Included below are select quotes from interviews with the following Browns players during today's media availability:
- OL Joel Bitonio
- OL Spencer Drango
- LB Christian Kirksey
- QB DeShone Kizer (full transcript)
- OL JC Tretter
OL Joel Bitonio:
On if he has talked to OL Joe Thomas since his surgery:
"Yeah, we talked a little bit yesterday. He said he was doing fine. He is in good spirits, as good as you can be for just having surgery."
On if it was a long surgery, given the media wasn't updated until later on his status:
"I'm not sure of the exact extent. He was probably asleep for a while. Sometimes those surgeries knock you out for the day. You are a little groggy so it might not be something, but I think he is doing well. He is resting right now."
On who is comparable to Vikings DE Everson Griffen:
"He is kind of his own guy. He is just a lengthy, athletic, strong, well-rounded pass rusher kind of like just one of the pass rushers in the NFL that you have to look out for."
On visiting London this summer:
"There were a good amount of Browns fans over there. It was kind of cool that like every team is represented over there so there is not one huge group, but I think we are going to have a good amount of Browns fans in the stands. You might hear some dawg chants and things of that nature."
On if there is anything touristy he wants to do in London:
"No, I kind of got all of that out of the way this summer. I will probably just be at the hotel getting ready to play."
On his favorite part of his visit to London:
"Just seeing all of the historic buildings. It is such an old area. It kind of reminded me of New York, just a lot older. You would see the towers and the bridges and just the culture over there was pretty cool."
OL Spencer Drango:
On his mindset playing LT in place of OL Joe Thomas:
"Just go out there and do my best, stay calm and play as hard as I can for the guys around me."
On facing Vikings DE Everson Griffen who has nine sacks:
"He is a great player. It will be a great challenge."
On if he played LT his final year at Baylor:
"Yeah, I was at left tackle all of my years at Baylor."
On if he has chemistry with OL Joel Bitonio:
"I do. Some of the times Joe didn't practice and he had a vet day so I would be at left tackle. I have reps next to Joel so the chemistry is there. We are still building it, obviously, but we should be able to build it more this weekend."
On his emotions heading into this game:
"All of the above – excited, nervous, all of them. I think it is good to be nervous. Even Joe told us he still got nervous before games. It is something that I think it is important to be a little. You have to embrace it and use that as fuel."
On learning every spot on the OL:
"A lot of practice just at everything. Being here last year, starting at guard helped me with the guard positions. Early on in the season last season, I was learning tackle so just cumulatively looking over everything and knowing it. Just practicing every position and going on scout team at every position. That is what it takes."
LB Christian Kirksey:
On if the London trip comes at a good time in the Browns' season and challenges playing overseas:
"At the end of the day, we are paid to go and play anywhere. Whether it is in a different country, whether it is on the west coast, east coast, wherever we are scheduled to play, that is where we are going to play. I look at it as an extended away game. Like if you are up in New York flying all the way to California, that is about a what – a four hour flight? A five hour flight? For us to fly to London, it is an extra four [hours] so I just look at it as a long away trip. I don't think it is the distraction for us. We are just ready to go out there and go against the Vikings. It is just another game. It is just in a different destination."
On Minnesota's offense:
"They have a lot of weapons. Obviously, their starting running back before he got hurt (Vikings RB Dalvin Cook) – it was a different style of offense, but they are getting the ball into the hands of 82, their tight end (Kyle Rudolph). He is a dominate tight end. We know that he can become a spark in the game so it is up to us to eliminate some of the big plays. They have a good running game. Their defense is solid so they are an overall good team. For us to get a win, we have to do everything right on our end."
On what DL Myles Garrett has meant to the defense:
"Myles is a great player. We all can see that. He is just coming off the edge bringing an extra spark to the defense. Being that guy that can go out there and make an impact play, that is definitely something that we will miss, but he is just being Myles. We have been seeing him since training camp, the type of player he is so he has done everything good for us and we just have to have the next man in."
On Garrett being in concussion protocol and if he feels for him since he recently returned from an ankle injury:
"Yeah, that is for any player. I feel for any player in that sense, but Myles, he has a positive attitude so it is just a minor setback. I am not worried about Myles mentally. I know that he will stay in it. He is grinding. It is just unfortunate with the things that have happened, but as long as you keep staying positive and everybody on the team having that same mindset, standing behind our brothers, we just have to keep pushing and keep grinding."
