Browns transcripts -- Monday, Dec. 7, 2020

Rob McBurnett

Director, Community & Corporate Communications

(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement: 

“On the injury front, (LB) Mack Wilson does not have a concussion. He was cleared. (WR) KhaDarel Hodge with that hamstring and (CB) Denzel (Ward) with the calf, we will see how this goes this week. Really day to day and do not have an update yet on them. (WR) Taywan Taylor with the neck, he will be out this week, and we are just gathering more information there. (DE) Porter Gustin is making good progress and could have him back this week.

“On the game yesterday, like we talked about after the game, a good team win. In a bunch of areas offense, defense and special teams, the guys that did a great job of executing the gameplan. We can definitely do some things in that second half to close the game out, but I was really proud of the effort and the physicality, particularly on the defensive side was outstanding.”

On teachable moments from the second half of yesterday’s game: 

“We have teachable moments really in every game. That is our job to make sure we are making corrections. Definitely in that game, there were things. Right away, they have a three-play drive and then on offense we have a holding penalty first play. Just the attention to detail was not there enough in the second half. Guys made plays. Again, proud of them and how they did respond because we knew Tennessee was going to come back. That is a good football team. We knew they were going to give their best effort in that second half and we got it, but definitely some things I would like to clean up, and we will address those.”

On the performance of the Browns OL and T Jedrick Wills Jr.: 

“They are doing a nice job. Anytime you come out of a game with zero sacks and even the pressures, they did a nice job of keeping people out of the pocket and keeping a clean pocket for (QB) Baker (Mayfield). That offensive line, like a lot of units, they have to play together. To have those five guys playing in unison, understanding where they are going to be and communicating is key. With Jedrick, he is a rookie, but we are in December now so he has made strides. He is getting better. Having (G) Joel Bitonio next to him is a big deal from that communication standpoint.”

On what has changed with QB Baker Mayfield over the past six games: 

“I do not specifically know what has changed with Baker, but I can tell you as an offense, I think everybody is getting better and getting more comfortable in what we are asking them to do. As coaches, we are trying to adapt what we do to our players’ strengths. I would hope we are playing better ball on offense than we did in the beginning of the season, and we have to continue to do that. Baker fits right in there. He is doing a nice job. Obviously, he is taking care of the ball. He was extremely productive in that game yesterday, found completions to all sorts of guys and had a completion himself. He is doing a nice job, and I think he is comfortable in what we are doing.”

On his confidence that Mayfield will continue to play as well yesterday moving forward: 

“He works, just like the rest of the guys. They focus on the work each week. He comes in here and grinds. I have confidence in all those guys that put the work in.”

On how important it has been to go back to players during a game after making a mistake, specifically referencing the TD to WR Donovan Peoples-Jones following the drop: 

“We talked a little bit about it yesterday. No one has played the perfect game. No one has called the perfect game. How you respond to those moments is really what matters. You are going to drop a ball. It is going to happen, and then we are going to count on you maybe the next play. That is just kind of the mentality that the guys believe in. The coaches will just coach them up and make sure that they are better the next time. You can chase perfection, but we are really just looking to make sure that the guys are ready to move on if they do have a mistake, a mental error or whatever it may be.”

On how DE Myles Garrett came out of yesterday’s game from a health and conditioning standpoint and if the team submits film to the league about potentially missed penalty calls regarding Garrett: 

“He is tired. He was tired yesterday. I think that was a good day’s work for him coming off of the [reserve/COVID-19) list. Got some practice in and then got the first game so I think he will only get better as he gets more comfortable getting back into football shape, if you will. To the second part, Myles gets a lot of attention from the tackle to the guard sliding out to him to the running back chipping him to the tight end chipping him. He fights through that, and it is typically opening up a one on one for one of his teammates.”

