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Browns players conference call - 8/28


LB Christian Kirksey:**

On if the result on Friday is frustrating after putting in extra work on off days following the Atlanta game:




"Oh, yes, it's very frustrating once you go on the road and you go play a team that's pretty solid on the offense, you have a good practice week, feel comfortable going into the game and when you don't have the outcome that you wanted, it is definitely frustrating. When you give up 259 passing yards in one half, that is not a team that we want to be. It is definitely frustrating, but this week, we are just striving on getting better. It is still preseason so we are not going into panic mode, but we definitely have some things to clean up."

On if he puts more pressure on himself to make improvements, given his position as an ILB and a leader on the defense:

"Oh, yeah. Whenever you are a competitor, you want to put a load on yourself because you want to be that guy to make a play or that guy to step up. I definitely am going to be hard on myself and do some things in my game just to improve and help the defense and also special teams. They have increased my play on special teams. Like I said, we are going to get better. We watched the film and we see some correctable things that we can correct. We are still trying to define ourselves and see where we are, and we'll be fine."

On what is on top of the list of things to clean up on defense:

"First, on defense speaking for our side of the ball, we have to get down and get off on third downs. As you can see during the game, we were on the field for way too long. They won that third-down battle. That is something that we are stressing and something that (defensive coordinator) Ray (Horton) is stressing. We have to get off the field and definitely eliminate some of the passing gains. We have to be more sound in our drops and more sound in our coverage. That is just something that we need to work on. We just have to continue to look in small areas. A couple of weeks ago, we had to look at some tackling, and we tried to improve on that. Now, we need to improve on our coverage. I think we'll be fine, though. Like I said, it is not panic mode. It is preseason. We have a long way to go, and right now, we are just fine tuning things and seeing where we are."

On generating a consistent pass rush and not creating vulnerabilities in coverage:

"We have some great pass rushers. Right now, it is the evaluation process so we are evaluating different guys and we are putting different guys out there. We are just trying new things. Once we get this thing rolling, I have all the faith in our pass rushers. We just have to continue to get to the point, getting pressure on the quarterback, getting to the quarterback and being violent in everything that we do. It is going to be good for us to re-watch this film and then come up with something or come up with a way that our guys can get to the quarterback. Like I said, Ray, he is like a mad scientist. He is ridiculous when it comes to putting guys on the field and putting them in the best position to make plays. I think that is what he going to do with our pass rushers. He is going to find some pass rushers, develop some pass rushers and we will be fine."

On if Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston exposed a weakness in terms of the Browns defending a running QB:

"No, not at all. I don't think he exposed us at all. We just have to dig deep and look at ourselves and say, 'What do we want to be as a defense and how do we want to play?' We are not in panic mode or going crazy saying, 'Oh man, Jameis had this great game' or 'He exposed us' because it is preseason. We are not going to get too hyped in that. We are just out here trying to get better each and every day. Once preseason is over and we get into regular season, we are going to hit the ground running. That is what the preseason is for, to see where you are and see what type of guys you have and where we stand on defense. We are just going to strive to get better every day, and like I said, not go into panic mode. I tip my hat off to Jameis. He had a good game and he definitely played really well."

On if it will help the Browns defense once personnel and rotations are finalized:

"Ray, he knows what he is doing. He knows what type of guy he has or guys he has to get to the quarterback, and he will use them very well. I believe in all of our guys and I believe in this defense and this scheme. I believe we will be fine. We are just trying to put as many playmakers on the field as we can and see what players do best and try to get them to do their best on the field. That is all we are worried about. That is all we are trying to do is get better. We are not trying to focus on, 'Oh, we didn't have this many sacks or we didn't have this and that.' We are still developing guys. I just believe Ray has a master plan and that he will develop everyone into being the best player they can be."

On difficulties having a young defense in preparation for the season:

"You just get thrown into the fire. You just have to learn quickly, myself going into Year 3 or a younger guy that may be in Year 1 or Year 2, but it is football. When your name is called, you have to be there. You have to play. We still have some veteran guys like (LB) Paul Kruger. He is a veteran guy in pass rushing so he can help the younger guys with pass rushing. Then you have (LB) Demario Davis with the linebackers. You have (DBs) Joe Haden and Tramon Williams. We have some leadership and we have some veterans that have done it before, and we are happy with the guys we have on our team. There is an advantage to being young. They give us an extra motor. A lot of guys are fresh that can run for days and have a lot of energy so you have to look at the positivity in that and just keep going out there and playing football. It is a competitive league so we are not panicking or anything. We know what we have and that talent that we have. We just have to believe that."