On if he was surprised that Garrett mentioned concussion symptoms on Tuesday after playing a full game and being at the facility Monday:
"Yeah, I was surprised, but then again it is football. Things like that happen. You can't control certain things. We play a violent sport so I was surprised to hear it, but then again, I am like, you know what? That is the sport that we play. Like I said, I know Myles – he is a very positive guy and he is doing everything in his ability to play, and I know that he will go through the protocol and whatnot and we will just see where it takes him."
QB DeShone Kizer:
On Head Coach Hue Jackson's message when naming him the starter for Sunday's game against Minnesota:
"It is another opportunity to go out there and get it right for once. For me, it is about taking these opportunities that coach has been able to give me in a league where not a lot of guys get these and maximizing it for once. I feel like I am definitely getting better and I am on the path of evolving myself into a guy who can win in this league, but it is about eliminating obviously the turnovers and the plays that are stopping us from winning games and finally going out there and competing in a game. It has been a good three weeks since I have been able to go out there in the fourth quarter and attempt to win a game, and I am looking forward to having a complete game."
On how critical he is of himself:
"Very. Yeah, you know, there is not a lot of guys out there who can hold themselves to standards as high as I hold myself to. It has been pretty disappointing to have a start the way that we have had. My ultimate goal was to come here and win games for this team and represent this organization the right way, and I haven't been on that path. It is about accepting what has happened in these first seven weeks and doing something different to change that."
On how to balance playing aggressively but not worrying about being replaced:
"You don't ever have to worry about me not bringing aggressiveness. That is who I am. My instincts are always going to want to push the ball down the field, but also accepting that not putting the ball in harm's way is the best thing for us. I think that in the first half up until that last throw of the first half in the last game is exactly who I want to be as a quarterback. The guy who is stringing together good drives, putting the ball in our playmakers hands and creating some positive drives for us to make sure that we can put ourselves in position to win a game."
On if there was a common factor in his turnovers after reviewing the film:
"No, there was not necessarily a common denominator. Every throw is different, every situation is different and you can't really expect that to happen, but what I did learn is not necessarily to look into each play individually but just understand the time and place in the game and how it affects the game. I am trying to learn it from kind of the macro level and understanding what it does to the defense, what it does to the offense and the mindset that coach has at the time and things like that and understanding the situation, making sure that you are coming out on top. You can go through each of those picks, and they are all very critical moments within the game that truly turns the game around. That is why in these last two outings that I have had I have been pulled after those interceptions because those are turnovers that are very costly to our team. Obviously, being in the red zone in times where you are driving and you are stopping momentum, you can't be doing that as the quarterback. After going back and reevaluating that, it is more understanding that in those situations it is alright to take off and it is alright to throw the ball away. Quite a few of those could have ended up in kicks, whether it be punts and field goals, and the other ones could have been first downs or second downs that could put us in another position in third down where we can go out and complete a pass."
On playing in London and challenges with the trip:
"That travel, I have never had it before, but I am sure it is going to be physically and mentally tolling on us as a team. It is on us to make sure that we understand the different things that we can do to combat that from nutrition, to the way that we sleep to the things that we are doing, eliminating blue lights and just small things like that are all going to come into play when we get out there. On top of that, it is going to be awesome to go over and play in another country and truly represent this area, Cleveland, Ohio on an international scale. I think it will be awesome for us also to go play against a very good team in Minnesota and come out with a victory. Why not have a signature victory going into the bye week?"
On Jackson's message when he told him he would start this week:
"Once again, it is just here is another opportunity. Not a lot of guys get it in this league. I have gone out there and I have not really played to the best of my ability. I am putting this team in some tough situations yet I am still provided another opportunity to go out and improve myself. It is about doing whatever I can to have a complete game. It has been almost a month since I have been able to go out and play in the second half and attempt to win a game. For me, it is about doing whatever I can to put ourselves in a position within the first two quarters to keep the game close so that when we come out, we can actually come out with a good finish and win a game."
On if his 'leash will be longer' this Sunday:
"It is a productivity-based industry so I am sure that if I go out there and I am not producing the way I am going to you are going to have the same results. It is about doing whatever I can this week and making sure that when I am out there I am producing and obviously, attacking the biggest mistake, and that is turnovers."
