THURSDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: WEEK 5 at cleveland
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
K Justin Tucker won the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month. Obviously, you've talked a lot about his success. What does it mean to be recognized with another award like that for him? (Garrett Downing)"I'm really happy for him. I'm happy for the operation. I'm happy for our protection. I'm happy for our team. Our field goal unit has been operating at a high level and we've been [performing well]. This last game was an example. In the second half, we made four strong field goals. The most important thing is, help us win, and that's what our field goal team is doing.I'm very happy for Justin, too. His talents are pretty well-known by this point, and that recognition is something we value. We're happy about it."
Generally speaking, where is the tougher place to kick: Heinz Field in Pittsburgh or Cleveland? _(Ryan Mink) _"It depends on the field. Sometimes, the fields in either place, or in any stadium for that matter that has natural grass, it just depends what happens the week before. [You] see how the fields are, because for the kickers, a lot of it is about getting a good plant foot. The winds can be variable in Cleveland, they can be variable in Pittsburgh, and they can be variable in our home stadium. It just depends on that particular day. I guess I wouldn't describe one as being more difficult than the other. Cleveland has changed a little bit, because they remodeled their stadium. It doesn't seem to swirl quite as much as it did back in the day, so it just kind of depends on the day."
If you have a stadium with an open end and a closed end, is the open end usually harder to kick toward? (Childs Walker)"That's been the case in Pittsburgh. It's not quite as significant now, I don't think. They've built it up a little over there, but we had a beautiful day on Sunday when we were there, so it really didn't make any different either direction. The weather was so nice. We're thankful for that when we're kicking field goals."
Is there an advantage to getting all of your AFC North road games – as far as kicking – done pretty much by Week 5? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, this is pretty unusual. This is great. I don't remember this happening previously. Perhaps it has, and I just don't recall, but yes, this is awesome. We're excited about playing at home down the stretch. We just have to keep stacking games and play well and win games wherever you win them. That's obviously what we're trying to do."
Defensive Coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale
Opening statement: "Alright, [it's] Thursday. Seems like that [Steelers] game was a month ago now – already on Thursday. Well, we were really pleased with the way we played. I was really pleased with how we executed. The entire game we were focused, taking one play at a time. Obviously, of course, the resiliency of the players, the focus of taking it one play at a time is when you have a lot of success like that. Like I've told you before, there are always these series of events of what happens and how you play. Obviously, we were locked in and loaded. With that, I'll leave it for questions."
Are you more apt to think a little differently when facing a rooking quarterback than facing an experienced quarterback? (Jamison Hensley)"I think – and I already told the defense this – I think Baker Mayfield is this generation's Brett Favre or John Elway, if you will. This guy knows where he wants to go with the ball, and he's very accurate, has a quick release. He's really playing well. Obviously, he's playing well because they scored 42 points last week against Oakland, and they are the Top 5 of scoring offense. So, I think he's done a nice job filling in, and it seems like they have more rhythm with him as a rookie, every play he's in there."
Have the Browns become harder to game-plan for with the talent they've added? (Childs Walker) _"Without a doubt. We've watched … I was [kidding] a couple of guys last night [that] we've watched so much Cleveland film, I think Ozzie [Newsome] has been in a couple of them. _(laughter)We all know Hue [Jackson], obviously know Todd [Haley] – that combination – and you see a combination of both. They're doing a really nice job offensively, and they have some weapons, like you said."
Do you see your team having three outside corners and CB Tavon Young, or CB Brandon Carr could play in the slot? How does that change with the return of CB Jimmy Smith?_ (Bo Smolka)_ "I see our team with a lot of talented defensive backs and very versatile defensive backs we can put anywhere we think fits for that game. I don't look at it as inside/outside guys. Every game you have a different scheme that you want to do to take away something that they do very, very well. So, you use them. We've talked since training camp about depth."
How did CB Jimmy Smith look yesterday? (Bo Smolka) "I thought he looked fine. He looked fine to me. He's really excited. I was happy that he wasn't really sore after practicing football again. He's been working out, obviously, when you look at him. I was happy that he wasn't sore after practicing football, because it's different. It's different than working out."
How creative does he let you be, adding in a player of that caliber, to a defense that's already playing really well? (Pete Gilbert)"I guess we're going to have to find that out. It is exciting, like I said, because you have more depth and you can do different things with it."
