Alex Mack was talking about earlobes Sunday.
The Browns Pro Bowl center prefers to keep discussions about his recovery from a severe leg injury brief and lighthearted. So when a question popped up about how much he thinks about the leg as he works his way back into form, Mack cracked a smile
"There is so much that I am not all that concerned over the little injuries. That is part of football," Mack said after Sunday's practice. "You have a banged up finger, thumb, toe, earlobe or whatever it is going to be. You just kind play through all those earlobe injuries."
All Mack has done since the start of training camp is play, and that's been a boon for a Browns offensive line that never truly replaced him after last year's injury. Before he went down, Cleveland averaged 146 rushing yards per game. In the 11 games without him, the Browns cleared the century mark just four times.
When training camp started, Browns coach Mike Pettine said the team would have to keep a close eye on Mack simply to protect him from himself. Mack's intense work ethic has been well-documented, and he's made a point this year to sprint between drills, even when he's coming from a different field.
Outside of some rest at the Orange and Brown Scrimmage, Mack has been at the center of the first-team offensive line for most of the vital snaps since the beginning of the month. He hasn't sat out a single practice.
"I understand that and I think it is good. We are pretty much on that same page," Mack said. "I think it is good to have it be that way and have (the medical staff) be the cautious ones and me anxious to get in there. I think it is important that you are ready for the first game."
Part of that preparation has come in the past two preseason games, as Mack worked the first series against Washington and the first three Thursday against Buffalo. This past week, he was primarily pitted against Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.
Pettine, who coached Dareus, said he doesn't know "who in this league can block him one-on-one" when he's "properly motivated," but Mack survived the onslaught and gained confidence heading into Saturday's trip to Tampa Bay.
"I think Alex is still playing his way into shape," Pettine said. "The guy is coming off an injury so you have to get game reps to get confidence. (Thursday) was a learning experience for him. We obviously will get him a bunch more reps this week and play him a good amount against Tampa, and hopefully that will be enough that he is prepared for the opener."
Mack, who has been tasked with blocking 339-pound rookie Danny Shelton on a daily basis, confirmed the assessment.
"That is what you want in camp," Mack said. "You had some time off in OTAs. OTAs isn't real contact football, so you use this opportunity in camp and all the preseason games to get back into where you want to be for the first game.
"I think I am right on board and right on track to where I want to be for the first game."