Training Camp

Browns move Joel Bitonio to left tackle, confident in selfless veteran

Joel Bitonio will be the Browns' starting left tackle — at least for the foreseeable future. 

Cleveland moved the left guard over one spot during Wednesday's practice after months of uncertainty at the recently vacated position. 

"He's one of the best left guards in football. He has the versatility to go out there and play," head coach Hue Jackson said. "Me knowing Joel, he's a team guy. A lot of people don't want to move away from where they've had a lot of success. I had a really good conversation with him."

Jackson said it's unclear how long Bitonio will stay at left tackle but made clear Cleveland's front office and coaching staff will "continue to do everything we can to address that position."

"There could be some people within our team that could still play it. But right now, I think that he gives us the best chance to go out and play tackle and solidify the offensive line right now," he said. "We'll keep developing the guys in our locker room. All it will do is make us stronger as we move forward."

Bitonio, widely considered one of the league's best interior offensive linemen, replaces third-year tackle Shon Coleman, who opened camp as the team's starter. Rookie Austin Corbett, a second-round pick, moved into the vacant left guard spot. 

Of course, Bitonio also steps into the massive shoes of former teammate and friend Joe Thomas, the 10-time Pro Bowler who announced his retirement in March after 11 seasons. "I talked to him a little bit yesterday. He said he's going to be here in a week or so for maybe a day or two. I was like 'I will need some pointers from you,'" Bitonio said. "But he said if I have any film he wants to watch, I can send it to him."

Bitonio is coming off, perhaps, one of his best seasons, earning Pro Bowl alternate honors in addition to being named the team's Good Guy Award winner for his cooperation with the news media.   

While Bitonio played left tackle during his final season at Nevada, this is relatively new territory. He's started all 47 career games at left guard since Cleveland made him a second-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Because of that, Jackson said now was the time to make the switch.

"I think that it would be unfair to put him out there later on and say, 'OK, you have got to do it without having any practice, or any preseason reps in a game to see if you can do it,'" he said. "Me knowing Joel, I think that he can do anything. But at the same time, I have to give him a chance to be successful and that's what we're going to do."

Bitonio, who expressed apprehension toward playing a new position, said he'll do whatever it takes to help the Browns win games this fall. 

"Coach Jackson wants to put the best five offensive linemen on the field, and right now he feels that's with me at left tackle," he said. "I'm going to try and be the best left tackle I can be, and if something happens to our guy and I have to go play left guard again, then I'll try to be ready for that as well. It's just what is going to help our team win the most games."

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