Opening statement:"[I have] just a couple of things: We had, obviously, a great win Thursday night in our stadium against our rival [Pittsburgh]. It was a great effort by our team. [We] came and watched the tape, spent the whole day studying it on Friday with our team and also working on lifting and conditioning and things like that. The guys did a great job. Then we had off Saturday, Sunday [and] Monday for the players to regroup a little bit. It was a tough stretch in there getting ready for two games in four days, and our guys handled it tremendously well. We came out of it 1-1. We would have liked to have been [2-0], but we fought and we were able to pull out the win and play really well, really, for three quarters. We're happy with that part of it, but now we find ourselves facing the next challenge, which is a very good Cleveland team. Hey, we may be in the best division in football, if you watch the way the season started. We're not surprised by that, and we're not at all surprised by the challenge that faces us. The stadium is going to be rocking – I'm sure – in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame capital. I'm sure they will be fired up and ready to go, but so will we, and we're looking forward to the challenge."
We're two games in now. How would you evaluate your initial reviews of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak's scheme? (Joe Platania) "I would say we're 1-1, and we need to be 2-1. And that includes our offensive scheme, our defensive scheme and our special teams scheme. We're not really in the evaluation mode right now. We're in the getting better mode, being as good as we can be in all three phases. We have plenty of things to work on and get better. We're playing well in a lot of different ways, for the most part. We're not making a lot of mistakes. We're not committing a lot of penalties. We are playing with very good discipline. We're playing with good technique, overall. But, we still should just be scratching the surface in what we are trying to accomplish. We need to get a lot better, and we need to do it quickly in order to be the kind of team we want to be, really, in all three phases."
How is CB/RS Asa Jackson coming along? Is he doing well with the concussion protocol? (Aaron Wilson)"We're going to have this conversation every week, but I'm just not going to get into injuries, because there is just no strategic advantage for us in doing it and putting that information out there. I can tell you tomorrow there will be an injury report, and you'll see the practice report and see if he practices or not and all that [on] Wednesday, whenever that comes out. We are practicing tomorrow, so you'll know more tomorrow. I'm really optimistic about all our guys – I will say that, with him included – but I've been optimistic in the past and guys haven't played. We'll keep our fingers crossed."
**Is there anything more you can add regarding CB/RS Lardarius Webb, without getting into specifics? *(Jerry Coleman) *"[It's the] same answer. Same answer."
John, not to talk about CB/RS Lardarius Webb's injury, but because he didn't really participate in training camp, does he almost have to have a training camp within itself to be where you need him to be? (Jamison Hensley)"Same answer. He's been doing everything he can do to get back every week. He's been practicing. As you know, he's been full participation."
Right, that's why I didn't know if that was his personal training camp, because he wasn't able to participate. (Jamison Hensley)"No, you can describe it that way if you want, [but] I wouldn't. I wouldn't describe it that way."
John, is this a nice timing for the three days off – you sort of got away from the whole uproar of everything else – you and the players got away from what was going on, all the media that was here for a certain reason? (David Ginsburg) "Like I said after the game, I think it's really a good point to remember that we don't get caught up in the swirl as much as you think. The media is always here, and I thought our guys did a great job of handling the situation that came up. I understand what you're saying. I'm not trying to downplay it. But our guys also understood … They were able to compartmentalize the fact that they had to address a situation that was going on that's a deep-seeded deal. It has ramifications beyond sports. It's a bigger issue than sports. It's a societal issue. It's a problem that is all across society, not just in our country, and it's something that needs to be addressed. And historically, sports have been a catalyst for change, for positive change, especially in this country over the years, and that's a good thing. So, if good can come out of that in some way and our players and our organization can be a part of that somehow, I would really embrace that. I really hope we can do that. So, that part of it is important and it was very important and it was part of what we went through. And I thought our guys handled it great, but they also did a great job of preparing for the football game. Stepping away from [the situation], I'm sure [the players] watched TV. It was pretty much the topic of conversation all through the weekend; it's going to continue to be. So, I guess where I'm leading to – because I'm thinking this through as I'm answering the question – is, we're probably not going to get away from it and probably rightly so. Not just us, the league [too]. And hopefully it impacts society in a good way going forward."
John, with the investigation beginning, do you think that will take much time in terms of people coming here, you having time to set aside, time to meet with Robert Mueller and his other staffers? (Aaron Wilson) "I know nothing about that. That's not something that anybody has given me any kind of schedule or timetable on. I have absolutely no idea how that's going to unwind."
