The opponent is the same, but plenty has changed for DeShone Kizer since Week 1.
The Browns rookie quarterback enters his second start against the Steelers looking for his first NFL win, but is ready to tackle an offseason with an endless amount of learning experiences gathered from a busy first season under his belt.
ClevelandBrowns.com caught up with Kizer as he wrapped up his preparations for his 15th and final start of 2017.
CB.com: What's the biggest thing you're trying to accomplish in your final shot at a victory?
Kizer: Obviously, get a win. Not only do we want to go out and play our best, but do it for each other. After a long, tough year of a lot of disappointment, as a team we're just trying to grind for each other. This is going to be the last opportunity for this team to play together. Unfortunately, that's how the NFL works. With that being said, we want to take advantage of our last opportunity together and make it a win.
CB.com: It seems like the locker room has been upbeat this week as it was Week 1. What has been the driving force behind it?
Kizer: Just an understanding that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The players in this locker room are all committed to turning Cleveland around. From the past in the horror stories I've heard, there's been times where players were in it for themselves. I think we have a good group of guys who are not in it for themselves. They're in it for the sake of this organization and getting us to a position of winning. I think that's why the energy has remained as high as it has and why after an 0-15 start, we're ready for our 16th game with the same energy we had Week 1.
CB.com: You played the Steelers in Week 1. What's the biggest thing that's changed about you, whether it be on the field or off it, since then?
Kizer: Just understanding the offense and understanding the guys on the field. After spending as much time as I had learning the system and learning how guys like to get the ball, hopefully I'll be able to go out and exhibit some of the success I had Week 1 and top it with some big plays and understanding some opportunities to get the ball on the field.
CB.com: Entering Week 17, do you still feel like a rookie quarterback?
Kizer: After Week 1, I felt like rookie year was over. The amount of time we've spent developing me, from Coach (Hue) Jackson spending extra time with me, from 6:15 workouts every day, from the time I've spent with coach (David) Lee, there's been a lot of opportunity for me to go out and learn. The amount of experiences I've been able to have in 20 weeks, with the preseason and regular season, it's been a tremendous opportunity for me to learn as much as I can. I've been able to pack what most people get in four or five years into one season.
CB.com: Even as tough as it's been, do you feel like this experience was worth it in the long run?
Kizer: Absolutely. 2017 was probably my most important year of my career in a sense that you go out and finish off college, you experience the highs of the draft process, you take in all the excitement and have fun with it and then you go into the pros and it becomes a learning process. A lot of people in their rookie year do it from the sidelines. I was fortunate to do it through playing experience. Obviously I'd like to have some wins from that and a lot of success to show for all of the effort I've put in this whole season, but unfortunately that's not what it is. All I know is I have another opportunity in front of me this week to prove myself. I'll go into the offseason to learn all about this some more and do some self-reflection and come back better than ever.
CB.com: Beyond what you can do to improve, what pieces and parts about this team excites you about the future?
Kizer: We're talented, and it's all the way across the board. At receiver, we've got Josh (Gordon), who is back and at full force. You've got Corey (Coleman), who is back and healthy. Ricardo (Louis) and Rashard (Higgins) are developing into the guys they should be. Duke Johnson is one of the best playmakers in the league. The skill positions are all there. Every other position from there was already kind of solidified coming into the season. The offensive line is going to be one of the best offensive lines in the league for many years to come. The defense has been out there having success all year as is. When you add in a couple more pieces with some top draft picks, hopefully next year we'll be back and better than ever.
CB.com: It's been a whirlwind for you since the end of your college career. What are your plans for the first part of this offseason?
Kizer: First, I'm going to allow my body to heal. I'll take some time off because mentally and physically, this can be draining. Going through as many downs as we've gone through, it adds a lot of stress to your life. It's on me to make sure I can be a pro and step away from that and learn as much as I can from it. I'll do a lot of self-reflection, watch a lot of film of myself, figure out what I need to solidify as my top two or three things I need to adjust during the offseason and attack them as hard as I can.
CB.com: How hard is it to do that kind of self-reflection during the season?
Kizer: It's very difficult during a season because you're trying to figure out everything you need to do for each week. There's so much preparation that goes into it. Now, there's an opportunity where there's not a lot of responsibility. You can treat your days however you want to. I've been a guy that all my life I want to maximize each day. With the free time we do get, I'll attack everything that has come up this year, spend a lot of time talking to Coach Jackson and continue to create a better approach in Year 2.
CB.com: Aside from healing up, will there be anything you from a physical standpoint to come back in April different than at this time last year?
Kizer: Physically, you can always improve. I think my physique can change a little more. I can be faster, I can be stronger and I'll attack that. As the year goes on, you spend so much time in the meeting rooms and watching film, you don't necessarily, as a quarterback, put a lot of time into developing your body. This is an opportunity for me to go out and attack my body as much as I can and become faster and stronger. That will, in turn, hopefully turn into success next year.