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Browns coordinators press conference - 10/21

Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor:

Opening statement:

"Cincinnati Bengals, typical Cincinnati Bengals special teams unit a really good. (Bengals CB Adam) Pacman Jones, (Bengals WR Alex) Erickson are the returners. They still have the same punter, (Bengals P Kevin) Huber, who has been an excellent directional punter his entire career. (Bengals K Mike) Nugent, the kicker, is kicking really well. His only misses have come from over 50 yards. He has been a clutch guy for them for a long time. We are trying to concentrate still on improving our fundamentals. We have to get those things to be better so we can eliminate penalties, especially can't have penalties when you have big returns. We are working hard at that and just trying to get better."

On eliminating penalties during season:

"You have to coach them better. We are working on the fundamentals of it. I always say, 'Assignment, alignment, technique.' Instill in practice – yesterday was our punt return day – we will spend the first part of it just working fundamentals and just trying to get it better and making it better. You never know in the return game. You could have a big one like we did last week. You could have a bunch of 5-6, 10-yard returns. You never know when that big one is going to hit. You can't hurt yourself when those big ones arise. We are working hard at it. Hopefully, we see an improvement this week. Need to."

On if the penalty that brought back RB Duke Johnson Jr.'s big return at Tennessee was a good call:

"I think so. I can't argue with the officiating."

On the hit that injured DB Jordan Poyer in Tennessee:

"Football is football. Let me first say this, Jordan Poyer is one of the class guys on our team and in my room, one of the leaders. He is a heart and soul type player for us that pumps blood through our room. To lose him, it hurts us. We are going to have other guys step up and I know other guys are excited about the opportunities. With regards to the hit, Jordan knows that football is football. It is an unfortunate play that happened. Obviously, I wish that he was back playing this week, but we are looking forward to him getting a speedy recovery and healthy recovery and being the player that he is."

On Poyer being blindsided by the Titans defender, who had a running start:

"I know they don't they don't coach it either. Things happen. It is. It is a collision sport. I don't have any comment on it. There are plays in all games where players sustain injuries. Players know that when they go out there those things can happen. It was an unfortunate play. Where my focus is, I just want Jordan to get better."

On when the NFL changed the rule regarding blocking back toward the goal line:

"The thing is when you come back towards the goal line, you have to lower your target lower than the head and neck area. He got him high there, and that is obviously why they flagged him. You do see those blocks. The video guys make a big play tape for me every week, just all the things that go on in the league. You do see those blocks that come back. I think the league is doing a good job of officiating it with regards to making sure guys aren't going towards the head or neck area and those type of things, but it is a common thing that takes place."

On Johnson as the punt returner going forward:

"Yeah, I definitely think that he is one of them. I will say this about Duke Johnson and I know that obviously, he does great things for us offensively. What people don't talk about is what he does for us special teams wise. Duke has been a returner. He has had big returns. Duke has played personal protector for us on the punt. Duke has played slot on the punt team. Those are multiple positions. Duke can be a kick returner also. Duke came up to me this week and said, 'Hey, put me out there. If you don't want me to return, I can play something else on punt return.' He is not a selfish player. He just wants to help the team win. I have a lot of respect for players like that. When he comes into the special teams meeting, he is so dialed in. What people don't see is him helping younger players. This is what the call should be and this is why he is calling it the way he is and those type of things. His value in our room is so much more than just being a returner. There are just a lot of other things. Duke, at the end of the day, is a good football player."

On who is emerging on special teams, especially among the younger Browns players:

"The younger guys, I think that we are getting better, slowly. We still have a long way to go. Don't get me wrong, we are not satisfied with where we are, but the last few weeks, (LB Joe) Schobert has stepped up. You are starting to see him make some tackles. (LB) Dominique Alexander is playing well. (LB) Tank Carder, he is a guy that has obviously been here a long time and has played well for us. His play is increasing. There are a lot of guys that are starting on offense – (DB) Ibraheim Campbell, (DB) Derrick Kindred – there were plays two weeks ago you saw Derrick Kindred take the next step. He is blocking (Patriots WR) Matthew Slater, the six-time Pro Bowler, on kick return. It might have been a touchback, but Derrick Kindred wins the battle, the one-on-one battle and you see the player growth right there and say, 'OK, that is what you put on tape. That is who you are. Now, we want more.' I'm starting to see some guys develop, but with anything, we have to get better. The only way we are going to get better is to just keep working on our fundamentals."

On if he senses what this game means for Head Coach Hue Jackson, given his history with the Bengals:

"I can. Sure, there is no question. At the same time, it is Cincinnati Bengals-Cleveland Browns. What we are trying to focus on obviously is just our piece of the puzzle. I expect our room to play extremely well for Coach, no doubt about it."