On what the Browns defense did to stop Titans RB Derrick Henry and if that formula can work moving forward: 

“What we try to do – we alluded to this yesterday – is we try to find a way to win that game that week, and just felt like there were some different things we could do from a front standpoint yesterday. I think it helped us, but to say that we are going to do that again is maybe not the case, but we will see. We will see what is necessary to get the win this week. That is kind of the evolution of our gameplans, making sure that we have enough wrinkles so that we are both difficult to defend and we can go attack the offense.”

On how he, Mayfield and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt have been able to get on the same page and the significance of it, given Mayfield’s postgame comments on the subject: 

“We talk about reps with the quarterback, and it is really reps from the coach to the quarterback, too. AVP does an outstanding job with that room, the offense as a whole and that room in particular. They are having a ton of conversations, I will be in a bunch of those meetings and then I will be out on the field and talking to Baker and talking to AVP. We all have the same goal in mind so as long as there is an open line of communication going each way, you can cover a lot of ground. Maybe that is what Baker is alluding to there. We just have to cover a lot of ground in a given week, and we make sure that we try to do that both on the field, on these zoom calls or whatever it may be.”

On if the Browns used the bye week to throw plays out or focus on the plays they liked and if that has made a difference: 

“Yeah, I think so. Again, that was the benefit of having a bye after eight games is you had a really good sample size. That is anytime you can get there and you can pull it apart and find out what is working. We did that on the offensive side, on the defensive side and special teams. It was beneficial certainly as we get comfortable with what Baker really owns conceptually.”

On how LB B.J. Goodson has grown in the Browns defensive system and Goodson’s role: 

“B.J. does a good job. He is definitely the emotional leader of the defense. You hear him before you see him. He rallies the guys at practice and during the games. He is making big plays in these ball games to help us win. That two-point conversion stop between him and a great running back, that is really an impressive play by B.J.”

On if Goodson has been a ‘rallying guy’ from the beginning or if it has occurred as Goodson has learned more about teammates: 

“He has been that guy. That is very natural for him.”

On if he can sense the excitement of Browns fans with the team’s 9-3 record: 

“It is a little bit harder without the fans in the building and we did not have fans at training camp, which I have heard all the stories about those packed fields here in Berea. It is unfortunate, but we talked about this yesterday, they are a big part of this. We know they are sharing in it, but we do feel the love. Like I said to you, I see all of the flags when I am driving to work or driving to the stadium so we understand the excitement there. We just have to make sure that we continue to give them something be excited about.”

On how beneficial it was to break down film of Mayfield’s interceptions during the bye week: 

“It is not a fun tape to watch for a quarterback when you put on the interception reel or you put on the sack reel for an offensive line coach. They do not like that, but you learn a lot from the tough tape. It is tape that you have already seen once and then you watch it again, and it can be beneficial. I have said it before, Baker is very hard on himself. He is very critical. We try to coach him up. We try and point out the things that he can improve and also double down on things that he is really good at. He is doing a nice job in that area of taking care of the ball.”

On if the Browns asked Mayfield to work on the hard count during the offseason and how much of a weapon that has been for Mayfield this season: 

“Cadence is definitely a weapon for us. We work very hard at it during practice. Going all the way back to when we finally got together in July, that was one of the things that was an emphasis for us because that was one of the harder things to do on Zoom. You tried to do some cadence work, but it just is not the same when it is live. He has done a nice job with it. We try to mix it up as much as we can and just give the defense one more thing to think about.”

On how tough it is for the Browns OL to not react to Mayfield’s hard count: 

“You can ask the players, we do it every day and we make life hard on them in practice. We mix the cadence up so that they have to lock in and have that laser focus so that it can be a weapon for us.”

On reflecting on the first game against the Ravens and if he now has a better understanding of the team, players and how to use them: 

“I would hope so. I think we have learned a lot about ourselves throughout every single one of these games. I think every team in the NFL does that because you are trying to constantly pivot towards what is working and maybe get away from what is not. Early in the season, I am sure as we look back on this tape, schematically we are going be doing some different things and there are some different players in there. Really, I am sure that is true of Baltimore, as well.”

