CLEVELAND — The Browns' dismissal of executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown was the story of the day in Berea and will be for the coming days.
But as the team prepares for Sunday's game against the Packers, it's determined to stay focused amid decisions they say are outside their control. After all, Cleveland has four games — and a shrinking window — to earn its first win of the season.
"I don't think it's a distraction," offensive lineman Joel Bitonio said. "We're here, we're trying to do everything we can to win."
"Obviously, we heard the news, but my job is to do what I can to win football games," center JC Tretter added. "I don't get too caught up into thinking about that. Those decisions are well above my level and my grade, so I'm going to go out there and do what I can to win football games.
Players stressed that message as Brown, who led the Browns' personnel department the past two years, was relieved of his duties Thursday morning. Head coach Hue Jackson said he informed players of the move before practice.
"I told them this is tough. Sashi is a good person. I have enjoyed my time working with him, but at the end of the day, there's a goal for everybody," he said.
"I'm not naïve enough to understand that could have been me just as well. This is a performance-based business, and I get it. This is all I've known for the last 17, 18 years of my life. I do understand that that arrow is pointing directly at myself. My goal is to move in the direction that helps this organization be the best it can be as we move forward."
That journey continues this weekend as Jackson, who took equal ownership of a 1-27 record over the past two seasons, and company prepare for the final month of the season.
"I always talk about things that are happening within our organization and on our football team," he said. "Obviously, this is a huge undertaking of our football team, so I've brought it up to the team. I think they get it. I wanted to make sure they knew, and we move forward."
Brown played a key role in what's been a fundamental reshaping of the team's roster, whether it's been through the NFL Draft or free agency. One of those players, veteran defensive back Jason McCourty, stressed it won't have an effect on the Browns' approach this weekend.
"For us in the locker room, you're not around those guys on a daily basis so your day to day of coming in, meetings, practice and film, none of those things change," he said.
"Today was a normal Thursday for us, obviously other than hearing somebody in the organization was let go. For our day to day, everything will remain the same. I think guys just have to continue their same practice routine and preparation routine to get ready for the game."