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Christian Kirksey, Joel Bitonio conference call - 12/11

Posted Dec 11, 2017

The Browns veterans talk with reporters Monday

OL Joel Bitonio:

On QB DeShone Kizer’s performance up until the final interception:

“Really good. I think he really put us in a position to win. We had some long, sustaining drives. He made some really good throws. He ended up throwing for three touchdowns which is his career high and really took care of the ball for the most part. We had that one [interception] before that half that was kind of just a punt for us. He did a good job. We need him to continue to do that and continue to put him in good positions as an offensive line, try to protect him and help as much as possible.”

On if he is encouraged by team’s run blocking:

“We have grown together this year. It is unfortunate that we lost (OL) Joe (Thomas), but (OL) Spencer (Drango) stepped in and did a good job in the run game. It has been good to see it kind of grow as the season has gone on. Obviously, we wanted more success earlier in the year, but we are continuing to improve. (RB Isaiah) Crow(ell) had some really good runs yesterday, along with (RB) Duke (Johnson Jr.). It is fun to see that when you are running the ball and kind of controlling the clock at some points and going on those 10-play drives. It is a comforting feeling that, ‘Hey, we can run the ball. We don’t have to drop back to pass 50 times a game.’”

On if he ever expected the Browns would be 0-13 again this year:

“You definitely don’t walk into the season thinking you are going to go 0-13. You take it one week at a time as a player. Each week you try to get the win. Unfortunately for us this year, the losses have piled up. It is tough. It really sucks. We are doing everything on our part to try to be better and try to get those wins. I think you have seen promise the last quarter of the season, but unless we get a win result, those matter but it doesn’t matter on the win-loss record. It is really unfortunate, but I know the guys in the locker room and I know the coach, we are going to fight and do everything we can this week in practice to try to get this win against Baltimore.”

On having one more opportunity to win at home this season:

“It is our last home game of the season. We are in front of the home crowd. They have supported us the last couple of years even though we haven’t been great. That is a credit to them. We are going to do everything we can to get this win if it is a home game or a road game but especially for our fans and for the people of Cleveland.”

On if it is more difficult to bounce back after a loss like yesterday and how the team will be able to bounce back:

“It is tough – anytime when you lose – but it was a heartbreaker for us. It is tough, but that is why we don’t really install until Wednesday. We get those couple of days to kind of throw it away and move onto the next game. The professionals in the locker room are able to play week to week. They are not going to go out there on Sunday thinking about, ‘Man, we had a tough one last week, and it is going to hold us back this week.’ It is something that you learn to do. We watched the film this morning, we got our lift in and we are past Green Bay now and we are onto Baltimore. We watched a good team play last night on Sunday night. They did a good job. They almost pulled it off against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is going to be a tough test. Win, lose or draw this week, we know we are going to get the best from Baltimore this week. I know they are still in the playoff hunt. It is going to be a challenge.”

On if the hiring of a new general manager creates some uneasiness knowing it may result in changes:

“Anytime there is a change up top, I think guys think about it. It is the National Football League. There are only 53 spots on a roster and there is a new decision-maker making those moves. It is something that I think people think about, I’m sure, but as us players, we are focused on the last four games and doing everything we can to try and get a win any way we can. I would say anytime you change management, there is always a thought of ‘What does he think about us? What is his gameplan going to be about the 53-man roster?’ It is something that we can’t worry about, but I think the thought crosses players’ heads.”

On if competing with teams in the playoff hunt gives Browns players hope that the team is headed in the right direction:

“Like I said before, the win-loss record is very unfortunate. We haven’t won any games. We have had a few that we have had the opportunity to win, but I think a performance like yesterday where the offense moved the ball well – Kizer played really good, you saw (WR) Corey Coleman, (WR) Josh Gordon both score touchdowns and Duke and Crow having explosive games – and then the defense made some really good plays, as well, there is definitely hope there. The Packers are fighting for a playoff spot. I know it is dim for them right now, but we are one play away from beating a potential playoff team. I know they are down (Packers QB Aaron) Rodgers and stuff, but they are still winning games like that. Then we take Jacksonville to the brink; we take Tennessee to the brink. These are all teams that are in the playoffs right now that we are one or two plays away from beating these teams. I know this future is bright. I know we are going to keep bringing talent in. I know guys are going to keep working and they are not giving up on this. We are really working to change the culture and learn how to win here.” 

On potential penalties not being called, specific to potential defensive pass interference on Gordon, and if he ‘wonders when those call will go the Browns’ way’:

“Yeah, that one, it is tough. I know the refs have a tough job. I think DPI (defensive pass interference) is probably the toughest call they have to make. It is a real judgment call. There is contact going both ways. Sometimes you obviously feel like it doesn’t go your way, but I feel like other times, it probably does go our way. It would have been nice to be first-and-goal with a minute or so left in the half, but it is how it goes sometimes. Do I wish we get every call our way? Yeah, but it is hard to dwell on that. It is one thing that we can’t control so we just have to try to play our best game.”

