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Press Conference

Freddie Kitchens press conference - 4/1

Opening statement:

"I would like to start by wishing the Indians luck today in their home opener. As a fellow Cleveland-ite – is that a word? [Clevelander]. Going to be pulling for them."

On if WR Odell Beckham Jr. told Kitchens that he loved him when he arrived:

"He did. No, I did say it to him though in case you were asking – just because I was supposed to at that point, right? It started out as a joke."

On his first impressions of Beckham:

"Just by the conversations that I have had with him and with him being here today, I like the guy. Really that is all I have to go off of right now – just the guy, and I like guy. The relationship building process starts today, along with a bunch of other people."

On his expectations for Beckham Jr. during the offseason workout period:

"Just to continue to get better as a person and as a player, and you do that by studying film and things like that. Like I told you guys a couple of weeks ago, Odell did not know where he was going to be. He did not know that he was going to be in Cleveland up until three weeks ago now. He has some things to tie up, but he thought that it was important enough to be here today so he was here for his teammates, for himself and for his coaches and things like that. My hat is off to him. He told me something a couple of weeks ago, and he made it work. He had to go through some hoops to get here, but it was important enough for him to be here."

On if Beckham will spend time in Cleveland or away from the facility during voluntary workouts:

"We do not really know specifics right now, but he will not be here continually right now. He will be back and forth, but he has some things he has to tie up, and we are getting all of that in order now."

On if he addressed external expectations for the 2019 season with the team today:

"Like I said, our expectations have nothing to do with the outside world. Our expectations are set in our room in our team room. Our expectations are going to be on how we prepare every day and approach every day from a business perspective and on what we want to get accomplished on each day on a day-in and day-out basis. The outside predictions, we are not in that business. We are going to let other people do that. We are just going to be happy with our performance and how we prepare.

"When you start talking about expectations, if a team is supposed to be not very good, then the expectation level is low so the first thing a coach wants to go in and say is that you have to block out the noise from outside. Well, what the hell changes if you are supposed to be good? You still block out the noise from the outside so that is what we are going to do. No pun intended, but nobody else matters except for the people in the room. Those are the only ones that matter and those are the only ones that can affect anything that we do as far as winning and losing. This is ultimately about winning and losing."

On if the tone for the team can be set on the first day in the first team meeting:

"I think you can set a direction, and hopefully, we did that."

On if today felt different addressing the entire team for the first time as head coach:

"I enjoy the feeling from the standpoint of I feel like defensively we have guys that want to get better and have the same mindset that our offensive guys had last year and will have this year moving forward. As a whole in general, it is truly three units here and you will see that when we get on the practice field. Our special teams units are going to have a good bit of time practicing. Meeting time, I do not know how many teams across the league give special teams meeting times during this time of year. I always found it fascinating that coaches talk about special teams being a big part of their deal and then they do not give the special teams coordinator any time to do anything in the offseason. That will not be the case here. I enjoy talking to the offensive and defensive guys, if that is what you are asking."

On if he personally felt different heading to the office today for his first day with the team as head coach:

"No, it did not. One thing that you have to realize – I think we have put together a lot of guys like this – is that this is our team, and I truly believe that. It is our team. I am just kind of a front man because if those guys in the locker room do not hold each other accountable, if our coaches do not hold their positions groups accountable and the players amongst themselves do not hold each other accountable, we are not going to have anything anyway. At the core of everything, it is what our team is. It is what our offense is. It is what our defense is. I truly believe the letter 'I' is a dangerous proposition when you start using it in terms of describing yourself in a team setting. We do not do that here. It is always 'we, us, our.' That is what it is now, and that is what it became when I got hired. We were not hiring anybody that did not have that same kind of outlook on things. We want to create that environment for our players. Whenever we do that, we will have something. Right now, we are just a bunch of good individual players. Yeah, our roster looks great on paper – whoopty-hell, alright? – but at the end of the day, we better be a good team. You start building that during this time of the year, and training camp is a big portion of that."