On if K Cody Parkey has the best leg among all the kickers he has coached:

"He is kicking the ball well right now, ever since the Miami game. He came back the next week and we talked about that. He is a pro's pro. He is striking the ball well. He does. He gets good lift on the football. His kickoffs have been real well. The other thing, he can move the ball. We haven't really gotten into all that stuff yet, but we have been working it. Then just him with the onside kick last week, I have been watching that for three weeks and him dial that kick up, and he executed it beautifully. He is a player that keeps growing, and I'm excited with where his arrow is."

On if the Browns were close to recovering the second onside kick attempt at Tennessee:

"We did. I thought we snuck through. (WR Rashard) Higgins ended up hitting the guy, and the ball went out of bounds. Sometimes, when you hit onside kicks and you see it a lot on tape, when you go wide, obviously, you bring ole 'Sammy the Sideline' into play, and that is what happened. Had the ball obviously been in the middle, the ball is loose again. It is a free for all."

On his comments that Parkey's Miami performance would not linger and his success since:

"No, the kid is… What I'm learning about him, he is very focused and determined, and he attacks his craft each and every day. The thing about him that you don't see that I see is he has a distinct routine of what he goes through. You might even see it in pregame, but how he stretches, how he warms up, all those things. Going back to a (49ers K) Phil Dawson when I first got here – a guy that is obviously one of the greatest kickers of all time in my opinion – he had a distinct routine for how he did things. When you look at all great players, they have that. There is a process that they go through. There is a reason they are successful, and this kid is doing a nice job for us."

On if there is time dedicated to practicing onside kicks during practice:

"We do what we do. The kicker does. He works it, and then we work it as a unit, we have one particular day where we work it and get it all dialed in. Typically, what happens is most teams, you carry the same onside kick for weeks and weeks. Then you get it one time and you hope that one time, all the practice pays off."

Defensive coordinator Ray Horton:

Opening statement:

"Before I start, you guys may or may not know – I don't know –that I was in Cincinnati. I was drafted there and coached there, and (Bengals public relations director) Jack Brennan, who I think you guys know, he was one of the beat reporters when I was playing, and we had an affectionate name for him in the locker room. Obviously, he is their PR director now. He is retiring so I just wanted to wish him well in his endeavors as he goes off and puts the quill pen down, wherever he puts it down. Hopefully, he is on the beach and picking up a nice margarita or drink of his choice and enjoy his retirement."

On the Bengals old nickname for Brennan:

"It is not bad. It was 'Jack the Ripper' at the time because he would kill us. It is interesting when you watch the parallels between the teams. The team, (Pro Football Hall of Fame Head Coach) Paul Brown, who obviously was not the founder here but he was the first coach, and I guess the team was named after him if you want to go that way or (Pro Football Hall of Fame RB) Jim Brown, however you want to look at it, but it was probably Paul Brown. Then Mr. Brown moved his franchise or he got the franchise in Cincinnati, and the colors and all that, it is an interesting parallel between the two teams and the connections and stuff. Yeah, Jack, we struggled down there for a while off and on, and then we went to the Super Bowl while I was there and then also before I was there when they had (former Bengals QB) Kenny Anderson and (former Bengals WR) Cris Collinsworth and those guys. Now, we are trying to look like them, and our Head Coach (Hue Jackson) obviously is from Cincinnati. They turned it around and they had struggles for a while, and we are trying to do the same thing. So yeah, Jack Brennan (laughter)."

On DL Danny Shelton and if he is playing to Browns' standard:

"Danny, I think I mentioned earlier, when we came in we asked him to make some changes to his game, his body and just him to be a better player. We think he can be a Pro Bowl, dominant player. I don't want to put an undue burden on him, but that is what we feel, and we are pushing him to be that. He changed his body, and that is not easy. We understand. [I know] how hard it is for me to change my habits, and now, he has. He has shown flashes of being 'wow' dominant in there, and I think the changes we have asked him to make help that. I was just talking to the team today about him, the defensive team about we have asked guys to do some things and they are for a reason, and he has shown improvement in his play. I know other teams know that because they make comments to me about it. Is he coming along? Yes, I think he is maybe now starting to understand, 'I can be pretty good at this level.' I think you need validation from somewhere. You may know you are good, but you still need validation because if it is only in your own mind, what does that mean? He is taking steps and becoming a leader. He is a very smart player. He works hard. He has intensity. He has range. We just want to see him continue that and not just be a guy that is up and down like a roller coaster but really be one of the best players. If you can be a stud defensive nose in the AFC North, you can be a stud defensive nose in the NFL. That is what we are trying to push him to be."

