Press Conference

Freddie Kitchens talks about locker room uniting behind Chris Smith, Jets preparations - Press Conference

Opening statement:

“It was really kind of an emotional time and still kind of is from the standpoint of (DE) Chris (Smith) missed a preseason game because of the birth of his daughter that he just had. We are going to support Chris. Chris is a great dude and is good in the locker room. We are going to support him. Our hearts and our prayers go out to him, his family and her family. Really, really sad.

“We are getting prepared for New York. They are a good football team. All football teams in the NFL are good. They have a great coaching staff, good defensive players, good offensive players and some of the best in the league on both sides of the ball. Good coaching staff. We know what kind of coach (NY Jets defensive coordinator) Gregg Williams is. We know he is going to have his defense ready to play. I know what kind of coach (Jets Head Coach) Adam Gase is and I know his offense is going to be ready to play. Special teams is always huge. We consider it very important here. Hopefully, we make some plays in all three areas.”

On NY Jets QB Sam Darnold being ruled out for Monday’s game:

“Considering what happened last week, we do not need to worry about who is playing and who is not playing. We are going to prepare like we prepare.”

On how difficult it was to inform the team about Petara Cordero’s passing:

“We try to build a culture around here where we hold each other accountable. When you do that, you have to start caring about people. This goes beyond football. This was a 26-year old young lady at the highlight of her life. Not to get too personal about it… Chris is a good dude. She was a good girl. We just want to support him in any way we can.

On if Smith will play on Monday:

“I cannot say one way or the either on that. I know from an emotional standpoint, we are going to support Chris, I am going to support Chris and his teammates are going to support Chris. I have not even given one thought about that. I do not want Chris to even think about that. I told him yesterday, this is beyond [football], OK? We can make it whatever we want to as people in the business, people covering the business – I am not saying you are – I am just saying in general, this is life. We like to say different things about life when it really does not matter. When it starts affecting you, it gets serious. That is the way we should approach every area. That is what we try to instill in these guys. When you have a bunch of guys who are close and continuing to move in the same direction, it affects everybody because you end up caring about the person. Funny thing happens when you start playing this game of football, you think you are just playing and coaching, and everything is fine until life hits. Then when life hits, it is kind of a reality check. We like to talk about balance. We think balance affects all areas. If you are unbalanced in one area of your life, you are not going to be balanced in the other areas of your life. I feel like Chris had great balance, but whenever you do have balance, it is the most rewarding way to go about life. Something happens that was not a part of that, then of course, it is affected in other areas, too. We are going to support Chris. I know it is long-wounded answer, but Chris is on my mind right now, his family is on my mind, her family is on my mind and the four-week old baby is on my mind. It is a difficult time, but we are going to get through it. There is never going to be an excuse. We are going to get through it. I promise you that. We are going to get through it together. Chris is included in that and his family is included in that.”

On Smith being one of the favorite people among teammates in the locker room:

“The way we try to approach this is literally, like I said, we want to become close. I tell these guys all the time, this football season is about the journey. You want to be around guys that want to be on the journey with you. To do that, you have to care about each other. If you want to get the most out of your team, you have to start at some point caring about each other. When you do that, it builds relationships. Chris is one of those guys. His smile in infectious. His personality is infectious. He is just overall well liked, just like you said. Of course, everybody in that locker room is hurting for him.”

On how valuable adversity can to continue build brotherhood in the locker room, understanding no one ever wants a situation like this to occur:

“I know this, when you go through bad things in life, you want people around you that care about you and that care about you for the right reasons. That has nothing to do with playing a 5-technique. It has nothing to do with taking on a tight end. It has to do with wanting your best interest in mind and getting you better from a personal standpoint. If nothing else, it puts things in perspective from the standpoint of in this thing we call life, what is important to you? Chris is important to us. Chris is important to this locker room. Everything he is going through, we feel.”

On if talking with Smith and informing the Browns players about the tragedy were among the hardest things he has had to do in his career as a coach:

“Yeah, I think so. A hell of a lot harder than the games. The reason it is so hard is because of the locker room we have created, which if you want to relate it back to football, the reason we create that locker room is we know we are going to go through hard times. Monday was hard, but nothing compared to what yesterday was. When you start talking about perspective, that is perspective. Both of them are hard, but we try to build a locker room where guys care about each other to get you through tough times. It is not going to get any tougher than that.”

On indications the Browns have corrected their mistakes that caused so many penalties:

“Our guys know we don’t coach penalties. Here is what football comes down to: the smartest and the most physical team usually wins the game. We were a physical team the other day, but we were not the smartest team. Our guys understand that. They accept that. I have told you before, we identified a problem. Now, we are going to rectify the problem. That is all I really have to say about it. That is moving forward. That is how we approach every day. That is how it is going to be. Nobody is shaking here. We are going to fix the problem.”

