Browns G Joel Bitonio Speaks on Contract Extension

On the significance of the Browns making long-term investments in him and G Wyatt Teller this week:

“First and foremost, it is an honor. Both me and Wyatt are very appreciative of the Brown, starting with the the Haslams (Managing and Principal Partners Dee and Jimmy Haslam), (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew Berry and the whole front office, (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski and all of the way down. I think it just points to our identity. We want to be a team that wins in the trenches up front, both offensive line and defensive line. I think Wyatt and myself give us a versatile ability to run outside-zone schemes, to run power schemes and to run gap schemes. It kind of gives us the ability to run both and have two guards that you can pull either way, and both can do those kind of things really gives you an opportunity for your offense to be multiple.”

On what will it mean to hopefully play his entire career with one team like former Browns T Joe Thomas:

“That is pretty special. You look around the league, and there are people that leave and great players who play on multiple teams – three or four teams. It is such a tough business to stick with one team because you have so many different coaching staffs and things that happen. It truly is an honor to hopefully finish my career here. Hopefully, it sets us up that way. I do not know anything else. I just know the Cleveland Brown way, and that is how I want to finish it. I think we do have something special building here, and hopefully, we can get some big wins before that comes up, though.”

On how gratifying is it be on a successful team now after having tough seasons to begin his career:

“Any time go through some tough times, the good times are just a little bit sweeter. I know I celebrate every win. If it is a close game or if it is a blowout in our favor, I celebrate every win because I know how hard it was to lose all of those games in a row and kind of be in those situations. It is special. To be part of that and hopefully get some more big wins as we go along here, it is pretty cool to look back and just kind of see where the team has been and where we are kind of trying to move to and get to a point where it is expected for the Browns to be a good team every year.”

On what it means to see multiple Browns players signing contract extensions and keeping talented core members together:

“It is a big step. The NFL is such a different sport than every other sport. A lot of the good teams build through the draft, and they draft guys and you want to keep your core players. When you get good players in this league, you want to keep them. That has been a thing you see with our last few extensions. I am proud to be a part of that group. Hopefully, we can re-sign a few more guys, and we can keep building this thing, keep drafting good players and really just set ourselves up so it is a thing that you go to the Browns, you play good for three or four years and you get a new contract and that is how it kind of works here where people want to come here, want to stay here and want to be a part of a winning organization.”

On if his contract extension has been in the works for a long time, as well as Berry’s reference to hopefully celebrating him entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame after his career:

“The first question, my agent went to the Browns this offseason and just discussed, ‘Hey, we want to be here, and what do you think of Joel? We want to try to make something work.’ Those discussions take a long time, and we had a couple of years left on the contract so things were happening then. Honestly, once the season started, I told my agent, ‘I do not want to hear anything about anything. I am trying to play games. I am trying to focus on going 1-0 every week.’ To be honest, I did not know anything about this until after the game on Sunday. They have been working on it for a couple of weeks, but my agent was going to keep it quiet and just let me focus on the games. I appreciate that. I did not want to be thinking about other things while I am going out there to play. After the game Sunday, Monday come around, and I started realizing, ‘Alright, this is going to happen. This happened really fast.’ It was one of those things where we had discussed it, but nothing really came into my forefront until this week – two days ago, really. That was kind of a whirlwind, but it is obviously most appreciated.

“The comments that Andrew Berry made, it is obviously an honor to be held in that regard. That is so far off in the distance for me. I legitimately think, ‘Alright, I have the New England Patriots this week that we have to come out and play against a great defense.’ I think about that this weekend, and then whoever we play the next weekend, that is my No. 1 goal. You look back on it – especially for offensive linemen – you just try and do your best, and if something like that ever happen, it would obviously be an unbelievable honor, and I would not know what to say. Right now, I am so focused in the now that it is like, ‘Alright, we have a tough matchup this week, and we have to really, really focus on that.’”

On becoming the first Browns drafted player since 1999 to get two multi-year contract extensions:

“It is pretty cool. I did not know that. I knew I was signing my third one, but I had not heard that one so that is a pretty cool stat.”

