Browns transcripts -- Monday, Jan. 11, 2021

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Rob McBurnett

Director, Community & Corporate Communications

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement: 

“On the injury front, (T) Jack Conklin is day to day with a hamstring. We will know more as the week goes with him. (G) Michael Dunn is day to day with a calf injury, and (CB) Robert Jackson is day to day with a hamstring injury.

“Recapping that game, as you guys are well aware, it was a great team effort, a great team win. Really proud of the guys and how they performed. You saw guys stepping up and making plays and people in different roles doing a great job so very, very proud of the effort. They played with a ton of physicality and enthusiasm, which was readily apparent to me.

“A big week. Have to go on the road versus a really good football team with great players and great coaches. We have to have a great week of practice and preparation for that challenge.”

On how ‘excruciating and exhilarating’ it was to watch last night’s game from home: 

“Those are two good words. I do not plan on doing that again.”

On what it meant to FaceTime with the team after the game: 

“I was proud of the guys. They earned the right to compete and then they earned the right to go out there and play like they did. Really, just so happy for them to have the success that they had.”

On who he FaceTimed with first last night after the game: 

“(WR) Jarvis (Landry) coming off of the field FaceTimed me immediately, which I was not expecting to be jumping on FaceTime about two seconds after the game ended. (Pass game coordinator/wide receivers) Coach (Chad) O’Shea grabbed me in the locker room so I could see the coaches. It was a strange feeling obviously – do not plan on doing it again – but great to just let those guys know how proud of them I am.”

On when he turned his phone on after the game and if he was tempted to turn it on during the game: 

“No, it was off because I did not want the distraction of it. I was doing a lot of pacing. Once that game was over, I turned it on because I figured I would get on the horn with some of the guys.”

On if he muted the TV during the game: 

“No, I did not mute the TV.”

On is he was ‘stress eating’ while watching the game: 

“I can’t taste anything so that would not have helped. I have a newfound respect for all of our fans and how they watch those games. I like it better when I have some control.”

On how offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt did calling plays: 

“Alex was absolutely outstanding last night. I am so thrilled for him in Pittsburgh, which that means a little bit extra to him being the Pitt Panther legend that he is. He just was dialing them up. Great call after great call, and the guys were executing. Not surprised, but really proud of him.”

On his COVID-19 symptoms and his outlook for returning this week, given he said he can’t taste anything now: 

“I am good. Very, very mild symptoms. I should be returning – it sounds like Thursday.”

On the appreciation he will have to be back on the sideline after watching last night’s game from his basement: 

“It is not something I take for granted, I will tell you that. I really enjoy working with the people I work with. I love coaching this team and these players. We have a bunch of fighters on this team. I am looking forward to getting back in the building with them.”

On how he has used the ‘underdog role’ to help motivate the team, given many people outside of the building did not give the Browns a chance to win last night: 

“Respectfully, I do not really concern myself with the outside and what they think about our football team and our chances. We have plenty to motivate us in having the opportunity to compete week in and week out. We will just keep the focus on us and the focus on our opponent and really ignore all of the other noise.”

On if he had emotions when watching the game and seeing the snap go over Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger’s head on the first play of the game: 

“The funny part about that is I am in the basement isolating from my family. I guess that my feed for whatever reason – I must have hit pause or something – was about 45 seconds behind. I heard my kids going crazy upstairs so I had an inkling something good was going to happen on that first play.”

On the Browns playing complementary football last night and its record-setting start with 28 points in the first quarter: 

“That is how you want to start every game. That does not often happen, but the guys were locked in. They were all about the ball on defense, which is part of our DNA, and being able to convert those into points. I just think our guys were flying around. They were very, very hungry. That is what is required when you are in these playoffs. You have to have that level of intensity every week.”

On if there is a sense of validation in how the team played last night, given the emphasis on playing as a team and the next man up mentality: 

“We have seen that all year. We have been without guys for various reasons all year, and guys step up. That is just the nature of this beast. That is what is required. Really proud of the guys who were in there who had not been in there before. I will single out Michael Dunn. I thought he was outstanding last night. Really, really great in his technique, in his effort and in his assignment. He did a great job, among others.”

On his decision to hire Van Pelt and their relationship: 

“AVP is somebody who we have a lot of mutual friends. While we did not know each other well, we could very easily on either side pick up the phone and find out what he is all about and he could find out what I am all about. I was very comfortable from that standpoint. Just how we see the game and how we view this and sharing this vision, he is in lockstep with what I believe in and our offense believes in.”

