WEDNESDAY PODIUM AVAILABILITY: WEEK 14 AT CLEVELAND BROWNS
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "[It's] good seeing you guys. I see we're congregated under the heaters here – well played. Alright, what questions do you have?"
C Bradley Bozeman for a second straight year was nominated for Walter Payton Man of the Year. How great was it for you to announce that to the team again? (Jamison Hensley) "It was great. He's well-deserving. I joke with him, [his wife] Nikki [Bozeman] deserves more credit; she should be the Woman of the Year behind the Man of the Year. I don't know how it would work, but she does a great job, and so does Bradley [Bozeman]. They've just been all over the country with the bullying campaign and making a difference in kids' lives just on a one-to-one kind of a level. We're really proud of him."
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski had said that RB Kareem Hunt wasn't 100% the last time you played, and he's had two weeks off. Do you think the Browns will work him into the running game more this time around compared to last time? (Todd Karpovich) "I don't know, we'll see. We just have to defend whatever they come out and do. We'll be ready for it."
You're obviously used to a return meeting with an AFC North opponent, but how different is the preparation when they're coming off a Bye and their last game was literally when they played you? (Luke Jones) "We just don't have any more tape. We're basically looking at everything we did up until that game and then that game – that's our information. So, we just study it. Toward the end of the season, teams are pretty much established in who they are, what they do [and] how they do it. Then, what are the wrinkles going to be? How are they going to attack your team? That's really what we're looking at. So, we're just trying to figure that out and be prepared to play these guys this week."
I know we've talked about scheduling before, but this is an unusual circumstance where a Browns team gets to play a team back-to-back with a Bye Week in between. Is that concerning for you? Is that something that the Ravens take up with the League and point out? (Jamison Hensley) "I haven't. It's not something that I'm really thinking about. There are always challenges and difficulties that you have to deal with, whether it's schedule or whatever it is. So, we just deal with it and play the game. We're playing the game, and we're getting ready to play the game. That's all we're thinking about."
On the outside looking in, it looks like your guys are up against a wall this week, but you've been through so many adverse conditions. How much can you draw from things that you've been through in the past? It looks like you might have them right where you want them right now. (Kirk McEwen) "Our guys are going to handle adversity well. That's something that … You asked about the past – that's something that's proven. That's something that is established. So, we're just going to go play the game. We have all the players that we need to do it, we have all the schemes, we have all the coaches [and] we have all the people. I trust the people. I trust the work, and I'm looking forward to the game on Sunday."
When it comes to the blitz and working on that, you talked about the number of sacks and trying to cut that down. How much do you guys work on protecting against the blitz during practice throughout the week? (Jerry Coleman) "A lot. We spend a lot of time on that. It's something that you have to do, and you do it within the framework of the protections that you're using. You have dropback protections, play-action protections, movement pass – you work on everything. You do it year-round, really, and we work hard at it."
Kind of piggybacking off of that, you've talked about how well QB Lamar Jackson sees the field overall, but you've also said you need to help him find solutions to pressure. How hard is it to work on that in season, particularly for him? (Childs Walker)"It's not hard. We show the reps, and we work on it all the time. Again, there's going to be … Look around the league, there are going to be good days and bad days against this or that. There are going to be things that you have to work on that you have to kind of work through and get past schematically – personnel-wise, execution-wise, idea-wise, whatever it might be. That's just the nature of a long season that you're going to have turns in the road that you have to work through, and that's what we do. We work hard to do that. So, it's not the end of the world; it's something that we're going … We've made plays against … Whether it's whatever you're talking about, blitz, or whatever it is, we've made plays, and you just have to keep moving. It's a moving target all the time, in terms of just the football scheme aspect of it, and we have to keep chasing it."
