Hue Jackson made his admiration clear for Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, whom with he spent four seasons as an assistant in Cincinnati before joining the Browns as head coach this winter.
"I think you guys all know I am very fond of Marvin," he said Wednesday. "Marvin is like one of my best friends in this profession."
But when Jackson and Co. travel down I-71 South for their first clash against the Bengals this weekend, it won't be hard to set aside those warm feelings. [
"It's called a football game, we're 0-6. So trust me we're trying to win a game, this isn't about personal friendships or relationships, this is about winning a football game," he said.
"Our guys are working their tails off to get prepared for a big game this weekend. This won't be about Marvin and Hue Jackson, it'll be about our football teams more than anything."
Pryor, Haden on the mend
Jackson said he's optimistic that wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (hamstring) and cornerback Joe Haden (groin) will play at Cincinnati despite missing Wednesday's practice with injuries.
"We'll see as we go through the week," Jackson said, "but I'm very hopeful both of those guys will be there to play for us this weekend."
Haden missed this past weekend's game against the Titans, while Pryor suffered his injury late in that loss in Tennessee.
Jackson said he hopes to know later in the week whether or not the Browns will have two of their top starters available, adding he likes for players on the mend to practice before actually suiting up.
"It's one of my policies, they need to do something before we get ready to play," he said. "But we'll give them every opportunity to get out there. If they can, great, if they can't, we understand that, too."
The silver lining
Against an uncanny array of injuries — the latest of which includes left guard Joel Bitonio and safety Jordan Poyer, who were both placed on injured reserve within the past week — Jackson offered what might be something of a silver lining.
Of course, he said, you don't want to watch players get hurt. But the Browns have gotten a look at a handful of young players they perhaps wouldn't have seen as much this season.
"We were going to play a lot of young guys, anyway, but there are some guys that are playing maybe a little sooner than we thought they would. That is part of it," Jackson said.
"There are some guys that are going to be better a year from now from playing, from getting experience of playing in the National Football League and playing in games and preparing and going through the process getting ready to play. We will be a little bit more experienced a year from now for that, but at the same time, you don't wish that to happen but it does happen."
The Browns' roster includes 18 rookies, including youngsters such as quarterback Cody Kessler, Carl Nassib, Emmanuel Ogbah, Joe Schobert, Ricardo Louis, Briean Boddy-Calhoun and others contribute in big ways this year.
Bringing out the best
During his time in Cincinnati, Jackson was credited with helping develop Andy Dalton into one of the league's better quarterbacks.
Dalton on Wednesday said he still talks with the former Bengals offensive coordinator and outlined what makes Jackson special as a coach
"He does a great job of bringing out the best in the guys. He is hard on his players, but he also makes it fun to play for him," Dalton told reporters on a teleconference.
"When you are doing the right things and you are doing things the way he wants it done, he is very complimentary and he makes the atmosphere loose. I think that is why he is a great coach and why a lot of guys like to play for him."
'One of the best'
The Browns will at all times have to be aware of Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, Jackson said, because he's "one of the best football players I have ever been around."
"He plays the game the way you want a guy to play it. I know sometimes people think he gets on the other side of the line. He is very competitive. Whatever he has done, he has been disciplined for it, so that is going to be what it is but this guy is a tremendous football player and he loves the game," Jackson said.
Burfict has been something of an anchor on the Bengals defense the past five seasons and also a lightning rod for controversy. For example, he was fined by the league Wednesday for unnecessary roughness in last weekend's loss to the Patriots.
"He will be the first to tell you sometimes his emotions get the best of him," Jackson said, "but he is a good player."
Burfict has 21 tackles through three games.