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Burning Questions

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12 questions for Joe Schobert, who is poised to make a much-needed return to the middle of Browns defense

Joe Schobert is more than ready to step away from his brief tenure as a player-coach on the sidelines.

The Browns middle linebacker isn't used to being shelved with an injury, especially when the cause of it is a soft tissue. Schobert's been sidelined for three weeks with a hamstring injury, but it's felt so much longer. That's what happens when your playing time abruptly stops after not missing a single snap over the previous 21 games. caught up with Schobert as he wrapped up his preparations from a productive week of practice. It been a long three weeks?

Schobert: Yeah, definitely. It's weird when you're not playing. It gets you in a rhythm where it feels like I've missed way more than three games. It feels like you've missed more than half a season. I'm definitely raring to get back out there on the field. What did you learn about hamstring injuries throughout this process?

Schobert: Nothing I've ever experienced like it. I walk around, do my running in the pool, everything perfectly normal. Hamstring feels perfectly healthy. Then you start to run and at 50 percent you feel good, and then all of a sudden you hit 70 and you feel it's trying to grab and something is going to happen. You walk around and you feel perfectly healthy, you're sitting on the sidelines moving a little bit and feel like you can go. But then when you try to open up and run … I think that's why a lot of people re-injure it all the time because you feel good when you're walking around and doing your normal everyday things. What's the process been like at practice this week to make sure you don't re-injure it?

Schobert: You don't want to re-aggravate it, especially in practice where you're in an environment where you don't have to be going 100 percent chasing guys down the field all the time because it's not a game. Just taking things smart, but being able to test it and build up to those moments where you can build confidence in it, so if you know you're doing it in a game, you'll be able to do it without worrying about it. Before the injury you were having another productive season. Where did you see yourself growing as a linebacker?

Schobert: I think it's helped just with overall the knowledge of what the other teams are trying to do and the knowledge of our own defense and schemes, having it for a second year in a row and not worrying about making the right checks or the right calls. Just knowing what they're supposed to be, making them and then being able to focus on what the other team is trying to do. Then from there, being able to make plays off that, having the pre-snap knowledge makes you a half-step quicker to certain things. How much more of a vocal guy are you now than when you got here?

Schobert: Definitely in the middle making all of the calls, I'm a lot more vocal. When I was an outside linebacker, I'd hear the call, go line up on my side and pretty much play the play. Now, just being in the middle of the defense from last year to this year and being able to call out some of the things the offense might be trying to do or communicate with the other guys definitely has taken it a big step up. How does that carry over to how you are away from the field?

Schobert: Not really at all. Same old, same old off the field. When you step between the white lines, things change and you have to take up a leadership role or you have to be more vocal. But in the locker room and weight room, that's not who you are. Off the field, it's same old Joe. You're coming back, but Christian Kirksey is out for the season. How big of a blow is that to the defense?

Schobert: It's a big blow. Kirko is the heart and soul of the defense. He brings the energy. He likes to say he brings the juice to the defense. He's one of the premier leaders in our locker room. At the same time, he's still around the building and he's still going to be doing all that stuff. On the field, we're obviously going to miss him and his playmaking ability, but it's next man up and we've got a couple guys who I think are going to be doing a good job filling those shoes. It's Week 10 and you guys haven't had a bye week yet. How much does this team need that, especially on defense?

Schobert: I think just having that week to give everybody's body rest and recovery. It helps to step away from football for a week to refresh the mind as well. It will be huge. The NFL season is a grind unlike anything you've ever played until you get here. We're a relatively young team and not full of a lot of veterans who know the in's and out's of a season, so I think it will be good for our team getting their bodies back together and getting their minds right again and looking forward to the last six games. Gregg Williams said he's losing you as a coach but gaining you as a player. What did you do on the sidelines to help the players on the field?

Schobert: I was more focused on the other team and what they were trying to do. If I saw linebackers have communication errors or were just out of place … when you get over to the sidelines a lot of times you listen to a player a little bit easier than you listen to a coach on certain things. I just tried to talk and make sure everything was going smoothly at the linebacker spot. You've seen three of the top four passing offenses on the sidelines and you'll see the other one on the field Sunday. What kind of test has that been for the defense?

Schobert: It's been huge in terms of the circumstances playing the top four passing offenses. We've been dealing with the injuries in combination to that. It's definitely been a stressful couple of weeks for the defense but when teams throw the ball through the air a lot, you've got a good chance to be able to take the ball away. We did that pretty good the first couple of weeks and last week we weren't able to do it as well as we liked. Hopefully we'll be able to turn it back up this week. What makes the Falcons different from the other three top-ranked passing offenses?

Schobert: I think overall schematically they don't take as many deep shots as the other teams. They take smart, safe throws to move the ball down the field. But then their smart, safe throws are to elite guys who can make things happen. Julio Jones catches a 10-yard out route, he can turn it up the sidelines and go 80. They're not like DeSean Jackson with Tampa Bay running deep or the Steelers playing backyard football with Antonio Brown converting routes and Big Ben throwing it wherever he wants to throw it. They're not the same in that respect but I think they've got a really well-oiled machine. They're really consistent and then they've got playmakers who when they get the ball in their hands can take it to the house. How much would a win help this team going into the bye?

Schobert: It'd be huge. It would just set up the end of the season, the home stretch. In our division, we're right in there with every team. The Steelers have pulled away a little bit but if we can take this win, build some confidence and go on a run at the end of the year, there's no telling where we could end up.

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