JC Tretter doesn’t want to let down his teammates, especially the two closest to him.
That’s how the Browns center describes his drive to continue playing through the pain of a high ankle sprain he suffered way back in Week 6 against the Chargers. Tretter wears a walking boot most days of the week and is able to practice just once or twice before a game but he’s yet to miss a single snap.
ClevelandBrowns.com caught up with Tretter after Friday’s practice as he prepares to play with the injury for the seventh straight game.
CB.com: It was a tough loss last week but the offense seemed to figure out some things in the second half. Is that something that can carry over to Sunday?
Tretter: I think we played well overall, but the turnovers kind of bit us in the end. We couldn’t dig ourselves out of the hole. I think over the last few weeks the offense has really started clicking. The protection, the run game, I think everything is kind of moving in the right direction. We do have some positive momentum. Now we have to correct the mistakes we made that put us in a hole last week and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again.
CB.com: What’s it say about the offense as a whole, specifically Baker Mayfield, that you were able to bounce back that way in the second half?
Tretter: We’ve always preached fighting through adversity. Obviously, it started with a few interceptions and a few turnovers and we got down, but the group is never going to quit. That’s something from the beginning of the season we said we’ll never quit. We’ll keep fighting, keep bailing our way out until the final whistle blows.
CB.com: You mentioned fighting through adversity. That’s something you’ve been doing for a while now with this ankle injury. What’s it been like the last six or so weeks playing through it.
Tretter: You never really get used to it. You’re pretty much guaranteed you’re going to tweak it at some point during the game, but the training staff has done a really good job of getting me prepared and getting me as close to 100 percent as I can possibly be going into the game. Then it’s about dealing with it and fighting through it and kind of taking it play by play and plugging along. You realize it’s going to hurt, but you can deal with that.
CB.com: What makes this an injury you can play through?
Tretter: Luckily, I’ve kind of figured out a way to avoid the things that are going to aggravate it. That’s really what it is. It’s going to always have that dull, constant pain but you don’t want to have to do anything that’s going to have that sharp pain that takes you out for a little bit. I’ve found the things that cause that and done the best to avoid putting my body in that position. Again, the training staff has done a great job of getting me as healthy as I can be going into a game.
CB.com: What does this say about your commitment to the team?
Tretter: No one wants to miss any time. We’ve had a pretty good run, knock on wood, with the interior. Me, Joel (Bitonio) and Kevin (Zeitler), none of us have missed a snap yet and no one wants to be that first guy who misses a game or misses even a play. When I got hurt, I came over and got checked in the tent. I said I’m not coming out. Later in the game, we were talking about what the plan was for next week and how we’d get ready in time for next week. There was never any thought of missing time or missing a week or a play at all. It was about what can we do to make sure I’m out there for every single play.
CB.com: How do you stay sharp during the week even when you’re not practicing as much as you’d like?
Tretter: A lot of film. The studying of the playbook, we have our plays and we know what we’re doing. A lot of it is communication with the guards and with the tackles. A lot of that comes talking through things in the meeting room, having extra meetings to discuss how we’re going to block this, where are your feet going to be, because we don’t have the time, and sometimes the ability, to walk through things and jog through things. A lot of it is just talking through things on air, thinking through how we’re going to block it. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Joel and Kevin for helping me through. They’ve been able to manage practice without me and make all the calls. It’s been a lot of help from them.
CB.com: How much better are you, Joel and Kevin as a trio now than when you played together last year?
Tretter: A lot of it is getting used to each other’s movements and where we’re going to be. We’re all pretty close off the field as well. We hang out quite a bit. I think we’ve really kind of settled in and we’re really comfortable with each other being there. That’s part of it, you don’t want to leave your two other guys hanging by missing time. You all have an idea of where you’re going to be, how you’re going to declare things in the run game and protections as a center. You don’t want to be the guy that misses it and puts those two guys behind the 8-ball on the field. You want to make sure you’re out there and doing your job so they can go out and do their job as well.
CB.com: How rewarding has it been for you to see what Greg Robinson has been able to do?
Tretter: Greg’s done a heck of a job kind of solidifying the whole offensive line. He’s stepped in, gets the job done, strong. There’s a reason he was a top pick. He’s really talented, been working hard. Him and Joel have worked really well together and gotten on the same page. Making a midseason change is always tough but him and Joel have worked on it and gotten their communication down. He’s played really well, and I think both of our tackles last week, knowing that was going to be their biggest test so far, came out and played extremely well against two really good opponents.
CB.com: Is it a different feeling in the locker room entering this stretch of December than it was last year?
Tretter: Yeah, last year we were fighting through it and not having a win, it drags on you. Now, the playoffs are still there for us. Obviously, we can’t think that far ahead. We need to take it one game at a time, plug along and if we handle our business and get some help, we can be right there. There’s positivity, excitement. We’re just all ready to go and kind of take this one win at a time.
CB.com: Is there anything to you guys being really good at home?
Tretter: Give a lot of credit to the fans. They’ve come out and gotten us fired up on game day. That’s something if we’re really good at home, we’ve got to be better on the road. They’ve done a heck of a job inspiring us and firing us up on those home games. That’s something, especially now when we start having these games in the cold, if you come out with the right intensity and right mentality, you can jump on people who are not ready playing in this environment and our stadium.