As reporters filed into the locker room for the last interviews of the week, equipment staffers were busy packing up the Browns' belongings into duffle bags for Saturday's flight to New Jersey. Players enjoyed their traditional Friday meal of Japanese stir fry and sushi in the cafeteria after practice. Most listened to headphones, already entering "the zone" as athletes call it.
Cleveland Browns football is finally back.
And, yes, the NFL season is a marathon. But the Pittsburgh Steelers have started 0-1. Any ground the Browns can gain in September will come in handy late in the season.
1) *Browns aware of their recent season opener history*
The last time Cleveland started out the season 1-0, Jeff Garcia had a harrowing performance at quarterback in a stunning 20-3 victory at home against the Ravens.
Since then, the Browns have lost 10 straight contests – including a gut-wrenching 27-24 loss to the Steelers last season. Joe Haden approached Pettine and his longtime teammate Joe Thomas about finally snapping the disheartening Week 1 streak on Sunday against the Jets.
"Oh we know, just like we knew last year that it had been 10 home openers in a row," Pettine said, referring to the team's monumental Week 2 win over the Saints at FirstEnergy Stadium. "We knew that last year, too. We know it, we also know that it doesn't affect us."
"(Winning the opener) would be a good way to get a lot of people off our backs," Haden said.
2) *Haden expecting game of cat and mouse with WR Brandon Marshall*
At this point in his career, Haden doesn't shy away from the fact he prefers marking bigger receivers. The Browns' cornerbacks strategy against Marshall at MetLife Stadium?
"Put my hands on him," Haden said.
If you're keeping score between Haden vs. Marshall over the years, the score is knotted up at one apiece. In 2011, Haden limited Marshall to four catches for 43 yards in a 17-16 Browns win over the Dolphins. But in 2013, as a member of the Bears, Marshall was able to go off for six catches and 95 yards in a 39-31 Chicago win against Cleveland.
"It is mutual respect," Haden said. "He is one of my friends. He is a good dude. At the end of the day, it is just two competitors. You know he is ready for me, for sure, don't get that wrong. He is ready to play. Definitely appreciate the mutual respect we have for each other's games."
3) *WR Dwayne Bowe expects to play Sunday *
Cleveland's veteran wide receiver acknowledged the frustration he's experienced throughout the last five weeks dealing with a nagging hamstring injury – a rarity in his nine-year NFL career.
Bowe, who played in the Browns' final two preseason games, was limited at practice throughout the week and is officially listed as questionable.
"With a hamstring you have to work into it," Bowe said. "You can't put too much stress on it. You have to be smart because they can nag all season and that is something that you don't want coming from a playmaker is a nagging injury."
4) *Full Injury Report*
Out: Richard Turbin (ankle)
Questionable: Dwayne Bowe (hamstring), Justin Gilbert (hip flexor),Barkevious Mingo (knee), Nate Orchard (back), K'Waun Williams (abdominal)
Probable: Pierre Desir (concussion), Duke Johnson (concussion), Joe Haden (hip), Christian Kirksey (groin), Johnny Manziel (right elbow), Marlon Moore (rib), Mitchell Schwartz (thumb),
The only Jets player ruled out is quarterback Geno Smith (jaw). The other 12 players on their injury report are listed as probable.
5) *Other news and notes*
-The Browns have by 4 p.m. Saturday to decide if they want to make any transactions for Sunday's season opener.
-Pettine said he has fewer unknowns heading into Sunday's game than he did at this time last year, when the Browns traveled to Pittsburgh to kick off the 2014 season.
-"There are some I just think, new offense, new faces on offense, especially," Pettine said. "Defense. I think there's fewer question marks because we have so many of the guys back from a year ago and it's the same system. I would say that's where the majority of the questions would be. Josh McCown here. How are we going to be on gameday? You can only take so much from practice, a little bit more from preseason but it's still not a game."