On if Mayfield worked on certain adjustments last week following a few missed passes in the end zone, given Mayfield’s success yesterday: 

“We kind of talked about it last week. Anytime you miss a throw or drop a ball, we give the guys constructive criticism on things and techniques that they can do a different way of thinking about that throw or that catch whatever it may be. Like AVP said, sometimes you just have to make sure you do not dwell on it. Baker bounced back with a great week of practice last week, and it showed in that game.”

On his confidence that Browns players will not get ahead of things with the current 9-3 record: 

“Every week, we have kind of focused on what is in front of us. Right now, we have a really good football team in our division coming to our place. We know that the work has to be put in and we have our work cut out for us, but I just think these games require so much attention that it is hard to get your focus anywhere else.”

On what the work week looks like prior to a Monday Night Football game: 

“Not very different. We have an extra day really Wednesday, but then when the players walk in the building on Thursday, we will start our work week like it is a Sunday game. I told the coaches when they walk in the building on Thursday, it is Wednesday and they can’t convince me of anything otherwise.”

On if the team will have Wednesday off: 

“We will be in here Wednesday to get some extra work in. We will start our normal work week on Thursday.”

On how to help nurture and develop Mayfield’s confidence: 

“I think confidence comes from demonstrated ability. I think Baker has shown that in practice and he has shown it in games. All of our players when you are having a little bit of success, and I hope all of our players have continued success, I think the confidence certainly comes with that.”

On how to buoy Mayfield’s confidence when there are struggles: 

“I think maintaining the attitude that we are going to correct our mistakes, we are going to constantly be looking to get better and teaching off of every play. We have learned a ton about our team coming off of a win and coming off of a loss. We are trying to just make corrections constantly because we are trying very hard to continue to get better. We can’t just stay the same.”

On DE Olivier Vernon’s performance playing every snap on Sunday and nearly every snap the previous week: 

“I am glad you brought him up. He played every snap. He has played a lot of snaps for us. We only had three defensive ends up yesterday so we knew and he knew that it was going to be a full day’s effort. I can’t say enough about him from a standpoint of just constantly going. He is out there, and he is going. He is a very, very smart player, probably one of our smartest players. He understands how to rush. He understands what the defense is trying to do. We put him in some different spots yesterday, and he just kept coming and coming. I really think that speaks to obviously he is a pro’s pro, but he takes really good care of his body. He works hard and gets extra in because he knows this is a long season.”

On the Ravens heading into Monday’s game after challenging circumstances during the past few weeks: 

“This is a challenge for all of us. I think we have been dealing with some form or fashion of this since April when we got together, whether it was the virtual offseason or some of the protocols that were instituted early and as they have evolved. I think all of us as coaches and players were out of our comfort zone, and that is kind of where we are in 2020. I think it is the teams that are able to thrive in moments of uncertainty have a leg up.”

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LB B.J. Goodson:

On if he is more vocal now because he knows the team or if that is simply his personality:

“That is just who I am. It is something that I take pride in, something that I am passionate about and I enjoy doing it. I guess I just enjoy doing it, and it is a great part of the process. I just really take pride in guys leaning in on me and just giving everyone the juice that they need to get through.”

On if it was a load tackling Titans RB Derrick Henry on the two-point conversion attempt:

“It is just really hard to explain. It is all a part of the game. It is fun.”

On what does the Browns defense needs to do to better contain TEs, including against the Ravens on Monday:

“The last game versus them was our first game playing together as far as the defense goes, which there are no excuses for it, like I have said before. We just have to come out and challenge the tight ends a little bit better going into this game.”

On how Ravens QB Lamar Jackson returning from reserve/COVID-19 impact Jackson, given how it impacted DE Myles Garrett last week:

“He is a great athlete. I am pretty sure he will not have much drop off as far as that goes. That is good. I am excited and looking forward to competing.”