LB Christian Kirksey:

On evaluating yesterday’s game after watching film:

“Overall, I think that we did some things well. Obviously, we can’t make costly plays that cost the ball game. Sometimes you look back at a play and you say, ‘Man, if I had set this guy right or if I just made an alert quicker, it could have been a different outcome of the game.’ Little things like that, little plays like that are what we just have to clean up and fix, but I thought for the most part, our team fought pretty well. We just let Green Bay come up with some plays and win the game. We just have to finish that, learn how to finish the game and get over that hump and win.”

On why the Browns defense has not been able to apply as much pressure to opposing QBs as desired:

“I think we were applying pressure to the quarterback, but you can’t do anything when the quarterback is getting in (shot)gun (formation) and having a no-back, empty (set) and getting the ball out fast. By the time our blitz is getting to him, he is getting the ball out fast. That is something that you see on film – getting the ball out extremely fast. I don’t think it was more so of we couldn’t pressure him or we are not doing the proper assignment that (defensive coordinator) Gregg (Williams) has for us. It was just that he was getting the ball out fast. There is nothing you can really do with that.”

On if Packers QB Brett Hundley’s performance surprised him:

“No, we saw him on film. We saw some of the things that he can do and some of the throws that he can make. Green Bay had a good gameplan to make sure that he doesn’t make costly mistakes. It was part of the going into empty (backfield formation), knowing that we were blitzing him, getting the ball out quick before we can get to the quarterback. He was making the throws, and we made it look easy for him. That was a good gameplan by Green Bay. We knew coming into this game that he was a competitor. He has learned a lot from (Packers QB) Aaron Rodgers. We knew that he was going to go out there and try to give his best.”

On if Hundley released the ball faster than anticipated:

“We knew that he was going to get the ball out fast. That is any quarterback in empty. Just like Pittsburgh, when we played them, (Steelers QB) Ben (Roethlisberger) was getting the ball out extremely fast. I don’t think that surprised us how fast he was getting the ball out.” 

On if he ever expected the Browns would be 0-13 again this year:

“No. No, not at all. Nobody thought that we would be having this record that we have, but we can’t sit here and complain about it, sulk and hang our head about it. We just have to do something to get more wins for this city, and we will continue to try to find our way. That is what we are going to do.”

On what provides hope despite the win-loss record the past two seasons:

“You live to see another day. There is always hope in a situation. As long as you are healthy, going out there to give it your all, you play to win. We don’t want people to have sympathy for us like ‘Oh, we can’t catch a break,’ this and that. ‘You guys are still fighting things.’ It is the National Football League. There is no time to be sad and hang your head about it. You just have to be a man and keep chopping that wood. That is what we are going to do. The wins will come. As long as we know we did everything in our power individually and collectively to go out there and win, then it will happen, but right now, we are just going through some growing pains. We just have to stay together, stay the course and believe in each other.”

On if the Browns are a better team now than at this point last year:

“Yes, especially speaking from the defensive side of the ball if you just look at our stats, our stats are showing that it is better than last year. Now, we just have to win a game.”

On if it was weird seeing General Manager John Dorsey in the locker room following the game after recently being hired and if he talked to Dorsey:

“I have talked to him. I didn’t find it weird that he was in the locker room. Everybody else was. The owner was in the locker room, all of the coaches so I didn’t find it weird him being there. He is our GM. The guy is just coming in here to help us win. It wasn’t weird at all.”

On Dorsey talking to QB DeShone Kizer and TE David Njoku after the game and Dorsey’s message to the players:

“I don’t know as far as what he said to all of the guys individually. I just know the talks that me and him had. He is ready to get out there and put this team in the best position to win. He knows a lot about football. He is a football guy. He has seen a lot. He knows a lot. He is just telling us that now is the time to start winning, put it all together, getting the right guys out there and just playing ball. I’m not sure what he said to Kizer or what he said to Njoku, but I’m pretty sure it was some encouraging words. He spoke to the team when he introduced himself and he just showed his passion for the game and just told him a little about himself, how well he knows the game and how fired up he is to be here with us. It was definitely some encouraging words from him, and we are just ready to get this things rolling.”

On having one more opportunity to win at home this season:

“I think that this is a great opportunity for us – last home game, a division opponent. It is definitely a way that really can show what type of men that we have on this team to go out there and compete, go out there and fight our last time in front of our home crowd against Baltimore. I think it will be something special for us to go out there and finally get this win. I think we are definitely capable of that. It is going to be an exciting game. Like I said, a division game is always exciting because it is always amped up and things like that. Especially too being our last home game, I think it will be a lot of guys going out there just giving it their all like they do every Sunday. We just have to come out with the victory.”

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