For your sake, weather-wise, hopefully you don't have to deal with something like they did on Monday night in Buffalo. But if that were to happen, either down the stretch in Cincinnati or wherever it might be in the postseason, how are you preparing the guys for that now that there is some cold weather? Could you ever see yourself or offensive coordinator Greg Roman calling a plan like [the New England Patriots] did to win the game on Monday night? (Bobby Trosset)"Of course, you do whatever you have to do. They did a great job and won the game with what they did. I'm sure it was all three … I didn't watch the game, and I haven't seen the tape either, yet, but it was all three phases, I'm sure, involved in a win. That's what you do. What are you asking me? If we'd run it every play but three, basically?" (Reporter: "Could you ever see yourself winning a game with Lamar only throwing three times?") "Sure, sure. Of course, we won in New England throwing 10 times, one time, when Joe's [Flacco] leg was swollen. Remember? So, absolutely. We've actually already seen it, as a matter of fact, now that you mention it in New England. Well, that worked out well." (laughter)
I think you guys have faced Browns QB Baker Mayfield every year since 2018 now. I know the coaching staff around him has changed and maybe the offense a little bit, but do you feel like you have a pretty good familiarity with what he does? (Jonas Shaffer)"We do. You know, we do. Like Ben [Roethlisberger], Baker [Mayfield] is in our division, [and] we're learning Joe Burrow, of course. Those are the guys you're going to have the best understanding of. We have three great quarterbacks in this [division] that we have to play against, and Lamar [Jackson] is a great quarterback. This division has four great quarterbacks, so that's probably why all these teams are winning so many games – it's one of the big reasons. So, it's a big challenge."
CB Chris Westry has been banged up over the course of the season, but when he's been out there, he's made some plays. Can you talk about what you've seen from him in his limited time on the field? (Ryan Mink)"I've seen limited time on the field, that's what I've seen. I love Chris [Westry]. I think he has a great future; I just want to see him out there."
Obviously, I know you're not going to give up anything strategically, but it seems QB Lamar Jackson and the offense at times seem pretty comfortable in up-tempo and no huddle. When you're looking at this trend of slow starts offensively, how much of that is an option, maybe, picking up the tempo that you guys have considered, not specifically for Sunday but just kind of overall? (Jeff Zrebiec)"It's definitely an option. It's definitely something that we've done before. Among other things, it's something that is on the table, for sure."
I think there were eight pre-snap penalties in Pittsburgh. How much of that was related to the crowd? Going into another place that might be that way, are there any adjustments there? (Mark Viviano)"You have to handle noise, but to me, it was just our execution – communication in and out of the huddle and just handling the situation and not making those mistakes. We do not want to be behind the chains because of pre-snap penalties. We just don't; that's not really acceptable. That's not something we're happy with at all, and it has to get cleaned up."
Two weeks ago, QB Lamar Jackson made a headline by saying, "I let these types of performances fester." I don't know how long that festers throughout the course of the week, but do you get the sense that it lingered a little bit too much? (Bobby Trosset)"I'm not into [the] psychology of it too much."
QB Lamar Jackson
On his takeaways from Sunday's game after watching the film: "We left stuff out there on the field. We've just got to finish. We were driving the ball on certain drives; we just didn't finish. We got off the field. We were putting ourselves in bad situations – third-and-long, second-and-long and stuff – so that's pretty much how it went throughout the whole game until towards the end."
On if he thinks he's holding onto the ball a little too long sometimes in an attempt to make something happen: "Yes, and like I said before, when too many guys are surrounding you, you don't want to just try to throw it away, [because] then it can be a strip-sack, now it's a fumble, now we've got to deal with that. So, sometimes you've got to take a sack for your own … You can cut your losses."
On how much time he gets to work against the blitz in practice during a regular week: "We do that every day. We go against the blitz every day."
On if it's difficult to work on facing the blitz during the season, or if it's not that difficult: "No, I don't think so, because we did it during the offseason. Then, like I said, we do it each and every day during the week before games – for sure."
On how much film study plays into working on how to combat blitz pressure: "All of it is a part of football. It plays a big part of it – for sure. You've got to know what you're doing. You've got to know what you're getting yourself into with your opponents before you go out there. So, it plays a huge part."
On if he let his previous performances linger a little bit too much: "No, not at all. I've never done that before. No, no. I just did that because I had four turnovers. I've never done that before, so I had to let that sink in and try to go out there and perform better."
On what he remembers about his last game in Cleveland: "Shoot, man, we were just going back and forth. It was a high-scoring game. Both teams scored like 40-something points, and I cramped. I remember that. I was cramping. And we got the dub – for sure."