On implementing a collective team mindset:

"I think it is a deep down belief that you have to have first and foremost, and then you create that environment by getting to know the people and holding each other accountable. If you are accountable to me and I am accountable to you, then it becomes us. Then if all of us collectively become that, then it becomes ours. That is kind of the approach I have always taken. Even with a position group per se, when I was coaching quarterbacks or tight ends, it was our quarterback out there. (Former Cardinals QB) Carson (Palmer) might have been out there, but our room felt the joy of him succeeding. I think you just have to form that in that way."

On what Beckham brings to the team:

"Enthusiasm. Passion. The thing that I think gets misconstrued a little bit with Odell is that he loves people and he loves to play the game. I truly feel like he loves being around his teammates. As a coach, sometimes you look at the team as your family, but at the end of the day, we are not family. Family you are related to by blood – you have a daughter, you have everybody at home – but there is a brotherhood so to speak in the locker room. I think with a lot of good players, they want to just feel that sense of brotherhood and compassion, and the passion that he brings to the field is kind of contagious."

On Beckham's skillset:

"His skillset, I would not say that it is unmatched, but it is pretty close. He is of course one of the best players in the National Football League on any given Sunday. Like a lot of great players, the one thing that they always strive to be on is a good team, I think, because team accomplishments help individual players, and vice-versa, the individual players help team accomplishments. When you can marry the both together, that is when you really have something and you have something special. I know this, and I keep going back to some of the most success I have ever had as a coach was that I was a part of the team in Arizona that went to the Super Bowl. We had some great players on that team – great Hall of Fame-type players on that team – but whenever we got good, it was when everybody checked their egos at the door and everybody started the bow of the boat in the same direction. That is when we got good."

On significance of Beckham arriving for the first day of the offseason program and if he would have felt OK if Beckham chose not to attend today:

"That was Odell's [choice]. This is all voluntary. I did not encourage anything. Odell knows what is at stake. He knows what he needs to be here for. Do not take offense to this, the media is never going to form a line in the sand between me and a player or a player and his teammates. This is strictly voluntary. If we wanted to critique people for not coming and coming, then we should make it mandatory as a league. It is not mandatory. As far as like, would I hold a grudge if he is not going to come? No, I would not. There is never going to be a line drawn in the sand from the media in any instance with any player of mine."

On some coaches around the league and past Browns coaches who felt all players should consider attending all voluntary workouts as mandatory:

"Are you saying they are right and I am wrong (laughter)? I am saying that they are breaking the rules. And you know, they aren't here."

On continuing to emphasize special teams and not sacrificing time for it when schedules get tight:

"Have I ever lied to you? Special teams will never be sacrificed here – meetings, on-the-field work, everything."

On how he wants players to view him as a head coach:

"I want them to view me with [that] I gave them something. I gave them either something personally or professionally that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. I want them to know that I have given everything that I have for them and that our staff is giving them everything that they have. If we can do that and if we can form that trust, then they will trust us, we will trust them and we will be moving in the same direction and everybody will be happy. It is not about the end result, it truly is not. It is about doing the best we can every day and for them to know that I gave them the best that I could give them today, tomorrow, the next day, and the same thing for our staff, that they have given them the best that they could every day. That is all we are going to ask in return of them is just their best. If they are not good enough, that is fine. If we get their best and collectively, it can't be just be pick and choose when they want to give us their best; it is every day. This is an everyday proposition between coach and player. That is the only way I know."

On reports that DL Emmanuel Ogbah did not attend the first day of voluntary workouts due to potentially being traded soon:

"Ogbah did not show. I would rather just talk about the guys that are here. I am sure that he has his reasons. I am not sure."

