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Case Keenum says Browns 'looking nowhere but forward'

Keenum could be in line to start Saturday against the Raiders after Baker Mayfield and other Browns starters were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list

Case Keenum is used to the unexpected events that can often happen in the NFL.

Unexpected occurrences have been one of the bigger storylines of his nine-year NFL career. From throwing the 61-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs in the "Minneapolis Miracle" in 2018, to battling the ups and downs as an NFL starting quarterback and backup quarterback, Keenum has embraced whatever challenges come his way.

He received a new one this week.

Keenum could be the Browns' starter Saturday against the Raiders after Baker Mayfield was placed Wednesday on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Keenum is the current leader for an offense that could also be without three of its primary offensive line starters, one starting wide receiver and one starting tight end. The group also hasn't had a chance this week to conduct a full practice due to the positive COVID-19 tests.

"It's pretty unique," Keenum said. "I would say nothing really surprises me about the NFL these days, though. It just adds one more thing to the portfolio, if you will, of strange occurrences and different situations that come up."

Those experiences have taught Keenum to be ready at a moment's notice. 

That's why the Browns value him so highly, and it's why they'd be comfortable heading into Saturday's crucial, playoff implication-filled game against the Raiders at FirstEnergy Stadium with Keenum leading the way.

"I have the utmost confidence in Case," offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. "He is really a true pro. We're very lucky to have him. He's a guy who can come in and win one game or a bunch of games for you. He has shown that in the past. Regardless of who he is out there with, we know that the moment will not be too big for him. He has been there before."

Mayfield, as well as WR Jarvis Landry, TE Austin Hooper, LT Jedrick Wills Jr. and RG Wyatt Teller are all on reserve/COVID-19 lists that currently include 18 players. Coach Kevin Stefanski, whom Keenum grew a rapport with when Stefanski was his QB coach in Minnesota in 2017, also tested positive and could miss the Week 15 contest. 

But Keenum, as well as Van Pelt and the other coaches who spoke with the media Wednesday, said there's no panic in the locker room. They've dealt with this before.

No one on the Browns has forgotten about their Wild Card Round triumph last season against the Steelers, when Stefanski and other notable players also tested positive in the days before the game. The Browns still found a way to win, and Keenum believes they'll do it again.

"Everybody has to be a pro and get ready to do their job on their own," Keenum said. "We're looking nowhere but forward."

Trust in Keenum also comes from his performance in Week 7. The Browns rested an injured Mayfield when they were on a short week with a Thursday night game against the Broncos, and Keenum delivered in his first start since 2019 by completing 21-of-33 pass attempts for 199 yards and a touchdown. 

It's the smooth, largely error-free game the Browns expect of Keenum whenever he gets the call, and they have faith he can repeat it and keep the offense moving even though he could be without a few key blockers and two key receiving playmakers.

"Thank God we have Case Keenum," said special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who would serve as acting head coach for Stefanski on Saturday if Stefanski is unable to coach. "If you had a real young quarterback, an inexperienced quarterback, it might be tougher. Case is going to run the gameplan exactly how it should be run, and I know the whole team has confidence in him."

Keenum, of course, has confidence in himself, too. He shows it not only in his play, but also with the cool and collected tone he's always spoken with whenever he's been at an interview podium or on a Zoom call. 

It speaks to his true veteran composure that has helped him become a valuable, long-lasting NFL player, and even among the frenzy of unfortunate news that has struck the Browns this week, he isn't changing.

After nine years in the NFL, he knows that the best way to deal with unexpected news is to keep being himself. 

"I think experience is priceless," he said. "I've had a lot of experience in a lot of different situations, and I've looked back at each of those — some good and some bad. You learn and grow from it. 

"That's what experience does, and does what you use from it. I wrap all of them up, put them in my tool belt, and it makes me who I am."

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