With CB Brandon Carr's streak of consecutive starts, is that something that you think about at all as a coach about how to handle? It can be a pride issue for a guy who has started for that long._ (Ryan Mink)_ "Sure. I am not going to be the answer to that trivia question. I'm just telling you that right now. 'Who stopped his streak?' I'm not going to be the answer to that. There will always be a way that he'll run out there, and he is such a pro that if he can't go because of an injury or whatever – it's not like I have to do this because of the streak, because he doesn't want to let his teammates down. Brandon doesn't. Obviously, you saw the way he played against Pittsburgh was phenomenal. He stepped up big for us – as well as the whole secondary. It was awesome."
Does having so much success with the three outside corners over the past four weeks give you more confidence that you can rotate and maximize the production? (Luke Jones) "I mean, it does, but that's been across the line with the entire defense. I think that's one of the reasons we were so fresh in Pittsburgh is because of the way we rotated and kept sending waves at them of different guys and different personnel."
Do you have a preference, is terms of calling the plays, whether ILB C.J. Mosley or S Eric Weddle is wearing the headset? Are the two different?_ (Aaron Kasinitz) _"No, we really … It worked out well last Sunday night because Eric didn't have to say as much. He basically gave C.J. the call, then Eric's talking to the secondary and C.J.'s talking to the front. We really haven't decided how we're going to do it. I know that John [Harbaugh] said in his press conference that we didn't know how long C.J. was going to last with that knee. It's really not 100 percent yet, so I don't know yet which way we're going to go with that."
When you bring up names like Favre and Elway about a quarterback [Baker Mayfield] who has played a game-and-a-half, is that comparison for the play speed and play-making ability, or what? (Tom Pelissero) "Yes, and his confidence. Obviously, you're talking about two Hall of Famers when you say that. But the kid's confidence and swag – if you will, nowadays, right? When he comes out there, he thinks he's standing on top of a mountain, and he's making plays to show that he's standing on top of the mountain. He can throw the ball in tight windows, and he's not afraid to do it. That's the biggest thing that I see on the kid."
I know you don't want to talk about the no touchdowns in the second half, but has this group been unusually good at adjusting in-game? (Childs Walker) "In-game, it's been really good because of how we streamline the package. Like I said, the second-half-thing, it's like a no-hitter. You don't want to talk about it. But I will tell you this: John [Harbaugh] has done such a great job of challenging us to get better every day as a coach and studying different things. One of the things that helps us at halftime [is that] we did a study on Steve Kerr and the Warriors, because they have short halftimes. We only have 12 minutes, right, at halftime. So, it really has to be like an Indy pit crew in there, if you will. If you see the thing – the players are going to the bathroom, we have to get them back, some of them are in the training room getting something fixed or something taped or something else. So, it has to be a bang-bang thing. The assistants do a great job. I'll address them first and talk about three bullet points, and every assistant has their role, how they do their position and everything else. It's worked really well. I give all credit to 'Harbs' [Harbaugh], because he always challenging us and pushing us to get better on every aspect of the game."
What's the process of doing that kind of a study? Did you reach out to them? (Garrett Downing) _"Yes, we did that and did a lot of reading on it, because there's a lot of books out there on him because they've won a few championships and his background with [Gregg] Popovich and obviously Phil Jackson, so he's come from that background. I think as a coach, if you're not getting better – it's not very good. I give a lot of credit to that – on how we studied and how we looked at it and how we discussed it as a group." _(Reporter: "The study wasn't this specifically on how you handle halftime?")"Right, we're talking about in the offseason now, too, as we're building our package and everything else. We broke down every segment of the game, which goes back to situational football. Halftime is part of situational football."
How much are you looking forward to getting DT Willie Henry into that rotation? (Luke Jones) "We're excited about it. We're not going to push it – we'll see. I think that's a gametime decision as well."
Just to follow up on the Warriors' study, did you talk to anybody in the organization?_ (Aaron Kasinitz)_"I did not personally. I wish I knew [Steve Kerr]. But I did not personally, no."
Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg
Opening statement:"Let's wrap up the last ball game really quick. Heck of a team win – man alive! Joe [Flacco] played really well. The line and skill guys doing their jobs enabled Joe to play well. There was no question the line did a heck of a job. The backs and tight ends [were] all responsible for many things along with the line, even the receivers to some extent. Skill guys made some plays. Then, the defense played a heck of a ball game, especially down the stretch in that second half. And then, special teams, always very good. Now, let's move to the Cleveland game. [We played on] Sunday night, almost feels like a short week because of that, so the preparation will be key. We're in the middle of a three-game road stretch, so the guys are in there preparing hard. We have to get the hard work on the field. You saw there were several players that didn't practice yesterday, so we have to get [them ready]. Today is a big day for us; I'll just say it that way. Cleveland's defense, certainly on film, appears much better than their numbers. I believe they're 11th in yards-per-play, so we're going into Cleveland facing a very good defense – very good scheme. Some excellent players, and a couple special-type of players, and then they lead the league in takeaways and turnover ratio, I believe. I believe it's both. In any event, they've done a great job this year of taking that ball away, so the ball security will be one of the keys for the game."
Have you ever had this diverse of an offense? You see 11 guys catching passes, you're bringing new guys in all the time, WR/RS Tim White, RB De'Lance Turner, in critical situations. I can't recall an offense that relied on so many different people to make big plays. (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, that was a little unique. Sometimes you get that in the preseason, where you have a lot of guys. You're playing a lot of guys. I'll tell you this, it's a tribute to those players – very well-prepared, both of those men that you spoke about, very well-prepared – and their coaches. Great, great assistant coaches here at every position across the board. [They've] done a heck of a job preparing guys, and then the guys, they take it to heart. 'Prepare like you're a starter.' And then, we're unafraid to play any of our players at any point. [We have] great trust in the players' capabilities, and we're deep. We have a little bit more depth than we've had, certainly, in the past couple years." (Reporter: "Have you ever had one with this many guys that you could go to?") "I've been on some great teams, as you know. I'd have to think about that, but good teams typically have some, quite a little bit of depth, and they stay healthy."
The skill guys that you added in the offseason, have they opened it up for you in terms of the possibilities when you're designing the offense? (Childs Walker)"Oh yes, sure. And when they work, it's pretty good, too. They have to work to … We have some really creative offensive assistant coaches. They're all a part of that thing, yes."
Was the TE Maxx Williams play, where he's off the line, was that your play? (Bo Smolka) "I will tell you, it's been so long, I had to ask. I believe that John [Harbaugh] mentioned that one offseason: 'Hey, can we put a skill guy in there?' Because backs and tight ends, they're up there for protection. And then, [offensive assistant/tight ends coach] Andy Bischoff said, 'Sure, we can do anything.' And Andy took it and studied it, and we made so many adjustments to it, and we practiced it quite a little bit. The first few times, it wasn't very good, and then all of the sudden, when we got things ironed out just a little bit, then our defense knew it every time. So, some of these plays are way better in games than they are in practice, and I think our players understand a little bit of that."
QB Joe Flacco expressed some regret Sunday night and even yesterday about how you guys played well offensively, but you left some opportunities out there. Does that just speak to an attitude you like seeing from your quarterback, that, "Hey, we're playing well, but it could be better." (Luke Jones)"You saw the game. He's right! There's more out there for the fellas, and so you chase the perfection. You chase it, you chase it. It's a game of imperfections, so you keep chasing it. That's the mentality that we have, and it's a good mentality that way, where there's always more out there for you."
You referenced some of the "special players" on Cleveland's defense. Has DL Myles Garrett sort of quickly become a guy that you have to worry about on every snap?_ (Childs Walker)_"Yes, he's one of those 'special players,' absolutely, and we've faced a few of them. He's a heck of a player – very special. And all the ability that he has, he uses it very well, and they use him very well."