In terms of the Browns, Mike Pettine used to work here for a long time. He worked his way up the ladder, was a video guy at one time. Your thoughts on him and his progression as a coach and what he's doing with the Browns? (Aaron Wilson) "Mike [Pettine] is a friend. His family still lives here in Baltimore. Our daughters play lacrosse against one another and with one another. So, [it's a] great relationships there, great memories there. Obviously, he has done very well since he left here as a defensive coordinator, and now he's off to the very good start as a head coach. [We have] lot of respect for him and the way he coaches. Obviously, he causes a lot of problems on defense. He walked into a good situation – he knows that – with the defensive personnel they added to [the Browns] since he has been there, and he's put his scheme in place, which is kind of a trademark scheme that he runs."
The Browns broke out QB [Johnny] Manziel for a few plays yesterday. Do you anticipate them setting you up for something like that? (Jerry Coleman) "Absolutely. We anticipate seeing [Johnny] Manziel, certainly. Brian Hoyer played really well. Brian Hoyer had the go-ahead drive at the end to win the game. [Hoyer] played well throughout the whole game. I think he's proving himself as a … How many games has he won there? Pretty much all of them since he has been the starter as the Cleveland quarterback. So, he's the best quarterback they've had in a number of years. He's playing great. Then they have Johnny Manziel, also, as part of their arsenal. So, it's something to contend with for sure, both those guys."
You got to know RB Terrance West a little bit leading up the draft. Your thoughts on him and what you would expect from him, your evaluation of how he has played? (Aaron Wilson) "Terrance [West] is a guy that we really liked, as you know. We had designs on him in the draft, certainly, and Cleveland jumped up there and got him and he has not disappointed. He has played really downhill. [He is a] hard runner, make-you-miss type back [who] understands the scheme they're running really well. They have two rookie running backs who are playing extremely well. [Isaiah] Crowell is doing a great job, too. [He is] another guy we liked on tape. So, they have some young, strong backs in there. They're doing a nice job."
**It seems like [the Browns] are really not making mistakes. I don't think they've turned the ball over in two games. Is that a major improvement you've seen with them, ball security and not making some mistakes that they've made in the past? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"There's no comparing them to the past. It doesn't matter. You know that. Really, the question is what we're facing now this week. And [the Browns] are playing mistake-free football. So, to that point [and] to me, that's why they're 1-1. It could easily be 2-0. They have not turned the ball over. They have played solid defense, having [not] given up really any big plays or too many big plays since the first half of the first game. And that's why they're playing so well."
John, looking at the film – I know you talked about the running game a little bit after the Steelers game – having dissected the film, did RB Bernard [Pierce] and RB Justin [Forsett] play well? (David Ginsburg) "They did play well. I thought that they ran hard. They protected the football, didn't miss many reads at all. Both offensive lines played pretty well, too, in front of them. If you want to run the ball, your backs and your offensive line have both got to play well together, and those guys all did a good job."
John, there haven't been many penalties during the first two games. How much do you think that has helped? I know every year you focus on limiting penalties, but was that also an emphasis again this year as well? (Jamison Hensley) "It's always been an emphasis. Our guys have done a great job this year so far throughout training camp of really trying to understand the way that the game is going to be called, and that's an ongoing process. We're still learning that. I'm still watching different [officiating] crews call different games, and trying to figure out how exactly some of the stuff is going to be called. [The officials] would tell you they're trying to figure it out, too, so that's an ongoing process. To me, [what] we're trying to coach our guys to do is just stay out of all that business. We know that other teams are going to get away with stuff that we're not going to understand. There's going to be holding and illegal contact and offensive pass interference that we're not going to understand why it didn't get called, maybe, in terms of who we're playing against. But we can't concern ourselves with that. We need to concern ourselves with what we're doing. If we play within the rules, if we play good, clean football, then we're not going to get called, and we want to be that kind of a team because it doesn't really enhance – especially your defense – if you're giving up yards and first downs on penalties."
Were you able to look at OLB Courtney Upshaw's hit on Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger? Any thoughts on that? (Jamison Hensley) "I have a lot of thoughts on it, but I can't share [them] with you for policy reasons. I'll tell you this, though: I had a good conversation with Dean [Blandino], and it's difficult [to assess], because the way the rules are written is one thing; what's possible to accomplish is another thing. There's no way to coach Courtney out of that. He's coming full speed, he's getting down into the strike zone, and he's keeping his eyes up. He can't lift his head any higher than that. He also can't get his head off to the side, because Ben's moving, and also the fact that if he gets his head off to the side, he has a real good chance of missing the tackle or hurting himself by dropping his head. We're never going to put our player in position to coach him to drop his head. Football has always been about seeing what you hit – heads-up football keeping your eyes up. That's the name ['Heads Up'] of the youth football organization program that we have in the NFL right now. We'll continue to coach them to do that. We'll try our best to keep our helmet off the body, but when you see what you hit, you have your face and your eyes up. That's a safe technique for a player. We're going to start with safety first."