On if was tough for him to see it not work out for LB Barkevious Mingo with the Browns as he was traded to the Patriots:

"It was tough to see your brother go, especially me and Mingo, we built a relationship since I first got to Cleveland. He is a good guy. Whenever you see good guys leave, that is definitely something you struggle with, but it is part of the business. I wished him well. I had a chance to talk with him. I'm happy I got a chance to sit there and I said my goodbyes to him. Like I said, that is still my friend and I wish him the best. He is going to another great organization, and I believe he'll do well there. I just wish the best for him."


The Browns take on the Buccaneers in Tampa for the third preseason game.

OL Joel Bitonio:**

On the Browns' pass protection against Tampa Bay:

"Definitely some things to work on. As a whole offense, it was just some little things. First and foremost, we kind of got behind the chains a little too much so that put us in passing situations, which puts us at a disadvantage. There was a little bit of everything. There were some things that happened on the line where we just got beat and then there were some things that they did well that put us in disadvantage situations where they brought one more guy than we can block or they had good coverage where we held onto the ball a little bit longer than we wanted to. It was a group effort. We definitely got our quarterback hit more than we wanted to and it is something we are definitely going to strive to fix. It is never good when your quarterback gets sacked, regardless of if he ran out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage or he got hit. There are just definitely things we need to work on and keep improving on and just get better for the next couple games."

On OL Cameron Erving assimilating with the Browns OL during training camp and the preseason:

"I think he's improving. I think the one thing with Cam is every week you are going to get his best effort. He is definitely not afraid to play hard and play with energy and kind of bring that mentality to the team, but I think technically he is still improving. He is still technically learning how to play center in the NFL, but the effort is there, the decision making is even better. Every game, you can see an improvement, you can see things where you're like, 'Man, that's a really impressive play he made.' There are obviously things that he is still working on. Luckily, it is still the preseason and we are still a couple weeks before our first game. We are still going to keep practicing, and hopefully, we can stay healthy as a unit for the next couple weeks and really get five, six, seven, eight practices in together to really be our best unit going into Week 1."

On the Browns' run blocking:

"We felt actually pretty good in our run game. We didn't run the ball as much as we wanted to just because we were behind the sticks with penalties and unforced errors, but there were some really solid things in the run game. Crow (RB Isaiah Crowell) had a nice couple runs. (RB) Duke (Johnson Jr.) did some good things out there. Obviously we wish we could have done it some more and get some more yards, but still we are improving the little things. We are chasing perfection at every block we make. There are definitely things to work on, but we saw life in the run game and saw things that if we stay on schedule, this could be a successful run game for us."

On if Head Coach Hue Jackson will maintain a similar run-pass split during the regular season:

"I'm not really sure. I haven't been in Hue's head that way. I just kind of go out there and run the plays that they tell us to run. I think it just depends on the game and it depends what defenses are giving us. I think he is a great coordinator. I think he is going to put us in the best positions to be a successful offense. It will be interesting to see. I'm just as excited as you guys to see how do it Week 1."

On the impact of OL Joe Thomas missing time with a back injury:

"Anytime you don't have one of the best guys at their position, ever probably, it is going to hurt your group. We know Joe knows what he is doing. We know he is going to be ready to play Week 1. We know he is going to be there. I think it has been a plus to get guys like (OL) Dan (France) and Spence (OL Spencer Drango) some more time out on the field and just develop them so they get some experience out there. We know Joe has the experience. We know he is going to be ready to play. Obviously, me being a little selfish, I want to be out there with Joe as much as possible, but it is good to get some other guys out there and really try and build their confidence and help them out. There is definitely a little bit of a drop off, but I think Dan and Spence have been coming in and really trying to work and trying to improve their craft. Anytime you come in for an All-Pro, it is big shoes to fill, but they are really working at it. They are really trying to take advantage of their opportunities."