On if he likes going no-huddle: "It's pretty cool, yes. It helps us flex out the defense. It lets us do our thing a little faster. Yes, it's pretty cool, though."
On the challenges of running a no-huddle offense a little bit more often: "Right now, I don't know what the challenge is for us, because we've been having success when we did it. So, I don't really know what the challenges may be. Probably, if it may come up in a game or something, then I might have an answer for you. But we haven't had any problems with it, so we've been good."
On the TV broadcast noting that he tripped over the down marker, and if he's feeling OK and planning to practice today: "I did. Yes. Yes, and yes." (laughter)
On, if after watching the film against Pittsburgh's blitzes, he feels like he should have gotten rid of the ball faster, or if he feels like he needed to escape the pocket and make something happen more often: "Both. Sometimes you wish you could have made something happen, and sometimes it's dealer's choice. You never know. It's NFL football. It's not street ball or anything like that. It's NFL football – a grown-man game, man."
On feeling more comfortable at the mesh point with RB Devonta Freeman: "We had a problem with that before?" (Reporter: "I saw a ball go on the ground.") "With me and him [Devonta Freeman]?" (Reporter: "Games far back.") "It probably was Week One or something. (laughter) Man, he's been doing his thing. But yes, like you were saying, yes, we're very comfortable with each other in the backfield, and he's doing his thing. He was running that ball very, very well – very well – for sure."
On how much tape of his last game against the Browns he's watched, and how much he wants to re-write the narrative: "I just watched film on them before walk-through. And that's over with. It's a new week. We're playing them at their place this time. It's definitely going to be different results, though. It's not going to be the same situation from when we played them at home."
On if it is a factor or unfair advantage that Baltimore will be Cleveland's opponent in back-to-back weeks, with a Browns' bye week in the middle: "I don't know. I doubt it. It's the NFL, man. We can't make the schedules. We can't make the Bye Weeks and stuff like that. We've just got to go out there and play, and that's all I can do."
On how much the team's experience with adversity will help them down the stretch: "I don't know. I don't know. But all I know is, right now, we're in control of our own destiny, right now. We're sitting 8-4. We've just got to go grind it out and get 'Ws.' But I don't know. I don't know right now."
On if he feels like it's on him to lead this team to the playoffs: "I'm taking it a game at a time; that's all I can do right now. I can't focus on the playoffs right now. How many games are left? We're 12 games [in] … We've got five games left. We've just got to try to win these out, and then we can talk about playoffs. But for sure, that's our goal."
On what gives him the greatest confidence that this offense can turn things around: "I've got guys like Mark Andrews. I've got guys like Marquise Brown. I've got 'Bate' [Rashod Bateman]. I've got Sammy [Watkins]. I've got all these guys who are with me: Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray. We've got all these great guys – Patrick Ricard – who are out there trying to win, as well. It's not just me. So, that's why I've got all the confidence – my teammates."
On how he mentally handles this recent stretch of play, and if his approach is that they will turn it around in a moment's notice: "Just like you said; we're going to turn it around [at a] moment's notice, right away. That's our goal, and it starts out here with practice. When you hit the ground running, doing what we're supposed to do, playing 'Ravens' football, we'll be good."
On where he keeps his Heisman Trophy: "I've got it hidden away. (laughter) It's hidden away." [Reporter: "Where is it?"] "Hidden. (laughter) It wouldn't be hidden if I told you." (laughter)
C Bradley Bozeman
On what it means to be nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award two years in a row: "It's awesome. It just speaks volumes of what this foundation [The Bradley and Nikki Bozeman Foundation] has turned into. The amount of people that we've been able to help, the people that are involved in it, my wife being the main one. Nikki [Bozeman] does an amazing job making sure the day-to-day operations run smoothly. We get events set up. Really kind of just everything day-to-day, she does. So, big hats off to her, all of our team, AMG Sports, just everyone that comes out and helps, it's been amazing. We've fed over 3 million meals in about a year and a half, so it's been great."
On why connecting with the community is so important to him: "We've been given a really big platform. We've been very blessed, and to be able to use this platform for good is what we want to do. That's what we strive to do, because we've been given this amazing gift to be able to reach all these people, to reach all these kids [and] to have a common interest with people. We want to use that in the best possible way we can."