On if anyone advised him how to respond when asked about being out late on a Friday night:
"I have talked to a bunch of people. From my parents to my mentors to some of my teammates, and obviously, there are a lot of different messages you can get from that, but the overall message was the one that I gave and that is that at the end of the day, the bigger message is as a leader of this team, you can't create distractions. That is the one that hit home the most. I just want to make sure that I can do whatever I can now that everything I do moving forward from my preparation to how I spend my free time is helping this team head in the right direction and not distracting us from the ultimate goal."
On the Vikings defense:
"They are very good all the way across and they have a very good defensive coordinator (Head Coach Mike Zimmer). Obviously, Coach (Jackson) has been able to go up against a very similar style of defense with the Cincinnati connections and we have to make sure that we can do whatever we can to correct some of the things that we have done in the past because we know that it itches; this defense is going to itch. First of all, it is making sure that we understand where our weaknesses have been in the past, attack those, make sure that we can firm up there and then go back and obviously watch film to make sure that we can combat against some of their pressure that they have with some very good blitzes not only in the secondary but also with their linebackers."
On how much of an adjustment the offense has to make without OL Joe Thomas:
"Not much. It is definitely not a next man in situation like Coach said. Obviously, we are losing a Hall of Famer and one of the best to ever do it, but at the same time, we are all pros. We are going to have to go out there and do our job. Our system is set one way, and we are going to have to go out there and execute that system no matter who it is. Obviously, right now, we have (OL) Spencer (Drango) and we expect nothing less than perfection out of that position. It is his job to make sure that he can go out there and execute to the highest of his ability. Wherever we can, we are going to help."
On if he can see signs of the season wearing on Jackson:
"Not at all. Not at all. I think that is the most interesting thing about him. Although we are not off to a great start and although we are not heading down the path that we thought we would in these first seven games, he is very committed to the process. He is very committed to seeing the things that we are doing and how close we are to turning this thing around. Obviously, we have had quite a few games that are one-possession games that could have easily gone our way. Within those games that weren't one possession, it is 100 percent us hurting ourselves. I think that continues to motivate him to just get over that hump because once we get our first win here, I think we are going to win for a long time. This system is doing very well, and it is just on us as an offense to complement the defense who is playing really well right now to make sure that we can turn these tough games and close matchups into victories."
On DL Myles Garrett's performance and impact if he can't play as he is in concussion protocol:
"The concussion protocol is what it is. You never know how someone is going to go through it. Myles is a heck of a player. There is a reason he was the No. 1 draft pick in this draft, but we also played very well without him at the beginning of the season. If that is how it is, then we are going to make the proper adjustments, the next guy is going to step up into a very good defensive scheme and play well. If he is there, we are going to expect those same big plays out of him and he is going to be the spark of this team that he has always been. It is just about making sure that he is healthy and making the right decisions on that side of things."
On if he feels for Garrett who has sustained multiple injuries this season and had some bad luck:
"Absolutely, a guy who has come in here and done everything right since he has been here has had some bad luck. All I can do as a teammate and a friend is continue to encourage him to get back out there because he knows that when he is at his best and when he is 100 percent healthy, he is one of the better players in this league and he is only a rookie. With that, it is about making sure that I do whatever I can to motivate him, but it is on him to make sure that he does everything that he can in the treatment part of things to get back out on the field."
On if he has talked with his dad about being an athlete in the age before social media:
"Yeah, all the time (laughter). All the time. Our generation is definitely different from what he did. Everyone always jokes around that athletes back in the day and if they had cell phones or if they had social media, how much different things would be. That is the reality of the fact. This is the world we live in now. With that comes a lot more responsibility as guys who appear on TV every day and have some sort of fame to what they are doing. It is on me to once again make sure I do whatever I can to allow social media to be a positive influence on this team, a positive influence on my brand and continue to learn from the mistakes that I have had in my past."
On what his parents said about the report that he was out late on Friday:
"Those conversations are between my parents and me."