On Shelton consistently grading out well on a football analytics websites and if he has been consistent enough:

"There are ebbs and flows in games, and maybe it is the opponent that you are playing against that maybe gives you a blocking scheme or a double or maybe the guy – like a (Dolphins C, Mike, or Steelers C, Maurkice) Pouncey or something like that – but for us to get where we want, we have to be very consistent. That is what you want. You know there is going to be a game, a play or two that really swings the game, and what we are striving for is our better players to show the younger players that this is how you do it day in and day out in practice, and he does. He works hard, but I think with him and probably himself also, the expectation is more, and it is. We are going to drive him for more. Is he playing better? Is he playing well? Yes. Can he play better? I think the answer is yes, he can play better, and that is what we are pushing him to do is be more dominant, more consistent, and if he needs a break to come out, come on out and go back in. We always want more from all of our players, and obviously, our coaches, too, we want more. We push our coaches too to make sure no stone is left unturned, and that means watching every game and going back, watching film from last year even though Hue was there watching what (Bengals offensive coordinator) Ken Zampese may do."

On if Shelton is taking steps to increase his range and be a 'numbers to numbers' type player:

"Yes, and more. If you watch film, he is downfield on screens, on alley screens and plays. He does it in practice, too. He is that kind of player. I remember at the University of Washington, he was that type player, also. It was something that was in him, and it is just something that we are demanding from him. He is starting to understand that he is going to be one of our leaders, and he is trying to be one of our leaders."

On DB Tracy Howard:

"Tracy, I really appreciated his skills at the University of Miami. He played mostly right corner for them down there, and looking at him coming out, I thought he would be more of a free safety than a corner in the NFL. We have practiced him at free safety, at corner and also the nickel position. Just his athletic ability, his smarts, and his confidence – he is a very confident young man – he went in last week and held his own, and maybe it is a little different when you are not expecting to start. Maybe you just do your normal preparation and all the sudden, 'Oh I go in,' where as this week he has known the whole week what he is going to do. I don't think the action, the game, the play, the opponent, the city will be too much for him. I like his confidence, and I'm excited to watch him play because I have seen him play since he was at Miami, and I'm excited that we have the kid. I think the kid has the ability to play in this league, and I'm glad he has the opportunity. I am excited to see what he does."

On the biggest challenge for Howard moving from CB to S:

"The corner is a tougher position in my opinion because you are going against world class athletes. I often use the term (Cavaliers SF) LeBron (James) would probably be a tight end, he would be a dominant tight end in the league. For our guys, they are against more of the wide receiver, sleek (Bengals WR) A.J. Green types. It is hard to do that. It sounds simple, but it is not, at all. At the safety position, it is less one-on-one and more about protecting us deep and it is more about angles and really for me, it is a security position. You cannot miss tackles back there. You have to get the guy on the ground. Really, it is your eyes, it is trusting everything that we do preparation wise and just trusting the process that what we tell you will work. I think he can handle everything that the position entails, and he may play all three for us now this week, too. He has proven to be a valuable part of our team."

On what he saw on film of Howard that showed he could play S:

"Probably a simple answer would be the fluidity in his hips. Probably that more than anything."

On the passing of former Browns LB Quentin Groves:

"I was driving to the airport and I got a call from a Tennessee Titan coach, and I was shocked to receive a call from an opposing coach right before we played them. I go, 'To what do I owe the pleasure of this phone call?' He goes, 'It is not a good phone call,' and he told me. I was shocked. I went to my phone and looked at my last message from him, and he was involved in some little league camps. He wanted me to come down. The text was on August 22, and I replied, 'I will do it after the season.' I am a firm believer in you don't have tomorrow promised. You really don't. I live my life that way, and I try to impart that on the players here, meaning their career is that way and in life it is that way. Quentin Groves is probably one of the most upbeat individuals you have ever met in your life, always a smile. Some players say this and I don't think they mean it but I think he did, when you ask him how he was doing, he would always, always answer, 'I'm blessed.' That is how he lived. Boy, it was shocking and sad, but also for me, I take pleasure in life because I try to live with no regrets and don't look back and whatever you do you do it for a reason and there are choices and consequences. I understand that, but I think at my funeral if anybody cries, I don't think they knew me because I try to live my life a certain way. I think he did and so I took pleasure in that. Boy was he a joy to be around."

On if Paul Brown truly belongs to the Browns or the Bengals:

"Where does Paul Brown? Oh, that way. How about Massillon and we split it right down the middle? I think I told this story last time I was here about Mr. Brown. He told a story to us about when he went down to Miami and they were going to play the Dolphins there. They walked into the hotel, and when they came into the hotel the clerk said, 'They can stay, but they can't stay.' He was talking about the color of the skin of the players, and he says, 'Either we all stay or none of us stay.' He was so far ahead of his time – obviously football wise, and everybody knows the innovations that he brought into football – but I don't know if people know the story behind him. His son, (Bengals owner) Mike Brown is the same way. Nobody knows the stories of what he has done for former players. They are a remarkable NFL football family and one of the founding families in the league. It is a privilege to have those kind of owners in the league, how they take care of their players as family. Sometimes that gets just brushed under the carpet like 'O, it doesn't matter.' It does matter."

