The competitor in Cody Kessler wants to be the guy taking the first snap Sunday against the Titans. He doesn't hide that fact.
But Kessler, the most experienced member of the Browns' young quarterback room, hasn't let that affect his role as a teammate. After six weeks on the inactive list as Cleveland's third-string quarterback, Kessler is one play away from being under center now that he's serving as DeShone Kizer's backup. Kevin Hogan, who started last week's game in Houston, is dealing with a rib injury.
"It's a different role being inactive or backing up instead of being the starter, but at the same time, you have to get those reps," Kessler said Thursday. "You have to get mental reps. You have to go out there and after practice is over, I will stay and go through the script and the plays that we worked on that day and just try to continue to prepare like a starter, whether you are or not."
In a season and a half, Kessler has occupied every spot on the three-man quarterback depth chart. He maintains his approach has never changed throughout the instability.
Kessler, a third-round pick last year out of USC, was Cleveland's third-string quarterback coming out of 2016 training camp and the starter by Week 3 because of injuries to the two veterans in front of him. He battled through a couple of injuries and ultimately started eight games. He closed out the Browns' only win of the season after Robert Griffin III went down with an injury and finished the year with a team-high 1,380 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.
He competed to maintain that role as Cleveland's starter during training camp but fell to third behind Kizer and Hogan. Browns coach Hue Jackson said Kessler never hung his head.
"He has never quit working. He has never complained. He has never let any of that bother him," Jackson said. "He just kept doing what he needed to do, and I told him that day when I made the decision that Kevin was the backup that at some point in time you will get your opportunity, too, and that is what I am going to do. I am pretty much a man of my word that way. I like to stick to that. Like I said, this opportunity happened for several different reasons, but I think it is the right one for Cody at this time."
Kessler's hours inside the Browns facility haven't decreased. He's worked alongside Kizer and Hogan as they prepared for starts in games Kessler knew he'd be inactive. Outside of letting Hogan run the scout team this week, Kessler hasn't changed his routine because he was already doing everything he did as a starter.
Kessler has already seen enough in his Browns career to know anything can happen within the course of a season.
"As a competitor, you want to be out there, but at the same time you have to do everything you can within your role or where you are at," Kessler said. "Whether it is on the depth chart or active, inactive, one of those things, I have continued to prepare like a starter, but at the same time, help those guys out around me."