On how important the offseason program is to individual players:

"With all good players, the offseason program is tremendously important not just from a knowledge standpoint, but again, you start forming relationships with people; you start building relationships with your teammates and with your coaches. Once those relationships are built, you can ask the player and the player can ask the coach difficult [questions] and you can have difficult conversations. At that point is when you can make advancements the most. There is going to be adversity at some point so I need to feel good with the guys in our room when that adversity hits. Our staff needs to feel good about the rest of our coaches when that adversity hits. Players need to feel good about the guy lined up to his left and to his right and that these guys are going to come out of this thing with me because adversity is going to hit. At that point, we will find out what kind of team we have. It is not going to be initially. It is not going to be in training camp. It is not going to be in the second week of the season. I do not know when it is going to hit, but when it does, you are going to find out what kind of team we have and not until then."

On the mindset of QB Baker Mayfield as he returned to the facility:

"Was Baker here today (laughter)? I am just kidding. The same [mindset]. He has been chomping at the bit to get back. You guys were wondering what I told him earlier about getting away from the game – the good thing about getting away from the game is that you kind of have a renewed eagerness to get back when you do that. I think he falls into that. We hit the ground running today with him, and we will see where he is at."

On if he told Beckham that he loved him this morning upon arrival:

"I did. Gave him a hug, too. He said he loved me. It was like a love story (laughter). I was being facetious when I said that last week. I may be different than other people, but I really do try to… I think that the length of time that a player has to play this game is so small, and at the end of the day when they are 30-35 years old and this game is over, they have to have something that will carry them on for the rest of their life. It is the relationships you form. I guarantee that if you ask any retired player, what do they miss? It is not catching passes. It is not throwing passes. It is the locker room. The better you can make the locker room – that does not have to be a Kumbaya session, I am not talking about that – but it has to be with people that you trust and respect. You become loyal to them. When you look back after retirement, that is what you are going to miss. That is what we are trying to create here because the quicker that happens, the better off we are all going to be."

On his evaluation of the current roster and individual players:

"I think we are talented. Just like (Ravens Head) Coach (John) Harbaugh said, we are talented. There is a lot of talent in this league, but you can go down through all of the free agents we signed and I probably should not be saying this, but just see how many playoff games that they have won. It takes more than individuals. I know that for a fact. Can I make a comment on another player in the league that I was with at some point? Just getting the rules. See how I follow the rules (laughter)? Ask (Cardinals WR) Larry (Fitzgerald) how many playoff games he won before 2008. It is when they decided that they wanted to become a team. This is the ultimate team game. I know that sounds like a cliché, but it truly is. You see Hall of Famers all of the time that never won a playoff game. It is about the team. Make no mistake about that."

On if adding a player like Beckham makes his job easier or harder as a coach:

"Let me tell you now, show me a good player and I will show you a good coach. That is all I would say about that. The better players you have, the better coach you can be. I know this, before you want to do anything, accomplishing anything with the goals that are set forth, you need a team and not just the individuals. I told him this morning, I told him – well, I am not going to tell you what I told him (laughter)."

On a piece of his message to Beckham that he could share:

"About the passion that the fans have here. The passion, that I think that he will match their passion. He is really going to like it, he is going to love it. And he looks good in orange and brown."

On if RB Duke Johnson Jr. reported today:

"Duke was not here today, no."

On if Johnson did not attend due to the Browns signing of RB Kareem Hunt:

"I do not know. You would have to ask Duke that. I am not speaking for Duke. Duke chose not to be here, and he has the ability to decide that. It is all voluntary."

On his first impressions of Hunt:

"Kareem is continuing to work to be a better person, like he did when we started this journey with him two months ago. He is the same guy from the standpoint of that he is a nice kid. He really wants to do good. He has been showing that. He was just out the other day doing some charity work downtown. He really wants to make an impact. Nothing good can ever come out of what happened with Kareem, but there are points that he can get to to maybe make a difference in other people's lives. I think he really wants to do that. He is trying, and we are supporting him in every way we can."

On the potential benefits if Hunt is allowed to remain with the team during his suspension:

"It is very clear that I feel like I can support Kareem better when he is with me, and our organization can support Kareem a hell of a lot better when he is with us than when he is not with us. I think that is very critical. Kareem is continuing to improve every day with being a better person because again, that is what he is going to have in 30 years. It is just going to be him, there are not going be any more footballs."

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