On Bengals WR A.J. Green and why his numbers are even better than usual this year:

"I think you would have to ask (Bengals QB) Andy Dalton, but maybe it is because they have a newer corps of receivers next to him. It may just be trust factor since (Falcons WR Mohamed) Sanu is not there, maybe since (Bengals TE Tyler) Eifert is not playing. I believe it is probably more that, but Andy would have to tell you that. Is A.J. playing at a high level? Absolutely, every week it is up the field and he has always been that way. He has been a fantastic receiver, meaning he is long and he is lean, he can run up the field, he can high-point the ball and he is probably a little bit like (Pro Football Hall of Fame WR) Jerry Rice in that he has that lean body but he is a little bit stronger than you anticipated. He is not a Megatron (former Lions WR Calvin Johnson) where it is a physical thing. I just think he is probably more of a brick-layer mentality. He has those strong hands, strong lean body more than a bulky body." 

**

Associate head coach - offense Pep Hamilton:**

On the challenge if WR Terrelle Pryor Sr. is not able to play against the Bengals:

"I don't know. I have not thought about it yet."

On if that means he expects Pryor to play:

"We will see."

On the Bengals defensive line and challenges Bengals DT Geno Atkins and DE Carlos Dunlap present:

"Those guys are veteran players that have had a ton of production over the course of their careers. We will be faced with a challenge of trying to contain those guys, but our guys, they work hard all week long and we have to do a great job of forcing those guys to defend both the run and the pass. That plays a big part in being able to somewhat contain a defensive front like the Bengals front."

On the sacks and QB hurries that the Titans defense generated and if it is due to the Browns changes on the OL:

"No, it is a combination of things. They had good players, and they made some plays. There were times when they brought some pressures that presented some challenges. (QB) Cody (Kessler) said it right – we have to make sure that we put him in a position to where he can get the ball out of his hands fairly quick, and of course, when it is time to block a guy one on one, we have to get that done as well."

On if Kessler showed anything with ability to make plays outside of the pocket during the Titans game:

"Yeah, that was impressive. That was something else that the more he plays you start to see that he can do a lot of different things with regards to managing bad plays. We prefer that he find his check down and find a way to get the ball out of his hand, but if you get in a situation where you have to improvise and you have to make a guy miss and you have to extend the play with your legs, it is good to see that he can do that in games."

On why the Browns run game has struggled the past two weeks:

"It is just like anything else. When our opponents go back and scout our tape, they pretty much make it a point of emphasis to try and stop something that we have done in the prior games and so they really loaded up the box the past couple weeks to take away the run, but that is no excuse for us not to be able to run the football. We have to do a better job that way. We have to do a better job of finding ways to get both Crow (RB Isaiah Crowell) and (RB) Duke (Johnson Jr.) into the secondary of the defense and run the ball the way that we expect to run the ball."

On if teams are loading the box in part because Kessler is a rookie QB and opponents want him to prove that he can beat them with his arm:

"I think that could potentially be a part of it, but when you look back at the success that we had running the football early in the season, I think that played a big part of it, also."

On WR Jordan Payton and his development:

"He needs to play. When given the opportunity to play, it is good to see that it was not too big for him in a critical situation that he was close to making a big play for us in the passing game. When the opportunity for him to play presents itself, hopefully, he will be ready to go out there and compete and play."

On WR Ricardo Louis and if he has gotten over his drops from previous weeks:

"He bounced back. He has worked hard this week to make sure that we don't have those drops in critical situations, not to say that that was not a point of emphasis for all our receivers throughout the course of this season. We have to make the plays when the plays present themselves, but he is working hard at it. He is a young guy that the more he plays, the more confidence that he is going to develop and that he has developed up until this point to be able to go out there and know that he is a playmaker in this league and he can be a playmaker in this league."

On WR Rashard Higgins and what makes the coaching staff confident he can play well if needed this week:

"The way that he has practiced. He is a heady football player. Even so, we say this quite a bit, until you do it in games, it is hard to say where a guy is until we can see him go out and compete against the likes of a (Bengals DB Adam) Pacman Jones, who is a really good football player and (Bengals DB Dre) Kirkpatrick. They have some good guys, some really good players in their secondary so he will be faced with the challenge of having to make plays and make some tough catches in tough spaces at critical times against some proven veterans if he is given that opportunity to go out there and play."            

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