On the Browns playing with five DL yesterday and its impact on the game:

“I really enjoyed it, playing behind that. I really enjoyed it. It was a great addition to the gameplan last week.”

On his play on the Titans’ T eligible pass:

“We knew he was an eligible receiver. Did not think that he would be leaking out for a throw. Just instincts kind of took over and grabbed the guy.”

On Garrett’s performance after missing two games:

“I thought he did great coming back. I thought he did great. Made some big plays and played well.”

On DE Olivier Vernon stepping up in recent weeks:

“OV has been big for us all year long. I am excited and happy for the success that he has had and that I feel like he is going to continue having.”

On if the Browns proved something to themselves yesterday after beating a legitimate AFC title contender in the Titans:

“That game was a big game because it was the next game. We kind of take that approach week in and week out. It is a lot of work to be done. It is still a lot of work to be done.”

On if the Browns are even hungrier now at 9-3 and are seizing the moment:

“Yeah, but I am in love with the fact that guys are in that grind mode and mentality. I do not feel like any of us are content with where we are. We all understand that we can be better. With just that and the determination and the work ethic that we all have, I feel like we will get where we want to go.”

On what has he learned about QB Baker Mayfield this year and following yesterday’s performance:

“He loves football. He loves football. That is the biggest thing and biggest key is he is adamant about football and he loves to compete. As you can tell, he has been very expressive as far as his play and how things go, and I love the way that he leads the offense.”

On the unique circumstances that the Ravens have faced in recent weeks:

“Going into the event, I feel like they will have their best foot forward going into the game. Not saying that they have had any excuses the past few weeks, but I know that we will get their best shot. Looking forward to it.”

On what he learned from his time with the Packers about what needs to happen to make a playoff run:

“It is just work. It is work and prepare, and the guys who execute going into the playoffs are the guys who are most successful. The turnover rates are huge, the turnover margin is huge going into the playoffs and going on that playoff run. Just keeping the momentum and keeping the ball rolling.”

On not being a three-down LB with the Packers last year in Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme as he is with the Browns and if that impacted his decision to sign with the Browns:

“First and foremost, Coach Pettine is a great coach. I would like to state that first. Due to the scheme that he was running, I was not able to be on the field as much. As you can see, it is a very successful system. It is a great system to be in. That was my calling there as far as what they needed me to be for the defense. Honestly, I got there and had to learn a defense in a short term. As far as my decision goes, I do not think that that played the biggest role in it, but I do think that I like the [Browns] defense.”

On if he is referring to the Browns defense:

“I love the defense that I am in, of course.”

On the Browns’ opponents being able to cut into significant leads to create close games and if there are areas that can be corrected regarding it:

“There are definitely things that need to be corrected and executed on our behalf. Like you just said, we have been in quite a few games like that this year and have come out on top. You never want the games to be that close. There are things that we need to work on for sure to make sure that we keep our foot on the pedal.”

On leadership lessons from Packers veterans, particularly as it relates to a playoff push:

“That is something that I definitely feel like I have picked up from that culture, just being around (Packers QB) Aaron (Rodgers) and how he carries himself, (Packers OLB) Za’Darius (Smith) and (Packers TE) Mercedes (Lewis). They have a lot of great leaders on the staff and on the defense as far as that goes. (Packers RB) Jamaal Williams while I was there is another great leader. While I was there, I had the opportunity to see how each guy led there because they stacked quite a few leaders. Whether they showed it with action or saying it verbally, they were all leading. I feel like that was something that I picked up and carried on my journey.”

On the Browns now compared to the season opener against the Ravens: 

“Just going week in and week out and winning week in and week out. We knew we did not start off the way that we wanted, but we all knew that with the guys that we have had all of camp and the guys that fought all of camp, we knew with the personnel and with the guys that we had that we would come through on the other side. I am proud of where we are, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

On DT Sheldon Richardson and him coming up with big plays in yesterday’s game: 

“That is just something that we have been able to do and have had great success with, and that is picking up and everyone is feeding off of each other’s energy. That is a big part of our success and genuinely being happy for our brothers as they make plays. That is a huge part of our success. I just try to keep that as one of the pillars – make sure we are having fun out there, regardless of the situation.”

