From Sunday until Thursday night, nothing will be different for Case Keenum.
Every game week since he signed with the Browns, Keenum has prepared as if he were the starting quarterback. He breaks down the opposing defense, ingests the upcoming gameplan and goes through every possible rep to get himself ready in the event he's called upon to play.
The different part comes Thursday night in front of a capacity crowd and a nationally televised audience, when Keenum will start his first NFL game since the 2019 season.
Keenum learned Wednesday he would start in place of Baker Mayfield, who continues to recover from an injury to his left, non-throwing shoulder. ClevelandBrowns.com caught up with him shortly thereafter.
CB.com: What went through your mind when you heard the news?
Keenum: I didn't start preparing when I got the word. I've been preparing for a long time, not just this week, not just this year, but my whole life. I'm raring to go. I'm ready to go. I'm excited. I know these opportunities don't come around very often. I'm ready to go, so let's go.
CB.com: What all goes into your weekly preparation when you aren't starting?
Keenum: You may not get a lot of actual, physical reps with the guys who are doing it. You get a lot of mental reps, and I'm always using mental reps. My whole career I have, even when I was playing. That's one thing I've done. Getting a lot of those routes that are part of the game plan with some of the other practice squad guys or the backup receivers, so I've gotten a lot of the throws. It may not be to the same guys, but I've gotten the throws. I've gotten a lot of mental reps and I've run this offense and I've played in a few games and had some success, so I'm expecting to do the same on Thursday.
CB.com: You've been in the league a while and played in a lot of these Thursday games. What changes in your preparation?
Keenum: You don't do anything differently. It's just the time I get to spend on certain things. I still get to check all the boxes and watch all the film I want to and prepare the same way. Today is a Friday and Saturday combined. Yesterday was a Thursday. The day before was a Monday, Tuesday and a Wednesday. You get all the same stuff done. It's just in a shorter amount of time.
CB.com: What are the common threads in how a winning team handles a Thursday game?
Keenum: There's a lot of ways to win in this league, especially on Thursdays. The ones that take care of the ball and do the little things right and make sure they're fresh at game time. Also, the ones that get as much game-planning as you can in the week, so it's a combination. I like it. Less time to overthink about a national stage. Just go out and play football.
CB.com: Baker's injury isn't the only one the offense is dealing with at the moment. What have you seen from the other players who are looking to step up?
Keenum: I love it. It's a great opportunity. You're looking at a guy who got his first opportunity because of injury and numerous other opportunities because of injury. That's across the board. It definitely hurts and you never want to see anybody go down, get hurt or be in pain, but it's a great opportunity for that next guy up. It's usually somebody that's been working their whole life and getting ready to go for moments like these.
CB.com: What's the offense focused on improving after Sunday's loss?
Keenum: Everything. It's a lot of things. I think we've got to take care of the ball on offense and put our defense in better situations. We've got to score when we get in the red zone and convert on third downs, fourth downs, whatever it is. At the end of the day in these Thursday games, it's just fighting, clawing and scratching to get a win no matter what. Just win.
CB.com: What's it been like working with Baker the past two years and seeing him push through this shoulder injury?
Keenum: He's great, man. I've talked a bunch about him but he's one of the toughest guys I know, if not the toughest guy I know. What he's done to fight through the injury to play, to remain on the field and try to get going this week, it's impressive and inspiring. It really is. Me specifically, I want to give it all and I want to make sure I give it everything I got because I know he does every day.
CB.com: What do you see from a Denver defense you're pretty familiar with?
Keenum: They're a solid, solid defense. Any (Vic) Fangio type of defense is really well-coached. The front, obviously, is headlined by Von (Miller), who came out this week and said he's not taking anything lightly, apparently. I'm excited about the challenge up front but in the back end, they're solid as they come as well with Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, (Ronald) Darby coming back and (Kyle) Fuller and the young kid at corner (Patrick Surtain Jr.). All around, it's going to be a challenge for us. We've got to be on our P's and Q's if we want to move the ball on these guys.
CB.com: What changes for a QB when someone like Von Miller is on the other side?
Keenum: Same clock, just got to get the ball out on time. It's hard to hold onto the ball when guys like that are rushing. We're going to try to keep the plan in place and get the ball off on time. I think it will be a great matchup.
CB.com: This will be your first start at FirstEnergy Stadium but it won't be your first time in front of a sold out crowd there. What have you grown to love about the team's home environment?
Keenum: It's a great spot right there on the lake. You don't know what the weather is going to do. I don't even pay attention to the forecast anymore. All due respect to the weathermen around here, but man it's crazy here on the lake, and the fans are just as crazy. I expect it to be wild and crazy on Thursday night. If they could just maybe not chant Odell or Myles' name when the offense is out there, that'd be great. Appreciate the energy and all of that, but we've got to work on offense. Let's do all the chanting and stuff during timeouts or when the defense is out there.