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Browns mentally prepare to embrace extreme cold conditions expected vs. Saints

Some players will be able to embrace the arctic conditions more than others


The Browns will play in one of their coldest games in franchise history Saturday against the Saints. With real feel temperatures expected to drop to -20 degrees, wind gusts potentially blowing as high as 62 mph and snow possibly falling as well, the conditions will be unlike anything most Browns players have ever experienced during a football game.

David Njoku, though, still plans to stick with his shirtless look during pregame warmups.

"I'm not from South Florida," said Njoku, who attended Miami for college but is from Cedar Grove, New Jersey. "I was born in Jersey, so I'm used to the cold. However, that doesn't mean I like the cold. On game days, I don't really mind the cold. As you can probably tell, I'm shirtless pregame every game.

"It's more like a mentality thing. On game day, I feel nothing."

Not every player will have as easy of a time ignoring the cold like Njoku, which will make several elements of the game interesting for the Browns as they go for their fourth win in the last five games.

The arctic conditions will likely mean both teams are forced to turn to their run game more frequently. That strategy that should benefit RB Nick Chubb, who totaled 99 yards last week against the Ravens No. 2-ranked run defense in conditions that were also chilly but not close to the biting cold expected to pierce the air Saturday.

Similar to Njoku's "feel nothing" mindset, Chubb also expects to keep his sleeveless jersey setup for the game. When asked if the conditions will make it harder to grip the football, he said "I don't know. Guess we'll find out Saturday."

Chubb said he doesn't think about the weather "at all" when he's on the field.

"I feel like it hasn't been as cold as it has been my first couple years here until this weekend. It was definitely different, but you get used to it, or you find a way to adapt to it."

Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams regular season game against the New Orleans Saints

The Browns will have to attempt to pass the ball at some point, and it could be difficult for QB Deshaun Watson to connect with Browns receivers on the deep passing plays they've been hoping to discover more as he continues to re-acclimate to NFL speeds.

Veteran WR Amari Cooper has played in several chilly settings throughout his eight-year career. To him, the weather shouldn't affect how players play, but he understands how it might alter game plans, particularly in the passing department.

"Obviously, the weather does affect the passing game, especially the wind — that's a huge thing," he said. "There are things you can do to mitigate that. That's when strategy comes into play."

When the Browns do pass, the throws will likely be of the shorter variety, but Watson proved last week in the 13-3 win over the Ravens that he's capable of managing the offense when conditions aren't favorable for big plays. He completed 18 of 28 pass attempts for 161 yards and one touchdown and no interceptions or turnovers, a stat line that'll always be acceptable in wintry conditions if the defense also does their part.

Saturday will likely be a tougher challenge for Watson, who said the game will "definitely" be the coldest game he's played in.

"My main job is just going out there and like I said before just executing the game plan and try to win," Watson said. "Not so much of what the weather is going to be because I can't control that."

CB Greg Newsome was a bit more blunt about the cold. He played in several frigid games in college at Northwestern and as a youth and high school player growing up near Chicago, and those experiences have given him the kind of perspective most fans likely expect players to really feel when they're in a glacial environment.

"I don't think you can ever necessarily prepare for that," Newsome said. "It's definitely going to be cold. I just feel like it's a decision to make: Are you going to let it affect you or not? Everyone loves to say, 'You went to Northwestern.' You can't prepare for cold. I'm cold, too, but it's just the mindset that you go into the game with."

Would going shirtless like Njoku help Newsome reach that mindset faster?

"Nah," Newsome said. "I ain't going to do that."