Browns players expected Hue Jackson to be on the sidelines for their Week 12 matchup against the Bengals.
Just not on the opposite one.
Yes, the Browns will face their ex-head coach this Sunday just four weeks after his dismissal, the first of two reunions with their former leader this season. Jackson, who was Cleveland's head coach for two and a half seasons, recently joined the Bengals as a special assistant to longtime coach Marvin Lewis.
"It'll feel a little awkward," defensive back T.J. Carrie said. "But I'm very happy for Coach Jackson. Wasn't gonna be a long time before he wasn't without a job."
That's the extent of the impact Jackson's new job will have on this game, though, Browns players and coach Gregg Williams said. Carrie was the only player who said anything about the situation besides maintaining the team's focus was on the Bengals, and Jackson's familiarity with the Browns' system and play calls, they said, means little if they execute the plays at a high level.
The Browns and Bengals play each other twice a year, anyways. They already know each other's every move.
"We know what they're gonna do, they know what we're gonna do," Carrie said. "There's not really more scheme-wise that they dive into or we can surprise them with."
Williams took Carrie's point a step further. Even teams outside the AFC North can diagnose the Browns' play calls and formations thanks to technology. Secrets don't win football games. Execution does.
"There is nothing private in our world anymore," Williams said. "Every single clip of film is out there for everybody to watch. It is about execution. Even in practices, our guys know what the guys on the other side of the ball are going to be doing, but they get out-executed at times. Those are things that we have to do."
Regardless of impact, the former boss is working with this week's opponent. Even if it doesn't hinder the Browns much, it still might be a little awkward for some, as Carrie said. But those emotions fade quickly when it's time to play.
"I wouldn't say we have mixed emotions," Carrie said. "(The players and Jackson) definitely have a relationship off the field. But when we step in them white lines, it's a respect level. We're trying to go at each other. It's a war; it's a battle."