On if Richardson playing well for the Browns and if Richardson has flown under the radar this season: 

“He definitely is. I would not say it is under the radar because he is definitely on my radar, and I appreciate it. He is definitely doing a great job this year.”

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C JC Tretter:

On if the Browns have the necessary leadership for a playoff push, particularly at QB: 

“Yeah, I think so. (QB) Baker (Mayfield) has been the leader of our team all year, and we found some success this year. You never have playoff experience until you get it. It is a tough thing to get at this level, but Baker has plenty of success winning as he has come up playing football on all levels. I am not worried about that at all for Baker, and I think as a team, we have plenty of guys with that experience and also capable leaders who do not have that experience yet but know how to win and how to play at a high level.”

On if he has seen Mayfield mature and grow as a leader: 

“Baker has been a team leader from early on when he first got here. Like we talked about when he first got drafted, he has a magnetic personality, guys want to be around him and guys want to follow him. That is something that I think has always been a strength of his. Like you said, he is not going to change who he is, as he should not. He should keep being who he is and be comfortable in his own skin. I think that is working for him.”

On scoring a franchise record 38 points in the first half: 

“It is obviously a great feeling. You get the ball rolling, and you have a lot of positive momentum. We had a couple of big plays and the defense sets us up with a short field so things are just moving for us and everything is kind of working. It is always a great feeling when you get the long pass play for a touchdown. Those are always nice – you jog on the field and you jog off the field with seven points in your pocket, which is always nice.”

On if the Browns made a statement or answered any critics’ questions with yesterday’s win and how much fun the team is having with its success this season: 

“Winning is a lot more fun than losing so we are definitely having more fun. I do not think anything is centered around silencing critics or proving critics wrong. The outside opinions do not matter, positive or negative. If someone wants to come and tell us we are the best team in the world, it does not mean anything when you get between the white lines. If someone wants to tell us that we are terrible and we are not going to beat anybody, again, it is not going to matter once you get on the field. None of that stuff matters. I would not say it is top of the card of motivations for us. I do not think we should really be paying attention to it, whether people are singing our praises or telling us how bad we are. It just does not matter.”

On the biggest difference in how the Browns are playing this year compared to last year: 

“We are running the ball really well. The defense is playing well and taking the ball away. That is one of the main stats of winning teams is that turnover differential. The offense is protecting the football, and the defense is taking the ball away. When you have that formula, it helps things and it gives you more opportunities to put points on the board and to win football games. I just think we are all playing really well. I give a lot of credit to (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski), as well, for coming in and kind of shaping us into the way he wants us to play and compete and making sure we have the right mentality every day – if it is a day of practice, if it is an off day or if it is the day of the game – of making sure we understand what is important that day. I give a lot of credit to him, as well.”

On if Stefanski is the biggest reason for the Browns’ change in culture: 

“I think the culture starts with the head coach, and then it is up to the players to live up to that culture. Every coach has to come in and kind of lay out what they want and what they expect and then hold the team accountable. Then it is the job of the players to keep their level to that standard. I think it starts with Kevin. It starts with who he is as a person, as a coach and as a leader, and then it falls to the players to make sure we represent that on a daily basis.”

On if he expected the Browns OL to have this much success this season or if it has exceeded expectations: 

“I do not think we have exceeded our expectations. We bring in (T) Jack (Conklin) and Jed (T Jedrick Wills Jr.). Jack is playing at the level that we expect bringing in a guy of his caliber. Jed has not even started to scratch the surface of where he can be as he continues to progress in this league. Those two helping the outside and then the interior three have done well. I give a lot of credit to (G) Joel (Bitonio), who continues just to go out every day and every game and play at a high level, as consistent as anybody in this league. I do not think we have exceeded our expectations. We always had really high expectations for what we are capable of and what we can do. I think we have done a really good job, but I still think there is room to grow in our group, and we can always be better.”