On his experience while watching last night’s game: 

“It is strange feeling. It is again something I hope not to ever do again. I tried to lock in and pay attention and try and kind of see where AVP was going and where (defensive coordinator) Joe (Woods) was going with some of the calls and then watching along with our guys. I just turned into a fan of the team just pulling for our guys like crazy. It is a very, very unique feeling not to be there with them. There was a ton of nervous energy that usually does not exist on the sideline for whatever reason, but it existed for me last night.”

On RB Nick Chubb joking after the game that he should consider staying in his basement for games: 

“Sorry, Nick. You are stuck with me, buddy.”

On how much QB Baker Mayfield’s self-belief has rubbed off on the team and Mayfield being counted out multiple times by others: 

“One of the best things about Baker is he is so very much himself in all moments. He is an authentic person. I think that rubs off on his team. The way he leads by example and the way he leads vocally, the guys respond to it, and that again speaks to him just being himself. You are right, he has been counted out a bunch in his life.”

On if he was nervous at all in the third quarter when the Steelers were attempting a comeback: 

“Every game you have a nervous energy and every player will tell you that they feel those butterflies, but once you start playing, I think that that kind of goes away. I trust my team. I trust these guys. I trust the players. I trust the coaches. I know that the goal was to find a way to win, any which way we had to. You saw that resiliency from that team last night. We played a really good team so you knew they were going to come back. That did not surprise anybody. The guys knew that and knew that they had to weather the storm and then ultimately just find a way at the end.”

On if watching the team live without any control gave him a different perspective that he does not see from the sideline: 

“I do not think so. Maybe a couple better angles of some replays. Our guys played really, really hard. They play for each other. They fly around. That is obvious to me when I have the front row seat that I normally have.”

On how the Browns were able to neutralize the Steelers’ effective pass rush: 

“It is never one thing –the play calling, the play execution and Baker understanding where to go with the ball and getting the ball out quickly and on time and Baker scrambled, but then those guys just work on their technique diagnosing the pressures, which is a big deal and speaks to the quarterback and the center oftentimes in understanding where the pressure is coming from. It is an all-encompassing thing when you go into playing a team like that and give up zero sacks. It is always going to be a bunch of reasons, but I just thought the guys were on point with really their assignments last night”

On if he has met G Blake Hance, given Mayfield said he met Hance in the locker room before the game last night: 

“I am looking forward to it.”

On today being Hance’s birthday: 

“Happy birthday, Blake.”

On why the Browns have fully adopted the next man up mentality more than past teams: 

“I do not know. They have been put in these positions early and often this season. It is something we have talked about, but you do not often speak things into existence. I just give credit to the players in how they have responded. They have been about the doing.”

On the belief that anybody in the playoffs has a chance to win the Super Bowl and that is everyone’s goal: 

“We are one of eight teams. I am not a math major, but we will take those chances. That is what the guys understand. This is the fun part about the playoffs. Every game gets bigger and bigger, and the challenge gets bigger and bigger. We have a big challenge this week playing the Super Bowl champs.”

On if he has a sense of what this means to Browns fans and the City of Cleveland, despite COVID-19 protocols limiting his exposure to the community: 

“I do. I have done a lot of driving around town the last few days just because I have to get out of here. Just to see all of the Browns flags and seeing everybody wearing the Browns hats, I definitely feel it. I think our players understand how big it is for this community, and we have to keep it going.”

On Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid and if he studied Reid while rising through the coaching ranks: 

“Coach is as good as they get. Obviously, myself growing up as an Eagles fan, I was able to cheer for a bunch of his teams. He does an outstanding job with his team, and in particular the offense, he is a great technician in what he has his team do. I have always respected how much they have evolved over the years and the different things that they do which are so different than what they were doing 20 years ago in Philadelphia. I just think so highly of him as a coach. I know a bunch of other coaches. That is a really, really good coaching staff. You combine good players with good coaches and you get a team like that so we understand that we have our work cut out for us this week.”

On if there is any significance to Mayfield and DE Myles Garrett getting the captain Cs on their jerseys for the first time this season during last night’s game: 

“That was the plan all along was to have postseason captains after having game captains during the season. (LS) Charley Hughlett was a captain, as well so offense, defense and special teams.”

On how the team used Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster’s comments last week as additional motivation and if he believes in bulletin board material: 

“I think the guys understand the competitive nature of all of these players and these teams. I think they are plenty motivated to play hard for their teammates and to play hard for the fans. I do not know that we need a ton of additional stuff to get excited and get ready for a game.”