You mention ball security being so important. RB Alex Collins has lost two fumbles, of course the one at the goal line. To what extent does that change the workload for him versus the other running backs? And how does it get fixed? _(Bo Smolka) _"You get what you emphasize, and [running backs coach] Thomas [Hammock] is one of the very best at teaching ball security. I'm just telling you, he's great at it. You get what you emphasize, so we'll re-emphasize it. It's emphasized daily at all positions. I know this: Alex will get it fixed. He's had two in four games. He'll get it fixed. There's no question about it. In fact, I was thinking, 'I need to get the ball to him quickly after that,' and that's … I wanted to do that and was unable, because there were a couple plays I wanted to get to right after that. But heck, [I say] 'Let's go!' after something like that. We discussed it. I told the fellas, 'If something crazy happens, that should be once in a blue moon, when something like that happens. Recover, and recover fast! And overcome it.' So, I was proud of the guys for that. I didn't think we overcame it quite quick enough. We had too many balls on the ground. We had some drops. We have to get that fixed, as well. Overcome it. Something like that happens, let's overcome it, overcome it quickly, get the momentum back."
It looked like QB Lamar Jackson had a big play in front of him before the Steelers called timeout there. Do you get the sense that one of these plays is close to breaking off for a big one? (Garrett Downing)"We'll see, and we've talked about it before: Every game is going to be different for how much he plays, what type of plays that are in the plan for him week by week. But yes, man alive, I thought we were in pretty good shape there on that one, and they did the smart thing. And then, [we were] reasonably productive with Lamar [in that game]. We'll keep it coming. He'll be fine."
CB Jimmy Smith
On how it feels to be back:"Amazing, simply amazing. I missed it. I missed being around the guys, talking, being around football. It's my life."
On what he spent the last four weeks doing:"The first week, I had an engagement party with my fiancée, and second week we found out we're having another baby – so we were pretty excited about that. The rest of the time I just trained, relaxed, watched TV. I went to a couple of college football games, some high school football games, spent time with the family."
On what it's like to be away for a month and watch the games from afar:"You guys all know, I've done this different ways. It's extremely hard. This one was a little bit different in the sense that I'm a lot older now. You get time to recalibrate, personally, and everything. You think about life. This time it gave me the opportunity to sit down and just get that love back, get my body back, get my mind and my personal life in order. It was a good time for that purpose."
On if he came out with a different mindset:"Work? Yes. I actually got with my own – I'm not going to say 'Alex Guerrero' – but something like that. (laughter) I'm not him, I'm not him. Not that I have any problem with him – I don't know anything about him – but what I'm saying is that I went and tried to further my body and take a new approach to my health holistically, got a new nutrition guy and strength and all that. He's out in Dallas, so I went out there and trained with him. I think it's a great step forward in the way I want to go."
On if there was relief that the team had success without him on the field: "I knew they could. They're ballers. We have a good defense. Our offense is what I was keying on the most, obviously. It's great to see them out there gelling, making plays. I'm extremely proud we're 3-1 right now going into the second quarter of the season. I couldn't be any more happy, especially for the guys and the corners."
On if he felt like he hasn't skipped a beat or if there's an acclamation period:"You're going to have to get back. There's only one way to get in football shape, and that's playing football. I can come out here and run 1,000 gassers, but until I get out there and cover somebody, that's when you really get back into the groove of things."
On how important the rest of the season is with his contract looming: "I'm just focused on the Browns. I can't control the contract stuff. There are all kinds of things thrown around. My focus is the Browns and getting back and trying to help the team out as much as I can."
On if the successful rotation of corners last year gives him confidence for a rotation this year:"Absolutely, no question. We have legit talent at cornerback. To be able to have four guys out there that can cover, we can create stuff. I'm sure that's a great problem to have upstairs. We talk about it in our own room, but it's just a blessing to have."
On if he can explain the reasoning for his suspension: "I respect you asking that question, and I know it's your job, but I'm not legally allowed to talk about it."
On his emotions when he received the suspension: "I was devasted, for the simple fact that I [would] be missing games. It sucks to miss games. I felt like I let my team down. That part, it hurt, yes."
On what the organization's support has meant to him:"It's huge. It's my family – really my only family on the East Coast. When you come here, and people welcome you back, hugs and, 'How you've been?' it does a lot for people inside (points to his chest), personally."
On what time he arrived at the facility Monday: "I waited. I was up at 6 [a.m.] and I was like, 'Eh, they had a late game. They're probably not going to be in early. They're probably not going to open until 7.' So I got there at 8." (laughter)
S Eric Weddle
On his impressions of QB Baker Mayfield:"He's a good quarterback, makes good decisions, has a live arm, moves around the pocket well, extends plays, came in against the Jets in a tough situation and played well. They put up some points. They have talented players, and we have to be on our game against their whole offense. They have weapons. They have a great group of running backs, talented running backs, talented wide receivers, great O-line, so we have our hands full this week."
