to be able to take the fight to your opponent at any time. Things are going to happen and it is not going to be perfect, but you can’t panic. We have to use our technique. We have to be great with our eyes. When things happen, we have to show that resilience that (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski talks about, and the corners are really challenged with that week in and week out.”

On what he has told the CBs about tackling Titans RB Derrick Henry who may be at full speed when reaching them: 

“Their running back is a big part of their whole offense. They do a lot a lot of things in the run game. What kind of strikes me is how well they do those multiple schemes – running outside, running inside, cuts out and then they put him one on one on a corner like you talked about. We work those techniques pretty much every single day. To me, it is body position, it is having a plan, taking the air out of the tackles and then being as violent as you possibly can.”

On the Titans WRs, particularly Titans WR A.J. Brown: 

“I can’t give enough credit to (Titans offensive coordinator) Arthur Smith, their offensive coordinator. He does a really good job. The whole scheme is really tied in together, just talking about base first and second downs. The run game and the pass game truly complement each other. Obviously, he has taken that scheme from being able to do multiple things but also you can sell. They are really trying to run the ball, but then they are very explosive in the passing game. If you look at them compared to the league, they do not throw the ball as much, but their yards per attempt are very high, and it has everything to do with those receivers. They run the ball and get you to play different coverages and play different fronts and then pretty much set up premium looks in the passing game to get those guys the ball versus certain coverages, and they execute really well. Like you talked, about A.J. Brown does a tremendous job with yards after catch. He is a very strong runner. He is a big guy. He is like 230. You really have to bring a load to get it down, and if you do not, he has enough speed to circle the defense, which he has shown the last couple of weeks.”

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Run game coordinator/running backs coach Stump Mitchell:

On if he also gets fired up to see so many great RBs backs on the field this Sunday: 

“Absolutely, I get fired up every time I take the field.”

On Titans RB Derrick Henry and if RB Nick Chubb will be extra motivated to play against Henry: 

“Believe Chubb when he said that does not motivate him. Going to practice motivates Nick. Anytime he takes the field, he is motivated, regardless of who else is there. Derrick Henry is a great back, no question about that. I see the same thing in Derrick that I see in Nick. Just looking at those guys coming out of college, just the short-area quickness and lateral movement those guys have is unbelievable. Watching Derrick coming out of college, I did not want to see the games in which he had 150 or 200 yards; I wanted to see the games in which he had 50 yards or 30 yards to see how he played. He showed you that he has short-area quickness, lateral movement and of course, the ability to take it to the distance. That is the same thing Nick has. He is just not as big.”

On what it takes for a RB to come back from an MCL sprain like Chubb did and to be able to perform at a high level: 

“Dedication. It also takes a great support medical staff, weight room staff and the player doing everything and trusting the process of getting back. All three of those components we have here in place, and Nick believes in them.”

On deciding when to use Chubb or RB Kareem Hunt: 

“Both of those guys are starting running backs. (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski knows exactly what he wants done. He knows how many carries he wants each of those guys to have. They know when they are tied, and they will raise their hand and go in. It is just a matter of keeping track of the number of carries each one of those guys has.”

On if it is unique to have two RBs as talented as Chubb and Hunt willing to share the workload and Chubb’s and Hunt’s ability to have that approach: 

“I think the respect of the game, knowing that every play is important so going out and working hard and also, knowing that if you come out of the game, you have someone in that can go and get the job done, just as well if not better.”

On the Browns’ desire to improve on short-yardage situations from the past couple of weeks: 

“We have not been as successful as we would like to be, but all of those are behind us. We are moving forward, and I think we will be much more successful.”

On how fired up he would be if Chubb and Hunt both reach 1,000 rushing yards this season: 

“I have been fired up. That is going to happen. I knew that was going to happen before the season started. That was our goal. That is going to happen. It is just a matter of what game it is going to happen.”

On his confidence Chubb and Hunt will reach 1,000 yards, especially with Chubb missing four games: 

“It does not matter. That is Nick. He can miss four games for a 1,000 yards. We are talking Nick. It does not matter. He is fresher now. He is going to do what he needs to do. The offensive line is doing a heck of a job, the tight ends and the wide receivers, and of course, Coach Stefanski is doing a heck of a job calling the plays. It is just a matter of time. We are looking now for that next win, and 1,000 yards will come.”

On if former Browns RBs Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner have been texting him, given they both reached the 1,000 yard mark together: 

“I think they have been texting Nick and Kareem.”

On what it means to get FB Andy Janovich back this week: 

“It means a lot. AB (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry) going over and getting Andy from Denver and bringing him here, knowing Coach Stefanski wanted a fullback, was a heck of a transaction for us. Now for him to come in and play the way he has played, it is great having your best players back. That is what everyone wants. Now, we have him as well as (DE) Myles (Garrett) back and a couple of other guys so we feel good.”

On his role on gameday and determining when to use Chubb or Hunt: 

“We know Kareem is the third-down back. He is the third-down back, and Nick is our starter right now. Again, we are trying to keep everybody fresh. If Nick has a few carries and long runs, I will probably take him out and put Kareem in. Those guys do not care if the ball is on the 1-yard line, if I think they are tired, they are OK with coming out of the ballgame. Just their attitude makes my job a heck of a lot easier, and knowing how Coach Stefanski wants to have both of those guys fresh makes it easy, as well.”

On Hunt having a special nose for reaching the end zone: 

“He does. Kareem is a tough guy. He is not as big as Derrick Henry, but he is powerful. Kareem thinks he is the best athlete in the world, period (laughter).”

On if he holds his breath when Hunt leaps into the air: 

“He is going to do whatever he has to do in order to try to score. That is just who he is. He understands that you are not going to get many opportunities in the red zone so when he gets an opportunity, he is going to try to do whatever he can to get in the end zone.”

On if the Browns have to change play calls when Chubb or Hunt are in the game or if the two RBs are interchangeable: 

“They are interchangeable. They can do exactly same thing as the other guy. Kareem may be a better route runner, but so far, Nick has definitely improved on that. His hands have gotten better. He works on them every day. It does not matter. We do not worry for the most part about what plays are being called. It is just on third-down situations, if Kareem is capable of going, he will. When we ran the screen the last the play for us to seal the game, Kareem was actually supposed to be in the ball game. I told him to go in, he started going on the field and then his back tightened up. Nick started to come off and Kareem came out so I sent Nick back in, and he made the play. In situations, they know when they are going to be in the game. Both of them are starters. We trust both of them to get the job done so it is not a big issue.”

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