Cody Kessler's fifth NFL start will be his fourth away from FirstEnergy Stadium. [
It hasn't been easy for the rookie, but he's kept a steady approached and earned plenty of respect along the way.
He sat down with ClevelandBrowns.com to discuss his mindset leading into Sunday's game at Cincinnati.
CB.com: Coming off a tough loss at Tennessee, how has the team regrouped to prepare for the Bengals?
Kessler: The biggest thing on this team is the leadership by a lot of the older guys and some of the younger guys. Guys like Joe Thomas, Joe Haden, Terrelle (Pryor), Cameron Erving at center and (Andrew) Hawkins. It's awesome to be around a group of guys that never seems to be defeated. Obviously we've come up short in some of these games and that might have made it hurt a little bit more just with how close we are, but it also motivates us. The guys keep pushing and they keep coming back to practice week in and week out and no one blinks an eye. Everyone keeps going and it's awesome to be a part of that.
CB.com: You're a rookie but you play a position where leadership is natural. Where does that fit you in as one of the leaders of this team?
Kessler: I've been very comfortable with this offense. The guys on the team have been awesome, and it's been awesome to get that connection with the offensive line first, which is very important to me, but also the skill players around me. We're starting to build trust for each other and feeling really confident in each other and it's helping me step into the leadership role a little more and being more vocal and getting things done. I really look at myself as a competitor and I love to win and we want to win. Guys got to step up and be vocal leaders and if that's me one day, so be it. My biggest goal is to make sure the guys continue to trust me and believe in me, do the right thing and do what I'm supposed to do.
CB.com: What's it meant to hear your teammates publicly praise you and earn their respect?
Kessler: It's just that confidence that hopefully I continue to grow and they continue to grow with me has been very important to me. It's awesome to hear because I've worked so hard and those guys have done a great job of helping me get up to speed and help me step into a tough situation and be able to lead an offense and run an offense. That's why it hurts so much, too, in these close games. These leaders and these guys that believe in me, I want to win for them. I want to win for coach (Hue) Jackson, I want to win for this city and I want to win for the guys in this locker room. We just keep fighting for that and keep pushing forward.
CB.com: One thing players in the locker room constantly bring up is your ability to get up from big hits and keep pushing. Where does that trait come from?
Kessler: That's a big part of my game just because of that's one way to earn respect from your guys. That's why I was so upset in the New England game when I had to come out. It really did, as a man, kind of upset me and hurt me. I've always been told from a young age that you're going to get hit at the position. You're going to get hit and it always feels a little bit better when you complete the pass instead of shying away and throwing it down.
CB.com: What kind of connection do you have with Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton?
Kessler: I got to know Andy over the offseason and got to work with him out in California during our little summer break. He's awesome. Gave me a ton of advice and had a ton of praise for Coach Jackson. He loved him and told me how lucky I was and I definitely felt that. Just watching him throw and watching how he competes and how hard he worked each day in those workouts and just his mindset about the game was something I tried to take from that and get as much as I could out of that.
CB.com: Looking at Sunday, Terrelle Pryor Sr. is questionable with a hamstring injury. How do you adjust if he's unable to play?
Kessler: Terrelle's a competitor. I know he wants to be out there but obviously he has to be smart about that. My job doesn't change either way. I have to go out and execute and do everything I can. Terrelle's been great for me and I've been so thankful to have him and the way he competes and the way we've been working together is awesome. Either way, we go out on Sunday and whoever's in -- if he gets to go in, great, and if he's not, we keep going -- will step up. Whoever's in there has been stepping up. This season has really been a next man up mentality and guys are really buying into that and going in and getting their chance, getting their opportunity and making the most of it.
CB.com: Your first throw as a Cleveland Brown was a touchdown pass to Rashard Higgins in the preseason opener. He could play some more if Pryor is out. What kind of connection do you have with him?
Kessler: We obviously started working together at the rookie minicamp and got to know each other. We've been building that trust with Higgins and Ricardo (Louis) and Jordan Payton. It's like I said, the next man up mentality. We may be rookies and we may be young, but our team is counting on us to make plays and execute plays. We all understand that and it's all about opportunities. You get your chance, you go out there and make the most of it.
CB.com: Have you noticed defenses trying to scheme against what you do best now that you've put some film out there?
Kessler: That's just the NFL. It's the same thing offensively. We try to scheme to different defenses and their weak points and what we can really excel at in each game. I just watch a ton of film and try to stay on top of that. Obviously there's going to be a few looks you haven't seen before when you get to the game. You've got to adjust to them and react as quickly as you can.