On if he's noticed any difference in halftime structure after the team studying the Warriors:"I never heard anything about that, studying halftime from an NBA game. (laughter) It will be interesting to see what they found out. For us, it's about making adjustments and just relying on the communication. 'Wink' [Martindale] has been, from Day One, open about communication, what he expects, and honest with us. If we're not playing well, if a guy is not in the rotation, you know why, and it's everyone, including me. And that's why, I think, we've been playing well. We play as one. There are no egos. Halftime comes, we know how teams are impacting us, and we try to make adjustments from there. He's done an amazing job of just putting us in position, putting guys in position to do what they're good at, and executing the call. It's pretty crazy to think … We haven't talked about it at all, quite honestly, the way we've played in the second half, so I just think it's been game-by-game, series-by-series, play-by-play, the focus that we try to play with. And, we've been successful in the second half, so we just want to carry that over to the entire game."
On if the Browns are more talented than in previous years:"They've always had talent, and they've always played us really tough, whether it's at our place or at Cleveland. I think of all the close games we've had over the last couple years, and Cleveland comes to mind every time, whether it's last-minute wins or a dogfight and we pull away in the second half or the fourth quarter. But listen, they've built a team that has talent in a lot of areas. You look at their defense, the additions they've made and the young guys stepping up. We've never looked at them like the same Cleveland Browns, but even more so this year, you could easily look at their record and they could be 3-1 or 4-0, and they play some tough teams. It's a division game on the road. It's a heated rival. We have to go out and play great to try to get a win."
On if there's an emphasis on stopping the run when playing a rookie quarterback:"If you make any quarterback throw 40 times, you have a good shot at winning. This team has become a true rushing team in the league, and they've had success against us in the past in certain runs, teamed-up runs. When you have a great group of running backs, I'd want to get them the ball as well. And, it makes the quarterback's job easier when you're playing second-and-5, -third-and 2, third-and-3 all game. It makes the job easier for the quarterback. We play great run defense, and we have to play great run defense, so it's nothing new for us. But, it does present some challenges of what they do on offense, because they're so good with the run."
On if he sees relief and appreciation to be back from CB Jimmy Smith: "I think he knows where he's at in his career, and the history of what has happened over here in the last six to 10 years with certain incidents, and it could have easily been the other way. But the organization stood behind him. Obviously, us as players, we know Jimmy, and we know what he went through, and we know what it means to him. As you get older, you appreciate certain little things: It's the relationships, it's your teammates, it's the things that impact you, and I think he's come with a different appreciation to what this game has and got to it and came in ready to step in. He had a great practice yesterday. Just having him back – his smile, his energy and having a great player – is great for our defense."
On if the depth at cornerback is a topic among the team:"To add another great player to go cover wideouts is always a great problem to have, like 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] said. Brandon [Carr] is playing great, 'Tay' [Tavon Young] is playing great, obviously Marlon [Humphrey] is playing at a high level. However they figure out who's playing and who's starting, I know Brandon is going to be out there starting the games. We're not going to be the team or the defensive coordinator to not have Brandon out there for the amazing career and streak he has, and he's earned it. He's playing at a high level. That's not even a topic with us. We just know whatever packages, whoever's out there, we go play. We play for each other. We're not worried about how many reps you get. You make the reps count. That's the great thing about our secondary and defense. We support each other. We compete and push each other, and we expect whoever's out there to play at a high level."
On if success this season in the secondary can serve as a relief to CB Jimmy Smith, not having to jump in and be Superman:"Jimmy can just ease into this thing. He doesn't have to believe that he's coming in here to play 60 snaps or however many he plays. It's tough coming [back]. No matter how hard you work out or prepare yourself, there's nothing like coming back to practicing full speed and getting your legs underneath you. It's a great situation for him and for us to ease him back into this, get him some games, some practice reps, obviously, and let him get his mojo back. Because it's not like you get two, three preseason games and 40 snaps to get your bearings right. It's jumping right in there. It's a great situation. I think his mindset is ready. He's ready to contribute and help our team win, and that's all you can ask for."