Freddie Kitchens isn't worried about the Browns living in the past or shifting their eyes too much to the future as they prepare for Sunday's game against the Dolphins.
As the Browns regrouped for Wednesday's practice, Kitchens said he saw a team that wasn't losing focus because of Myles Garrett’s appeal hearing with the NFL, which unfolded while the team went through meetings, or looking ahead to a schedule that includes a rematch with the Steelers and more opportunities to put themselves in position for a run at the playoffs.
This is the same approach Kitchens has maintained throughout his first season as Browns head coach. The mitigating circumstances haven't changed a thing.
"We try to focus on what we can control and the only thing we can control is today," Kitchens said. "And in today, we control how we prepare to go on the football field, on to the practice field and how we practice, have attention to detail and learn more about ourselves than anything outside of this building at this present time and stay focused on today."
The Browns took to the practice field without Garrett, who is suspended indefinitely for his actions last week in a confrontation with Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, and Larry Ogunjobi, who is suspended for one game. Both players have appealed their punishments, but the Browns aren't banking on either being available for the task at hand Sunday.
"Here in this building today, we are worried about Miami. We cannot control that," Kitchens said. "We are just going to control what we control. We have nothing to do with that. Myles has great representation, but more importantly, Myles will represent himself well. We are going to continue to support him and Larry, and we will not waver with that support."
At 4-6, the Browns are officially "in the hunt" for a playoff spot, but there's plenty of work to be done. It will take more than a win Sunday against Miami, but one loss could completely derail any hopes of making the postseason. That's what makes the focus on the Dolphins, winners of two of their last three games, so vital.
"We want to be the best that we can be today and then go out and put our best foot forward and let the scoreboard take care of itself on Sunday," Kitchens said.
-- DE Olivier Vernon remained sidelined Wednesday while he continues to recover from a knee injury. The veteran pass rusher has missed the past two games with the injury and hasn't practiced since suffering it late in the action against the Broncos.
Kitchens said he was holding out hope Vernon would be able to practice at some point this week.
If Vernon can't play Sunday against his old team, that means Bryan Cox would be one step closer to seeing the field. Cox, who played 19 games with the Panthers over three seasons, was signed last week and inactive for the Steelers game.
"I think he is a smart guy that is going to kind of immerse himself into our system here," Kitchens said. "He started that last week and I think it will continue to happen."
-- Kitchens had nothing but praise for the two safeties who had to finish last week's game because of injuries and an ejection.
Rookie Sheldrick Redwine and Juston Burris were pressed into duty after Morgan Burnett went down with a season-ending Achilles injury and Damarious Randall was ejected for his hit on Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson. They were the last two available safeties because Eric Murray was already sidelined with a knee injury and Jermaine Whitehead was waived earlier in the month.
It was the first extensive playing time on defense for Redwine, a fourth-round pick out of Miami, while Burris has been in and out of the lineup since rejoining the team Week 3.
"I have been impressed with Red, the way he has come on during the course of the year and continued to get better," Kitchens said. "It started on special teams where he started to get more consistent and how he approaches his week. Sometimes these young guys have to get used to the week as far as what you do on Wednesday, what does Wednesday football look like, what does Thursday football look like, what does Friday football look like, and then just progress during the course of the week to enable themselves to have a better chance to succeed on Sundays. He has done a good job of developing his routine during the course of the week mentally and physically, to be ready to play on Sunday.
"Juston came into a tough situation earlier in the year. He was here less than 48 hours for us, played in the game and played well. It says a lot about his football character from the standpoint of being able to focus and concentrate."