On if he feels good about the chances of Browns players returning from the reserve/COVID-19 list this week, including G Joel Bitonio, WR KhaDarel Hodge and CBs Kevin Johnson and Denzel Ward: 

“I will just update those guys as it becomes appropriate, but I do not have anything specific on them right now.”

On if he has an update on Browns assistant coaches who are out due to COVID-19 protocols: 

“No, we will just kind of take it day by day there.”

On if the commentary about the Browns-Steelers rivalry last week made last night’s win at Pittsburgh more significant as the team is establishing a new culture: 

“No, it does not. I have a ton of respect for that organization. I have a ton of respect for (Steelers Head) Coach (Mike) Tomlin and his entire staff. It is just good to get a win versus a really good opponent any way you can get it.”

On the Browns’ maturity in a postseason game and how it handled Pittsburgh’s comeback attempt: 

“We have been in a bunch of games this year, and you never know how the flow of the game is going to go. When you are playing a really good football team, you know that they are going to come back and have some success and you are going to have to weather a storm. We would love to not have that and there are things that we can do way better there, especially in the middle part of that game and towards the end of the game. We can improve in those areas, but there are some quality opponents that we are facing. That one last night was a very quality opponent that we knew was going to keep swinging. That is what our guys did is they continued to fight. That is what is required in postseason football.”

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C JC Tretter:

On the performance of G Michael Dunn, G Blake Hance and T Kendall Lamm last night:

“Mike has been with us for the year, and I can’t be more proud of a guy to step into that environment and just play as well as he did. He played really well. Kendall, who is a veteran, stepped in and played really well, as well. Blake comes in, and you give a lot of credit to him working hard this week, getting up on all of his calls and getting up on the plays and the coaches taking extra time after meetings to work with him and make sure he is ready to play, and he steps in there and plays well, too. Just great overall by everybody stepping in in that type of environment to play that well.”

On if he has ever been around a group that embraces the ‘next man up’ mentality so well:

“This year the way it has gone, everybody has had to kind of live by that mindset of just being ready to play and being ready to perform with different circumstances and under unique preparation circumstances, as well. We have been ready for that, but a ton of credit to those guys to step in in a playoff game and play at that high of a level.”

On Browns fans meeting the team plane when it landed early this morning:

“Yeah, there was a good size group of Browns fans outside the fence as we landed.”

On the celebration after the win and FaceTiming with Head Coach Kevin Stefanski in the locker room:

“Extremely exciting times. We know what Browns fans have been through, and we can feel the excitement of the entire city and the guys in the locker room. Just extremely excited to continue to play football, continue to be alive and continue to push forward. This has been a great year for the Cleveland Browns, and we have more work to do. It is a really exciting time. We are looking forward to getting even more guys back to be in that locker room with us.”

On how gratifying it is to win yesterday’s game and give G Joel Bitonio an opportunity to play in a postseason game:

“Winning these games at this time of year, this is what you put all of that work and all of that blood and sweat into all through training camp and in the regular season to get to these moments. I said it last week, I do not think anybody can be more motivated to play in a playoff game. That is what you work extremely hard to get to. It is going to be really nice to get guys back – guys like Joel and guys like Coach Stefanski – to come in and be with us again, play and coach and just kind of unite the entire team again. That is going to be really great.”

On how different the postgame locker room was last night compared to his time with the Packers:

“It was not much different. Getting to the playoffs is hard. Winning playoff games is hard. It takes a lot of work and a lot of effort by everybody involved. As you keep winning and keep accomplishing goals, those moments in the locker room with the guys who have put it on the line with you day in and day out and week in and week out, those are always special moments that you remember more so than the game. Just being with your teammates, being with your coaches and being with the staff, all of who have worked extremely hard to get to that point. , those are the special moments. It does not matter how long it has been or what playoff game it is, each one of those is really special.”

On if he talked to Bitonio about the experience watching the game from home:

“I did not talk to him about that. I called him after the game after I had left the locker room just to chat with him. We did not talk about his experience of watching the game. We more talked about the game itself, what he saw on the TV and different things like that.”

On if he can imagine what Coach Stefanski was experiencing when watching the game from home:

“I am sure it was nerve-racking, but you come out and our defense just played so well and had takeaways and gave us short fields and the offense took advantage of it. That had to be a great feeling to have the game start off that way. I definitely understand the feeling of not being in total control or not really having any say on how the game was going to go and truly being a fan is probably a real unique experience for a lot of guys who have not been in that situation in a long, long time.”