On if him and his wife, Nikki, have any plans to tour with their foundation again in the upcoming offseason: "We'll see. We're kind of playing it by ear right now. Things are still kind of a little weird with COVID. Some places are letting people in, [and] some places aren't. We're just going to kind of evaluate and go day-to-day on that."
On if bullying is going to be the long-term mission of his foundation or if different missions may pop up along the way: "Bullying will definitely be in there, for sure. That's what our passion started in, but it is kind of whatever pops up. Whatever issue we see that needs to be addressed, we're going to shift and mold and do what we have to do, just like the food insecurity. So, yes; definitely whatever we can do to help is what we're going to do."
On how the offensive line felt coming out of the Steelers game with the amount of pressure QB Lamar Jackson faced: "We're always stiving to keep Lamar [Jackson] clean, keep the pocket clean [and] trying to make sure that we're doing our best up front. We didn't do a great job of that. We have to pick up our end. We'll get back at it in practice here in a little bit and just start over again and get ready for the Browns."
On if the offense should utilize the no huddle offense: "It's not my job to call the offense, that's 'G-Ro' [offensive coordinator Greg Roman]. I think he does a really good job at it. Whatever he calls is what we're going to execute [and] that's what we're going to run. So, I'm worried about, whenever the play comes in, the play clock, getting the ball snapped and then doing my job from there. All of that stuff is up to the coaches."
On what happened on the eight pre-snap penalties in Pittsburgh: "It was a few little mental mistakes. Whether it was the defensive line shifting and calling out the shift, when you're ready to go, you're all tensed up, you're ready to come off the ball, sometimes it gets you every now and then. So, we just have to clean things up this week in practice, and we'll get back after it."
On his shin laceration: "It was just a little boo-boo. It's fine. I missed one snap with it, so it's not too bad."
On if a cleat caused his shin laceration: "Yes, it was a cleat. It was probably my best work, for sure." (laughter)
On how the offensive line responds to an increased pressure from the defense: "You just have to watch film. You have to learn how to pick up their blitzes. You have to be able to identity who they like to use, the rotations they like to do and kind of what their tendencies are. A lot of teams throw a lot of new things at you on gameday, so you have to make those adjustments and then make it work."
On if he's seen a shift in QB Lamar Jackson after his performances the past few weeks: "No, Lamar [Jackson] continues to strive for greatness – that's who Lamar is. He's a competitor. He's a ballplayer. He's one of the best quarterbacks in the league, in my opinion. Regardless of how he's playing, whatever it may be, that guy is going to continue to work. He's going to continue to come out here and practice, get right and be ready to play. So, I have no doubts in our quarterback."
CB Anthony Averett
On how tough it is to see CB Marlon Humphrey go down: "Oh, very tough. I mean, it's another soldier, just like Marcus [Peters] early in the season. But we've got to continue to move forward. And you can't replace a guy like that, but we've just got to continue to move forward, and we've got guys … Next-man mentality. You've got other guys out there that can step up."
On if the amount of injuries sustained ever comes up as a topic of conversation: "I think it's been a topic since Day One, really, especially with me. Even I am coming up … I feel like I'm like … Me, Chuck [Clark], 'Tay' [Tavon Young]; we're the only ones – Jimmy [Smith] – that were out there since the beginning. So, we've got these new faces. We've got Chris [Westry], Mazzi [Wilkins], other guys, Kevon [Seymour] – other guys that can step up and play."
On what this season has been like for him: "This season has been a little bit of everything. We're winning, and we're winning in different ways. We're winning close games. We've got a couple blowouts there, but close games, and pretty much a little bit of everything."
On beginning this season in a back-up role and now being an every-down cornerback: "Yes, it is different. I definitely sat down, noticed it last night. Yes, it's like, nobody left from the beginning stages, but we've just got to continue to move forward. Nobody cares. Nobody thought we were going to be in this position – No. 1 in the AFC North – anyway. So, we've just got to continue to move forward."
On how he's approaching his new role this week: "I'm ready for it. I'm here preparing for it. I've been here. I'm confident. My coaches, they definitely prepare for it, [and] they prepare us for it. So, I'm ready for it."