On how he was able to persevere through the team’s not as successful seasons early in his career before now playing his best football for a team that has been more successful:

“Like you said, it was rough. I talked about that with my wife the other day how we won four games in that three-year stretch. For me personally, like games I had played in, it was even longer than that. I remember the joy that we had with the Jets win and getting out of that. For me personally, there is so much pride every time you go out on the field, especially for an offensive lineman because your job, it matters to the running backs, to the quarterbacks, to the receivers, to the tight ends and to the whole team. What you do on the field is first off health and then second off their performance matters through you. Every time I walked on the field, I was like, ‘The guy next to me, I have to play for him. I have to play for that guy. I have to play for my own pride and for my team.’ There were rough spots, but every time you walked on the field, it was like, ‘Alright, this is a new chance. This is a new responsibility.’ Then as we slowly started adding talent and adding the players who I thought could compete in this league, it was nice to see that change, where it is like, ‘OK, when we are going out there, we are not just playing for pride now; we are playing to win games, and we are playing to do these things.’ I think the icing on the cake for me was we had some more successful seasons there and some more wins when (QB) Baker (Mayfield) took over, but then when Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski kind of took over, then you are like, ‘Alright, this feels right. This feels like we are doing something really, really good, and we can move forward with that.”

On blocking for 13 different starting QBs during his time in Cleveland and which QB stands out the most:

“I would say Baker. I have probably blocked for the most so he would stand out. He is the guy who stands out the most to me. He is our quarterback now and in the future. That is my guy. I talked to Joe Thomas about this when he was here, and he had blocked for so many different quarterbacks. He was like there so many different things you have to worry about – there are set points, how they get rid of the ball, their cadence and things like – but if you prepare yourself to play, then you are in a good position. There are definitely some random names that get thrown in there (laughter). We have had a few different experiences (laughter). It has been a whirlwind, and hopefully, like I said, we have Baker here for the foreseeable future.”

On if he would want to play beyond 2025, given he previously said one of his goals was to play for at least 10 years, or if that is too far away to tell:

“I think it is too far away. I always thought coming into the league, getting a second contract, and then once you see that, it is like, ‘Man, double digits.’ You do not see that many guys play 10 years. That was the next goal, but once you get to a certain age, you are kind of playing on a year-by-year basis where it is like, ‘Hey, how does my body feel? Where is my family at in life?’ You have kids who are growing up, and you want to spend time with them and things of that nature, too. There is a lot that goes into it. Right now, I feel good. We signed up for a few more years so we are excited about that.”

On when he started to think he wanted to spend his entire career in Cleveland:

“Honestly, I have never had a second thought because I signed my first extension with a year left on my contract so I knew I was going to be here for at least a few more years. Once Andrew Berry and Coach Stefanski came in, I knew this was a group that I wanted to be a part of. The Haslams have always treated me with the most respect and very well. I have always had a special place in my heart in Cleveland. I have never thought about, ‘Where am I going to play somewhere else? When is that time going to come?’ You never know. You see a guy like (LA Rams OLB) Von Miller and think he is going to be a Denver Bronco for his whole career, and he goes somewhere else. There are always things that happen, but right now, I only know the Cleveland Browns, and that is what I am hoping to keep that way.”

On what the City of Cleveland and Browns fans have meant to him during his career:

“It means a lot. They have accepted me since Day 1. I was with (former Browns QB) Johnny (Manziel), (former Browns and NFL CB) Justin (Gilbert) and those guys when I got here, and I was kind of a little bit overlooked with that draft class – rightfully so. You have two first-round picks. These guys are playing quarterback and cornerback. Since I have been here, the people of Cleveland have always treated me with the most respect and always the most support. Wyatt said this yesterday, they do love their linemen. I think you go around town and people go, ‘Oh, do you get recognized?’ Occasionally, I will see a few people. It is funny how much they support their linemen. They love their guys. I think they learned supporting some of their great linemen in the past – Joe Thomas and those guys – that they kind of learned to love these guys. It has been very cool. The people here and the community, we feel a part of it. Like you said, I grew up in California – I was there for a long time – but this is the second-longest place I have ever been. It is special to us. We have two dogs that we got from here and two kids. It is really special for our family. You look back on it, and Cleveland is definitely part of our home.”