On if veteran Browns OL members need to rally around Erving and OL Austin Pasztor as they work to fill in for Falcons C Alex Mack and Chiefs OL Mitchell Schwartz:

"As an O-line, it is five guys working as one no matter who is out there. When you get guys that are coming in like Cam and Austin that weren't starting there last year but are coming in as starters this year, the whole O-line rallies around each other. Austin is two guys away from me so I don't work with him as much, but working with a guy like Cam, we are just trying to develop such a relationship. I wouldn't call it rallying. I would call it we are just working together. We are just trying to improve the O-line as much as possible. Those are great players that we had last year that we lost, but these guys have done a good job stepping up and we are seeing improvement each week. I think as an O-line, we are really starting to come together. Obviously, there are some plays that we want to take back last week, but I think going into Philly, we are going to have a good group that is ready to take on some good defenses."


On what gives him reason to believe that this season will be better than last year:**

"I think the whole attitude of the team is much improved. The preseason hasn't gone win and loss the way we want it to, but we see signs of hope. It takes time to put your stamp on a team, but Coach Jackson has really done a good job of stressing the little details, the important things, the way we work as a team, the way we practice. There are just so many improvements in that aspect, and it seems like the team is a lot closer. We are ready to take the next step. Is it going to be Week 1? Is it going to be Week 2? That is our goal. We want to win as soon as possible. There is hope around this team. There are guys that are working, guys that are doing everything possible to put the Cleveland Browns in the best spot we can. I know this team goes out every week expecting to win, and we are doing everything on our part to do that."

On his favorite part of returning to play after missing time last season due to injury:

"My favorite thing is just not feeling like I'm letting the team down. When you are not playing and you are a guy that is supposed to be out there, you feel like you are letting a guy like (OL) Joe (Thomas) down, you are letting the quarterback, last year like (QB) Josh (McCown) down, you are letting those guys down, you are not helping the team. We didn't win many games, but you are not out there trying to help the team win. Then just from a football standpoint, for me, there is no better feeling than scoring a touchdown. Like when you see that ball leave RG's (QB Robert Griffin III) hand and (WR) Josh (Gordon) gets that play this weekend, there's nothing better than being like, 'Man. That is what you do. That is what you work for. That is all the hours you put in the weight room, just to see plays like that.' Just to be out there and see that has been really cool, and hopefully, we get a win one of these weeks coming up and really cement me being back."

On if he is a better player now than before his injury last year and if he thinks about potentially reaching a Pro Bowl, given Browns coaches believe he can be that level of a player:

"I feel really good. My ankle feels great. I feel 100 percent physically. That is a big start. This offseason, I trained really hard. I worked hard. You push yourself to a certain extent by pushing myself to be the best Joel that I can be but also to improve the team as much as possible. I feel like going into Year 3 that I have learned the NFL game a lot more. I feel like (offensive line) Coach (Hal) Hunter has really helped me and is just working on the little details with me in pass protection, getting my hands better and just leverage. As a rookie, you are thinking about which way am I going on this play and who am I blocking, and now I am thinking about how am I going to block this guy instead of so much the scheme and things like that. I think I have been able to concentrate on myself a little bit more. I think it has been a really good preseason for me and training camp. I felt strong, but once we get into the season, we will see how that plays out. You hear about Pro Bowls and you hear about things. My goal is just to be the best I can be out there. If that stuff comes, I am going to be very happy with those accolades, but I am trying to do as much as I can do to help us win games and everything else is going to fall into place. I will be happy when we win some more games than we did last year."

On if it took time to learn QB Robert Griffin III's tendencies and playing style in order to block for him:

"I think so. Anytime you have a new quarterback, it takes game experience. I think we are starting to get there as an offense. The hard thing about the NFL is no defense is exactly the same and no play is ever exactly the same so there are always new situations that come up that you are not used to that you haven't seen them and reacted to it. Tampa Bay was pretty much a completely new defense than what we have played the first two weeks. It was good to kind of get out there and see how they reacted. I know he can throw the ball and I know he can run. Any quarterback, you want to protect him as long as you possibly can. We are trying to do that the best we can."

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