Hue Jackson spoke Wednesday of warm feelings for Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and the four seasons he spent on the banks of the Ohio River before coming to Cleveland this past winter.
"I think you guys all know I am very fond of Marvin, Marvin is like one of my best friends in this profession," the first-year Browns head coach and former Cincinnati assistant said.
Jackson offered the same friendly sentiments when it comes to Bengals owner/president/general manager Mike Brown and Cincinnati's front office, which helped him and Lewis assemble one of the league's better offenses during their tenure together.
"That family has been very good to me and my family," Jackson said. "I have nothing but the utmost respect for the organization and what they did for me."
But he'll put those feelings aside when the Browns play at Cincinnati on Sunday.
"It is called a football game," Jackson said, laughing. "We are 0-6. Trust me, I'm trying to win a game. This is not about personal friendships, relationships or any of that. This is about trying to win a football game. We are trying to be the best we can be. Our guys are working their tails off to get prepared for a big game this week."
Indeed, after an 0-6 start, Cleveland is hoping to get on track against a tough Bengals team that, in some ways, Jackson helped mold. One of those players who grew close to Cincinnati's former offensive coordinator is quarterback Andy Dalton, who said he keeps in touch with Jackson.
"He does a great job of bringing out the best in the guys. He's hard on his players but he also makes it fun to play for him," Dalton told reporters Wednesday on a conference call.
"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's a great coach and why a lot of guys like to play for him."
That approach has helped buoy the Browns through a tough start made more difficult by a heap of injuries to key players and, sometimes, just plain back luck. This past weekend, Cleveland lost at Tennessee after watching a late fourth-quarter comeback fall short.
Afterward, Jackson said the Browns would "fight" their way out of a winless start.
"We don't know anything else to do but to do that," he said. "We're fighters."
It's a welcomed mentality that has Cleveland feeling encouraged about its chances of leaving the Queen City this weekend with a victory.
"When your head coach won't quit, your team can't quit," running back Duke Johnson Jr. said last week. "That's what type of coach that we have. He's going to fight until the end. He always believes in us. We just try to go out and produce."
Lewis and the Bengals likely know that well.
"I miss him," Lewis said. "We spent 10 years coaching together so you love him like a brother that I never had. I have spent a lot of time with him, and he obviously is a coach when we coached together every time that has always done such a great job," he said.
"He brings out the best and challenges everybody to be the best, and he challenged you as a coach to be better and the other coaches around him to be better, which is what you want from your coaching staff. He is the epitome of that."
But "this weekend won't be about Marvin and Hue Jackson," Jackson said.
"It'll be about our football teams more so than anything."