On if he would like to see Mayfield sign a long-term contract extension with the Browns:

“Of course. I think he has shown a lot. From Day 1, before he even got drafted by the Cleveland Browns, he said, ‘I want to go to Cleveland. I want to help turn that around.’ Having that mentality, the toughness he plays with, the savvy he plays with and the ability he shows when he plays football, I think he is the right guy for the job. I would love to see that, but I did not even know about my contract until a few days ago. It is a lot. I know we are in-season right now, and the team is really starting to focus in on going 1-0 this week. He is our guy, and we love Bake, his personality and his ability. He is someone who I think people rally around.”

On if his kids’ college fund is set now:

“(Laughter) Yeah, the kids can go anywhere. Nevada is No. 1 on their list, of course, but they might be able to apply to a few other schools if they want.”

On his and Teller’s ability to protect Mayfield, as well as their ability to pull, and how that factored into the contract extensions:

“They do move us around a lot. We pull in both directions, and we move the pocket in pass protection. Like I said, I think Wyatt and myself give us the ability to be versatile on offense. It is one of the things that (offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan stresses, we want to start the pocket from the inside out and keep guys on the line of scrimmage. It is one of the things that I am sure went into it. In the NFL, if you have guys who you think are good players, especially in the trenches, you want to try and keep those guys because sometimes, it is hard to find those guys. It is appreciated. I do not know the plan, but I am sure Andrew Berry and Coach Stefanski have a plan of how they want to attack this and set this up. It is definitely an honor. It has been cool for both me and Wyatt to get locked up.”

On Thomas’ influence on him early in his career and on his career aspirations:

“It was really special the room I came into with Joe Thomas obviously being the leader, but (former Browns and 49ers C) Alex Mack had been here, (former Browns and NFL G) John Greco and (free agent T) Mitchell Schwartz, and these guys were all good to great NFL players. They really did show me the way – the way they studied and the way they prepared for games. We had a few rough seasons there, but they were so professional each step of the way that it was honestly such a blessing for me to be in that room. He had goals for himself, but the thing I always took from Joe is how much he studies the film, how well he took notes in meetings and then the work he put in, not just at practice all of the time but taking care of his body and stretching. If you look back on Joe’s career, he had a great career, but he got everything he could out of his body before he had to shut it down. That was something that I admired. There are times he could have tapped out, but every week, he said, ‘I am playing for the guy next to me.’ I played my whole rookie year every snap because that is what they did. It was Alex and it was Joe, and they never missed snaps. I got hurt my second year, and I was just like, ‘You can’t come out of the game.’ I finished the game, and then after, it was like, ‘Hey, you are going to miss a few weeks.’ I was devastated from that because I had seen these guys do it. Obviously, things happen, but it was just that mentality that really rubbed off on me.”

On if it was important to him to become the highest-paid NFL G over a long-term deal:

“No. Like I said, I really did not know much about it until the last couple of days. It was just something that we felt was in the right ballpark. Honestly, we just wanted something that would work for both sides and that we could put in. There was nothing where you had to be the highest-paid guy or the second-highest paid guy. It is always good to see the market go up. Q (Colts G Quenton Nelson), (Washington Football Team G Brandon) Scherff or someone like that is going to get paid this offseason, and they will reset the market themselves. It is just part of the business. The salary cap is going to go up in hopefully a couple of years and it is going to keep shooting up. It is just how, I think, contracts work now.”

On Patriots G Joe Thuney’s contract this past season and if the goal was to get more money than that deal:

“No. It gives you a starting point sometimes. ‘Oh, that looks nice. They pay at that price.’ It was nothing where it was like, ‘Oh, we are going to be at a certain amount or we are not going to sign this.’ It just ended up working out overall.”

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