On what WR Jarvis Landry has meant to building the team’s culture since Landry joined the Browns:

“A real veteran presence. A really talented player. Just the more guys you have in the locker room, the better the entire team is going to be. A guy who competes and works hard every day. That is what you want out of guys like that. Him, as well as a bunch of other guys in the locker room that we have brought in recently, just add to the culture change, doing the right things and all of that.”

On Landry once again stepping up in key moments during last night’s game:

“He is extremely talented and reliable. That is what you need. You need guys who in the crucial moments are going to step up and make big plays. He is one of the guys who we really rely on.”

On the belief that any team in the playoffs can beat anyone, including the Browns who many people will not expect to beat the Chiefs this weekend:

“Expectations, they are all from the outside whenever you talk about that. It just does not have any meaning on what is actually going to happen. It is all projections and predictions, and it just does not impact us. We are focused on what we do with the guys in that locker room and inside that building are capable of so I do not think anybody gets too caught up in what other people are telling us we can or can’t. We are really confident in what we can do. We have played well this year, and we know if we go out there and play the best of our abilities that we can compete with anybody. It should not impact anybody what people are saying from the outside – that should not matter.”

On if brining a Super Bowl to the City of Cleveland is on everyone’s mind, given T Jack Conklin’s comments about it last week: 

“Yeah, I do not know why it would not be.”

On if he will make an argument to eliminate weekly practices as NFLPA President, given he made an argument to eliminate offseason programs: 

“No (laughter). My whole point is always to rely on the science and rely on what trainers, sport science and strength coaches have known for a long time. Practice is very important both for acclimation and making sure we keep our dosage of high-speed yardage and all of that up for guys to avoid soft tissue injuries. No, that will not be the next thing on my checklist.”

On explaining the Browns playing their cleanest game of the season despite limited practice during the week: 

“We played a really fundamentally sound game. There are a lot of different ways to prepare. One of the most important things, especially this time of year, is having players who are healthy and feeling close to 100 percent. You look at things glass half full, last week almost gave us a mini-bye, an unscheduled mini-bye where guys were able to get their body back after a long season. I know I felt coming back on Friday for practice that was probably the best I have felt in a long time this late in the season. You feel fresh, you feel revitalized and you go out there and play fast. We took our meetings seriously. We did our virtual walkthroughs. We did our virtual meetings. Everybody studied and prepared hard, and you can see that there are a lot of ways to prepare to play a football game.”

On if QB Baker Mayfield’s self-confidence has contributed to the Browns’ culture change: 

“Baker has been that way probably since he was born. That is his personality. That is who he is, and that is who he is every day. As a leader of your team, that is a really great quality to have because everybody begins to replicate the personality of the leader of the team. The confidence and the swagger, it follows him and guys mimic that, and that is why Baker is such a leader for us.”

On his first impression of Mayfield when Mayfield joined the team in 2018 and Mayfield’s comments at the time about turning the team around: 

“Baker has been the same guy since he arrived. The thing about young players and leaders is the way you become a leader in the locker room is be yourself. There are a lot of different personalities that guys respect in this league. Really, the only one that guys do not is someone who is not themselves, is a phony or is trying to be something they are not. Baker from the moment he walked in the building was himself and was the same guy, and he is the same guy every day, not [just] on game day. It is every day at practice. He is a competitor like that. He is working to get better. That is what guys see and guys follow are guys like that who are always the same guy every day.”

On when he knew it was not the ‘same old Browns’ this season: 

“I think you go out there, you play hard and you start winning games. I think when we hang onto some games and you just stick with it, I think the games and teams itself, they move around and trend throughout the season. You can never define a team early on or midway through. You kind of come in segments. A lot of teams break the season up in four quarters and kind of judge each quarter individually. If you look at that, you see that we have been consistently the same team quarter after quarter of the season. If you look at the individual games within those quarters, we have had games like that last night where we jumped out to big leagues and held on, and we have had had games like the Cincinnati game where it did not go our way and we continued to fight continued to battle and claw back. I think those are how you define a good team in this league. The more and more examples you can put on film of that, the more confident you are of that is who you are.”

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DT Larry Ogunjobi:

On the impact Head Coach Kevin Stefanski has had on the team all season, including last night despite Stefanski not being at the game: 

“Like I always say, just his cool-headedness and just being able to keep everything in front of us, always never getting too high and never getting too low, staying focused on the task at hand and understanding that we have to go 1-0 each and every week. We just understood that we have been a team that has dealt with adversity a bunch of different times during the season. Being able to go out there and get the win yesterday was very important. We knew it was going to be different without him being there, but of course, we felt his presence. We got to FaceTime him after game. (Special teams coordinator) Coach (Mike) Priefer did an amazing job of handling the reins in his absence, but he was still there in spirit. We got the job done, and that is the most important thing.”