On the impact of having a talented LT who is playing well like Thomas:
"It is awesome to know that that side, my blindside, is taken care of, but I strongly believe, and I'm sure (OL) Joe (Thomas) will second that the reason he was playing his best was due to his preparation. Those same skills and those things that he was doing in his preparation, I'm sure he is going to pass along to the next guy to make sure they are there just as prepared stepping out there. Joe was one of the best at making sure that he understands the guy he is going against every play to a tee. I'm sure he will still be around the meeting room and the locker room to make sure the next guy that is up is going to understand the guy they are going against just as well as he did. You can't assume that there is going to be another guy who steps in and has Pro Bowl ability right off the bat. One thing that he can have is a Pro Bowl-style of preparation with the help of a guy like Joe Thomas."
On if he was confident he wouldn't take a hit on his blindside with Thomas at LT on every play:
"In this league, there is so much else going on that that is just a feel. It's not like I step out there thinking, 'OK, Joe Thomas is on my left side, I'm fine on that side.' It is more just about understanding where the pocket is, how it is collapsing on you and how you go about it. It is just about me at my position making sure that the ball is out of harm's way. If there is something that breaks down, it is time to take off or throw the ball away to make sure that we get to the next down."
On playing in front of Browns fans in London, given the team's history and fans' passion, including international fans:
"It is interesting. I think it is very similar to what Notre Dame was able to do in Ireland when we went over there. As a team, there is a lot that we are playing for. We are playing for our first victory. We are playing for the tradition that has been created here. We are playing for guys like Jim Brown. What we tend to forget is how many people we touch through stepping on the field. This is a cool opportunity for us and for this organization to go and see some new fans and play for them. I think it will bring an interesting environment in terms of the playing field and the way that the crowd works. You never know how loud it is going to get or how a team is going to play, but you can count on quite a few UK backers for us. That is something that helps us big time as far as third downs go and making sure that there is a little bit of crowd noise."
On if there is one thing that he wants to see or do in London:
"No, I just want to win a game. I have seen enough (laughter). I can get out there and check out London any other time. For me right now, it is about making sure I do whatever it takes to be prepared to win a game."
On if the beginning of the game last week was the best he has felt this season:
"Yeah, absolutely. I think that every game I have stepped out there, I truly have felt pretty good in the first half. It is about now building on that to make sure that I can start just as fast again."
OL JC Tretter:
On the Vikings defensive front:
"There are no real weakness across that front. They are a really talented group. Obviously, I have played them a bunch in Green Bay. I think (Vikings NT) Linval (Joseph) is [one of] if not the best nose tackle in football. Obviously, (Vikings RE Everson Griffen), (Vikings LE Danielle Hunter), they just have a lot of talent across that line and the linebackers are extremely talented as well. We are up against a big test so we are going to dial in, really stay focused this week and make sure that we are prepared."
On challenges playing a game in London:
"A lot of it is just throwing you out of your routine. Football players in general are very routine-oriented and just sticking with what we do so we try to set this travel schedule up to try to keep us as much in our routine as possible. Sleep on the plane so when we get there it is right back to a normal day. We have gone through that as a team and what we need to do and how we need to be ready. We should be prepared."
On how normal the day can be with the travel:
"Obviously, it is going to be different. I think you try to talk to as many friends you have around the league who have done it. We have guys on this team who have done it on different teams who have been through this kind of travel schedule so you pick up little things that guys have learned along the way. You try to execute a little differently to see what they had complaints or reservations about and you try to fix those things. Obviously, the most experience you have in this, the better."
On who Kizer has to be aware of on the Vikings defense pre-snap:
"I don't think you can really dial in on one guy. They have an extremely talented group. (Vikings SLB Anthony Barr) is talented, obviously (Vikings FS Harrison Smith) comes, (Vikings MLB Eric Kendricks) is a great player. They just have a lot of great players on that defense so I don't think you can really dial in on one guy and think that that is going to pick everything up. I think you need to understand the whole picture of the defense and what they are trying to do."
On characterizing Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's defenses:
"It is attack-oriented. It tries to get you in tough positions and tries to screw with your communication a little bit with their double A gap mugs and their eight up looks and things like that. We will be extremely prepared this week with how we are going to pick everything up, how we are going to communicate it and things like that, but he is a very attack-oriented defensive coordinator and head coach."
On how Kizer has handled being in and out of the lineup:
"I think he has handled it well. Obviously, there are some bumps along the way, but I don't think his confidence level has shaken at all. I don't think he has changed his coming in early, staying late, getting things set up. I think he is the same guy he was before. I think just going into another week, another defense he is seeing, another week of preparation will just make him more and more prepared each week."