Opening statement: “I’ll give you a little quick outline of our bye-week plan. We’re going to practice, which we did today, and then we’ll practice tomorrow. The players will be off from Thursday through Sunday, and then we’ll be back and they’ll be back on Monday. Coaches, we’re going to work through Thursday, and then they’ll get a little time that they can get off as well. Our focus on the bye week is going to be a combination of us and Cincinnati. This portion, especially with our players here now in the next day or two, primarily focused on us and the ways we can improve. We’re looking at cut-ups; we’re going through some scheme things to try to fix some things and look at what we’re doing well, what we’re doing not so well so that we can progress for these next seven games. (We’re) looking at a lot of technique evaluation, as well as looking at personnel and seeing what we’re doing, if there’s some things we can modify. Also, one of the things from an ‘us’ perspective from what we’re working to get better at this week is for our players to get some rest and rejuvenate, both mentally and physically. We’ll get started some more, later in the week, especially with coaches, on Cincinnati in preparing for them.
“As I look to the season at this point, a little chance to evaluate where we’re at and just some observations that I have: I think our coaches have done a great job to this point. You look at our coordinators – we’ve talked a lot about (offensive coordinator) Norv (Turner), (defensive coordinator) Ray (Horton) and (special teams coordinator) Chris (Tabor) and the things that they’ve been able to do – a lot of different moving parts, new systems, a lot of different people in and out of the huddle at times, I think they’ve done an outstanding job. I think that our position coaches, it’s important to note and talk about them, as well. When you have a lot of young players, a lot of new players as we do, you see a lot of guys making progress and getting better and improving. I think that says a lot to our coaches and our position coaches and the job they’ve done.
“I feel good about how we’re building a culture and identity here. That doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time. We have a group of guys that have really come together. They’re relentless. I think we see that on a day-to-day basis, and they’re passionate about playing football and passionate about being Cleveland Browns. That’s something that’s important to us, and I feel like we’re making strides in that area. Also, just an understanding of how we play, whether it’s the player or the fans. I was actually with my family out getting pizza on Friday night and ran into a fan, who came by and just stopped in and said he really likes the way we play. He didn’t say anything about wins or losses; he just said he likes the way we play. I think that the fans are seeing that, are appreciating how we play. It adds to their excitement. I think that adds to our players excitement and they feed off of the fans being excited. It’s just generally been a real good thing for all of us. We’re excited about getting better over the course of this bye week and getting ready for Cincinnati as we go through it and get into next week.”
On if he keeps close tabs on what is occurring in the locker room, specifically in regard to hazing concerns in Miami: “I have not, as far as their situation goes, and I don’t know any of the details. I’m not going to comment specifically on anything with the (Miami) Dolphins. As far as from our standpoint and my standpoint, I feel good where our locker room is right now.”
On what kind of initiations or rituals players have with rookies, such as rookies carrying veterans pads after practice: “I don’t see those things as hazing. I think that the key is it being voluntary participation and being positive in that way. Those are the things that are part of our locker room, any NFL locker room.”
On if he saw the photo of WR
On if Little getting two personal fouls in one game is conduct detrimental to the team: “I think you always have to look at things on a case-by-case basis. I didn’t in that case.”
On the injury status of QB
On if there is a chance that RB Chis Ogbonnaya can get more carries at running back: “That’s something we’re taking a good look at this week, the running game in general; and getting Oby some carries, we want to do.”
On if it is tough finding the right balance between three running backs with their different skill sets: “We’re working to find the things that those guys do. Then, during the course of the game, them being in there at different times and the right times and having the opportunities, that can be challenging. We’ll do a better job of getting them in when we need to and rolling it a little bit more and spreading it out.”
On if he plans to add a fullback if Ogbonnaya receives more carries: “I think we’re okay as far as that goes.”
On surprises during his first nine weeks as a Head Coach: “I don’t think there was any major surprises. I think that everyday there’s a new challenge. You might come into work expecting a certain amount of things or certain things, and you never know what comes across your desk during the course of the day. I would say that’s the biggest thing that you realize, and you realize pretty quickly. There’s been a lot of things that happened and a lot of things going on: different situations, some unique, some that you expect and some things that don’t happen very often that we’ve had. Again, I go back to the kind of people that we have here and the identity that we’re creating. These guys, it’s a resilient group, a group that loves playing football and have been able to handle really whatever has come across in the course of the time that we’ve been here.”
On how he and the team have handled personnel changes, injuries and other happenings during the first nine weeks of the season: “Like I just said, I think that it really says a lot about the people that are here in this organization and in the locker room and the coaching staff and a lot of different people who believe in what we’re doing and are committed to what we’re doing. Again, I’m pleased with where I see the identity of this team going. I think that’s all part of it. They haven’t flinched. Whatever happens, the important thing is what we talk as coaches to them about is how you respond to the things that happen. It’s not what happens; it’s how you respond to it. That’s the approach we’ve taken, and these guys have bought into it, and you see them bouncing back and continuing to play hard, and we talked about the way they play. People are appreciating that and I think are taking notice of that.”
On retaining Chris Tabor and how he has done this season: “I felt like coming in, it’s important – sometimes people clear house as a head coach coming in new – I looked for good coaches and guys that would fit. I think that as Chris was here, he performed very well, has a great reputation around the league. Just sitting down and getting a chance to talk with him some and getting to know him and from a philosophical standpoint being very in line with what I wanted, it just was a good fit. I think Chris has done a great job. You go back to the very start at the beginning of the season and really getting a lot of new guys in and having to get them prepared to play in a short amount of time, having to shuffle people and move people around and find out about them and then being able to make a lot of plays, that group making a lot of plays. Whether it was big returns in games or fakes or whatever it was, coverage, punts, all of those things, I think that he and (special teams assistant) Shawn Mennenga both have done an outstanding job with the special teams.”
On what the team needs to do to improve for the last seven games: “There’s a lot of things that we need to improve on. We’re still a work in progress in that way. I expect us to keep improving like we need to. As you look at it I think from each side of the ball, we started as a staff talking about it a little bit from an offensive standpoint of getting better at our run game and continuing to work on that; some third downs and getting better on some third downs. Defensively, same thing: that third-down situation and looking at some red-zone. Those are some things that we’re really focused on right now to get better at. Again, this bye week gives us a chance to look at our personnel, take a good look. Are we doing the right things with them? Is there some things that we can do better and put them in better position? Because as coach, I believe that we always want to put our guys and try to put our guys in the best position for them to succeed, which will give us the best chance of succeeding.”
On if his internal expectations have gone up from what he has seen through the first nine weeks and his message to players when they get back from the bye weeks: “I want them to come back stronger and hungrier and be ready to go for the next seven games. Obviously, our approach is we start with the first game, which is Cincinnati. We all have goals. Obviously, our goal is just like every other NFL team goal: to win. My expectations are more in line with, I want us to be improving every week, having the right approach and taking the approach to improve and to get better. I expect that from these guys, and that’s what they’ve shown to this point. I expect us to keep improving.”