On what he's seen from CB Chris Westry: "Oh, he definitely can play. He's long, tall. Definitely, he gets his hands on, you're definitely at his mercy. He definitely can play, so I'm excited to see his opportunity."
On the emphasis on communication, given all the injuries: "The communication, everything, has just got to improve. Definitely, [it's] got to improve from last game [and] all the other games. It's got to improve even more now. We've got new faces out there, so Chuck [Clark], everybody, 'B-Steve' [Brandon Stephens], everybody, we're all going to have to just pretty much improve on the communication part."
On the communication issue on WR Diontae Johnson's first TD reception last week: "Yes, well, pretty much everybody was playing one thing except me, and I was the far corner, [and] I didn't get the communication. I didn't get the play – the second check on that – and that was all me on that."
On if he feels like teams are going to test the secondary now, given all the injuries: "Yes, I'm pretty sure that's going to happen. I feel like that's the only thing they are pretty much going to try to do – try to run the ball, too, as well. But I think our coaches … We're all going to be prepared for it. We know what's coming, so we definitely will prepare for it, and our coaches … We're just going to communicate, practice and do what we do – what we've been doing."
On how the secondary has handled not being able to force turnovers: "I think it just starts in practice. I think we're just going to do a little bit more with practice – just getting the hands on the ball, strip the ball out a little bit more, JUGS. [There are] things to do and extra things, so we can start making the extra plays and [creating] more turnovers."
On what he expects from QB Baker Mayfield, now that he's seen him a few times over the course of his career: "I don't really know what to really expect, but I know they're going to try to establish the run game like they did last game and probably some of those games. I know they're coming off the Bye Week, so I know a lot of those guys are going to be back healthy. So, we'll see what they'll do."
On how the team has handled the adversity of all the injuries and not taken up a "woe is me" mentality: "I think that pretty much just goes back to Coach [John] Harbaugh. He's the main man. He keeps our mind right, so we pretty much just let him take the lead. It's just coaching. It's not really all about us, sometimes, too; it's the coaching, too, that prepares us for these types of things. So, everybody has just got to be ready for the opportunity for the new faces that come on the field."
On what defensive coordinator Don Martindale would say in a team meeting knowing that CB Marlon Humphrey is out for the rest of the season: "Well, just pretty much the 'Next-man-up' mentality, but you know you definitely can't replace a guy like Marlon [Humphrey]. Marlon is definitely … You know what type of player that he is when he comes on the field. [He's] definitely a 'mojo' guy for sure. But we've just got to keep playing – 'Next-man-up' mentality – and nobody cares, really. You've just got to keep going."
On how knowing he's going to be tested affects his approach: "Just preparing for it. I don't think we change anything differently; we just play a little bit different. But I don't think we change too much of anything."
On his thoughts of the scheduling and being the Browns' opponent in consecutive games for them, with their Bye Week in the middle: "I know, the schedule is a little different this year. Yes, [it's] definitely new to me. We're about to play another team we just played two weeks ago. So, it's going to be new. And they just played us, and I know they're going to be like, 'Yes, we just played these guys.' But hey, we can't control it. We're just going to go out there in Cleveland, and hopefully, we get a 'W.'"
On if the scheduling provides the Browns an advantage: "I guess they have a little advantage – just being healthy, but nobody cares. It's the AFC North, so we've just got to continue to play hard."
On how focusing on stopping the run affects his job at defensive back: "Definitely, we have to have discipline on your eyes – for sure. The run, play-action. That play-action, they could get you going deep. If you bite down on that run too much, they can get you with a deep ball. So, you definitely … Eyes, eye discipline."
On if he feels a heightened sense to speak up a little bit more, given the new role he finds himself in: "Oh, yes, definitely. I definitely feel like I have to speak up a little bit more – for sure. I mean, right now, we don't have … We don't have the same amount of people out there like how we did before. New faces have got to step up, and [I've] definitely got to take on that role a little bit more."
On if everybody has to be more prepared to be flexible and move around, given the injuries the defense has faced: "Yes, everybody is pretty much going to be playing everything. 'B-Steve' [Brandon Stephens] may be playing corner or nickel, whatever. All replaceable parts – that's how we're pretty much going to do it from now on."