On if everyone in the Browns OL room is jealous of T Kendall Lamm’s TD catch: 

“We were all just so happy for him. That is something you can never take away from a guy. It is something he can tell his and his grandkids. That is just awesome. Scoring an NFL touchdown, you join a really elite class. Not many people are able to say that. We have known that play and other plays have been in in the past where he has gone out on routes and we have always hoped as an offensive line is we will get a big man touchdown. We were really excited when we saw the ball floating his way.”

On his confidence level about the NFL finishing the season amidst COVID-19:

“Like it has been from the get go, it all goes down to following the protocols and doing the right thing. I would not use the word ‘confidence.’ I think if we follow the protocols and everybody does the right thing, I think we will get there. It is something that has to be top of mind every single day. You can’t forget about it or take it less serious as we get closer to the finish line. I think we are getting there, and I think we have done a really good job of getting to where we are now. If you look where we started in the summer, where the country was locked down and people were not sure if it was even possible to have a season to getting through 12 games, it is impressive. There is still a lot of work to do to get through the rest of the season and the playoffs, but that has been our goal from the get go is starting the season, following through and getting to the Super Bowl.”

On public conjecture about postseason bubbles and if he is in active discussions about those type of subjects with the NFLPA while playing:

“I am still the president and still have to be involved in the conversations. Those conversations really have not happened between the two sides at this point. That is a lot more the public talking about what they think should happen or what they think would be good. That really has not come across between the two sides to discuss at this point.”

On Lamm’s reaction to the TD reception:

“He plays it cool. He plays it cool, but I know as anybody in that position would be, just really excited and really happy. Again, he gets to keep the ball. We are all so happy for him. That is a great memory he will have, and we will all have being a part of it.”

On Mayfield’s performance and how Mayfield getting into a rhythm like yesterday impacts the offense and its momentum:

“Baker played really well yesterday. We feel it. We feel the momentum. We feel the moving the ball up and down the field. That is always great, but that is what we expect of Baker day in and day out is playing at a high level, and he continues to do that for us.”

On the Titans coming back in the second half and if that helps keep the team humble and focused on improving:

“I do not think anybody is becoming not humble. We understand every week that we have to go out there and compete and play. I honestly think it is kind of a common occurrence. There are a lot more games that go on like that where a team gets up to a big lead in the first half and it gets closer in the second half, much more than something like the Patriots game this week where a big lead and they just kept on rolling. I think most of the time, you see the team slowly come back and chip away as the second half goes on. It is something that we can always grow from and you do not want to see it, but the other side prideful and is going to keep competing to the last second so you know they are going to keep fighting to keep clawing back. It is something that we do not want to see happen all the time, but again, you come out of there with a win and I will always take a 31-point lead at half, whether it gets close and winning the game. I will be fine with that. We played really well in the first half, and we will work on continuing that momentum in the second half.”

On how fun it was to watch yesterday’s film, given the Browns OL’s performance:

“I thought we protected really well. That is something we continue to work on and continue to try and keep Baker clean and give him a chance to go through his reads and make all of his throws. I think we did a really good job. I think we had a good plan going into the week of how we wanted to handle the blitzes. They do a really good job of disguising. I think we did a really good job of picking everything up and giving Baker as much time as possible.”

On Stefanski and QB Mayfield being on the same page and that has progressed this season:

“I think they have a really good relationship. I think they get along and they understand each other, and that is always important. It is always important for everybody in the building to be on the same page, have good working relationships and understanding each other. That is extremely important for the quarterback and the play caller for the success of the team is making sure Baker likes the plays that are going in and understands them through and through and make sure Kevin knows what Baker likes and Baker knows what plays are going to be coming in and that communication making sure it always moving and flowing back and forth. They have a great relationship so it is something that has always helped us.”

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