John, we saw quite a bit of S Matt Elam at the nickel and S Jeromy Miles to begin to play safety. Why did you think that was a good fit – that alignment – and how do you think it went against Pittsburgh on Thursday? (Luke Jones) "We [had] a number of tactical reasons for doing that. We were able to do it because Matt Elam can do it. He's done a great job of learning how to play in the slot, and that's not an easy thing to do, especially for a safety. He's done a good job of that. That gives us some versatility in there. We can play a corner in there or we can play a safety in there. Terrence Brooks has played in there, too, so he's a guy who can go in. Plus it gets Jeromy Miles on the field and eventually gets Brynden Trawick on the field. We have a lot of good safeties. We're blessed with safety depth, so it's not a bad thing to get those guys on the field. But a guy like Matt being in there playing in there gives you a nice little run-nickel package, because he'll fly around and hit you and tackle you. He'll be the first to tell you he tackled better in the second half than he did the first half. But he's a good tackler. He keeps his feet on the ground, keeps his eyes up and runs through tackles. He'll make those tackles. He has to continue to work on that, which he did in the second half. It builds our defensive package in good ways, because now you have a guy in there playing that can really defend the run, too."
This is the first road game of the year. What kind of challenge does that present in going on the road for the first time? (Garrett Downing) "It's always a challenge to play in this league on the road. That's pretty much proven by stats and numbers and all that, [and] made even more difficult by the fact that we have to go to Cleveland. Their crowd is going to be really into it. It's a tough stadium – it's a real loud stadium. It's really on top of you, the way it's built. We're going to have to be at our best. We're going to have to do a good job of dealing with emotions of the game early; dealing with the emotions of their fans and their team early. We're going to have to execute, and we're going to have to do a great job of ignoring the noise, so to speak, and getting the job done, especially early in the game."
Coach, the other night you said that Jimmy Smith has a chance to be, I think you used the word, "legendary," if not, "great?" (Jerry Coleman)"No, I didn't use that [word]. Do you guys remember what I said?" (Reporter: "He has a chance to make history.") "That's right." (Coleman: "I apologize. What did you mean by that?") "That's written by the way. There's a quote; they write those quotes and they record those. So as you prepare for your press conference, you can go take a look at those anytime you want and you'll know exactly what was said." (laughter) (Reporter: "I'll go back and look at the transcript.")
Can you expand on what you meant by that statement? (Jerry Coleman)"I think [Jimmy Smith] has a chance to be a great corner in this league. I think you would agree that being 'great' at something – journalism or football – is something that's worth chasing, right? And if you do something really great, you make history, and I think he has a chance to do that. I really do. I've always felt that way about him; I think he has a chance to be special at the position. What that means – Pro Bowls, Hall of Fame, all that stuff – that's to be determined. I'm not predicting anything. But I'm in his corner, and I'm going to do everything I can to help him get there. I'd love to see him achieve that. Just like I'd love to see you achieve that, Jerry." (laughter) (Reporter: "Since it's written down now …") (laughter)
John, as far as Steve Smith, Sr., is he kind of the perfect example of not needing to be a 6-4 wide receiver to break tackles and create yards after the catch? (Jamison Hensley)"I didn't know that you had to be that. It's never anything that was established anywhere I've ever seen. I didn't need that example, to be honest with you. But I think he is a heck of a wide receiver, always has been. If anybody doubts him, just ask him. He'll tell you. But he doesn't just tell you by speaking, he tells you by his play, and he's been doing it for a long time. I'm proud of him, and I'm proud of what he's done coming in here. We're just beginning. There's a lot of football to be played, a lot of challenges in front of us, and he works hard every day."
Do you have any sense of what the drug policy may mean for Will Hill's status? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I have no sense of that at all. No one has spoken to me about that, and I don't know a thing about that right now. I'm interested in it though."
John, is it difficult when a team turns over like Cleveland to not have enough tape with guys like Terrance West in there – to not have enough tape of them to see what you're going up against? (Bill West)"With young players you just have what you have on guys, and they are what they've done so far. I guess it's difficult in a sense. We've seen some of their players a lot and we know them really well. We know their left tackle [Joe Thomas] really well, we know their center [Alex Mack] really well and others. Look at Ben Roethlisberger for instance – I don't think we have to watch any tape of him to prepare for him sometimes. You watch what they've done, because there might be a wrinkle thrown in there, but you're always going to have more information on a more veteran player. A young guy – not as much. But from what we've seen on tape so far, they're good, and we know we have our hands full."