On his emotions after last night’s playoff win: 

“It was just very surreal. I am big on just being in the moment and just being in that moment. It was just a blessing. That is as a team that I have lost to quite a few times in my career as a Brown so being able to just be on the other side and to get that victory in their house and it be my first playoff victory was very special.”

On what gives him confidence that the Browns can compete against the best teams in the league, including at Kansas City this Sunday: 

“Just the resiliency and the fight. We do not really look at the predictions or whatever people have to say. It is just really us against the world, it kind of feels like. We are just about the work. We know that when you work hard, you put everything in the right perspective and you give it your all, you always give yourself a chance to put yourself in position to win. We like our chances as far as continuing to just grind, continuing to work and just continuing to focus on the task at hand and understanding that it is about us and what we do in preparation getting ready for this next challenge this week.”

On what was going through his mind during the first quarter during the team’s fast start: 

“I am always the guy that until the clock hits zero, I always try to just stay locked in and focused on what we have going on. You kind of start seeing that the ball starts rolling and it is a pick, a pick and everybody was getting picks, which is awesome though. Once again, when you are on the other side of it and for once you are seeing it and you are winning and things are moving in the right direction – the offense is clicking, the defense is clicking and special teams is going crazy – it is just good when you are playing very good complementary football and everybody if just firing on all cylinders.”

On Browns players like CB M.J. Stewart Jr. and DE Porter Gustin stepping up in big moments: 

“They just work. That is what the team is about is just working. Everybody has had this mentality of next man up, and it does not drop off. We had a blow to the defense when OV (DE Olivier Vernon) got hurt, but just guys being able to pick up where we left off and being able to kind of just keep it going. At the end of day, this is the playoffs. It is win or go home. You are playing for something bigger than yourself. The guys are ready, they are prepared and that is what they have been doing so I could not be more proud.”

On what the Browns defense was saying in the huddle when the Steelers made a comeback attempt in the third quarter:

“We have to finish. Like I said, I told the guys that the only moment that matters is this one. Do not wait until tomorrow to want to change what you did today. Guys just lock in and finish. We have everything we want in front of us. Just go out there and finish. That is what we did.”

On his favorite memory from last night:

“I would probably say when VT (DT Vincent Taylor) had tipped the ball and then (DE) Porter (Gustin) dove out and caught it. I just feel like that was a really cool moment for both of those guys. We talk about plays leading to other plays, and those are special. Just being with those in the room, they come to work each and every day. Especially Porter, he is one of those guys who be in the building until like 6:30 p.m. when we are allowed to be in just doing extra work and all of that stuff. I always like to see when that work pays off so I am really happy for the both of them.”

On comments that Head Coach Kevin Stefanski mentioned envisioning a tipped pass being interception in the team meeting on Saturday night:

“He said it. VT has those long arms. It just all worked out. Happy for him. Happy for the team. Just excited.”

On the biggest difference for the Browns now compared to his previous seasons with the team:

“I would just say the level of focus. Obviously, the players are different, but just the level of focus and how we approach each and every game. We are about the work. We are about what we have to do. Not getting too high and not getting too low, but just focusing on the task at hand and what we have to do. That is the biggest thing is just trying to go 1-0 each and every week. This is a week-by-week league. Nothing is ever given; it is earned. You have to earn it each and every Sunday. I feel like the guys understand that. No one is going to give it to us. Regardless of if you jump up on a team early in the first quarter, it is a full four-quarter game, plus if you go into overtime. You have to play until the clock hits 0:00. That is just the mentality of this team.”

On his contribution to the early fourth down stop by moving the line of scrimmage:

“I just wanted to get off the rock and try to find a way to make a play for the team and get us off the field. The biggest thing is just trying to find a way to get off the field on third down. Really just trying to spark the defense, and it was good to get a stop and just keep the momentum rolling in a positive direction.”

On how cool it was to have Browns fans greet the team when getting off of the plane early this moment:

“It was definitely cool. They were out there chanting, and I am like it is 3 am in the morning and it is cold. That just goes to show the love that the fans in Cleveland have and the dedication to the team they have – the best fans in the world. Just to be out there after a big win and still want to come and support given the current circumstances that we are all living in, but just to want to be out there – they had their masks on – but to be out there and supporting was very important. We appreciate them.”

On if Browns fans were chanting ‘Here we go Brownies’:

“For sure.”

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