On QB Baker Mayfield’s three INTs and bouncing back afterward:

“Baker is very resilient. I am not worried about Baker at all. Really, this is the last time I am going to say anything about the last game because we have moved on. It is not even thought about. Sometimes as a quarterback, you have to understand the difference between pressing and not pressing. It is a 22-13 game, and we have a guy running open down the field and we couldn’t get it off. Our team understands that. Nobody else probably does. Moving forward, we can take that experience and get better from it. That is what we are going to do. That is what we are going to do.”

On the NY Jets ruling out QB Sam Darnold and what will change with the team’s preparation:

“Nothing. Nothing at all. We are going to be focused on our preparation during the week, the same as we would have been before. We are going to try to get after the quarterback, the same as we did before. We will try to affect the quarterback any way we can through coverage and through pressure. Nothing changes. Just look across the league. All you have to do is look across the league. These guys are in the NFL for a reason. (NY Jets) Trevor (Siemian) can play. Nothing has changed. I know people like to make a big deal of it. I am not picking on you and people like to make a big deal of it, but Tennessee did not have their left tackle. We went to Pittsburgh in 2015 and we had a good football team – maybe it was 2015 or 2016 – we had a good football team in Arizona. They did not have (Steelers QB) Ben Roethlisberger and they beat us. That does not matter. What they do does not affect how we prepare. We are going to prepare and concentrate on ourselves, with ourselves playing smarter, ourselves playing tougher. We want smart, tough, physical football players. That is what we are trying to get. That has nothing to do with the opponent. No disrespect to New York at all. They are a good football team. Just watch them. They are a good football team. Ultimate respect for them, but they are not going to affect how we prepare.”

On how different Siemian is compared to Darnold:

“I know he makes NFL throws. I remember following him. I think he was a free agent maybe this year or last year. Yes, he is a good player. I remember him in Denver. I have not seen a lot of tape on him this year yet, but I remember him from the past.”

On if the team made any specific changes due to playing on Monday night:

“Yeah, we just backed everything up a day to try to keep a normal week. You end up with a bonus day, and I chose to use that on Tuesday so the guys can get in their normal routine as far as Wednesday, Thursday, Friday preparation. We are just doing it Thursday, Friday and Saturday now.”

On if playing on Monday night is easier to prepare for than Thursday night:

“The Thursday games put the pressure on you from a physical, getting back mentality. You played three days earlier or four days earlier. Thursday games are probably physically more taxing, but anytime anything changes, you like to get everybody… What do you do in the morning when you wake up? What is the first thing you do? Or can you tell me about that (laughter)? My point is everybody has a routine so coaches, players and everybody wants a routine of the week. Anytime that changes, you have an obstacle to overcome. Now, your Thursday is like a Wednesday so be it. In my mind, today is Wednesday.”

On if G Justin McCray proved he can serve as a backup T, despite the injury report coming later today regarding T Kendall Lamm’s status:

“Yeah, we will just refer to the injury report, but he is good. He is in good condition, good shape.”

On if McCray’s familiarity with offensive line/associate head coach James Campen gives McCray an advantage:

“The terminology and stuff like that is different than what they have in Green Bay. From a technique standpoint, yes I would say, but from a knowledge standpoint, no. Anytime you start moving a couple of guys around at different spots, it is always kind of a difficult task, but I thought those guys handled it well.”

On how much more explosive the Browns offense can be than Sunday:

“I would hope a lot more explosive. We have good players. It is not about talent. Nothing is about talent here. We have the talent. Just putting that out there right now. I feel like we have the talent. Like every other season, a lot of things happen. You have to stay healthy. You have to not have 18 penalties. You have to play smart, you have to play physical and you have to know what to do, you have to know when to do it and you have to know how to do it. We have the talent, but it is not about the talent. It is about getting the job done. Potential means just one thing: that you have not done anything yet. We have the same potential as we had last Saturday before the game. We still have not done anything so it does not mean anything. I have been trying to stress that. It does not mean anything. It is just potential.”

On how Browns players have responded from Sunday’s game:

“I was thoroughly impressed with how they came out to work on Tuesday and how they met today. That is the only thing I have to go off of. The funny thing about football is in the football season, it is like you study for a test all week and you find what you make on Sunday. In this instance, Monday which is our Sunday. You get a grade at the end of the week, and it is straight pass-fail. It does not matter if it is 50 points or three points, we are into wins and losses. That is it. It does not matter what the score is. We just want to win the game. We do that by preparing like it is a Wednesday.”

On if LB Sione Takitaki’s status:

“Taki is healthy.”

On if Takitaki can fill the role of LB Adarius Taylor, given his status:

“I am not committing to that yet, but he is healthy.”

On if S Damarious Randall has returned to the team following his illness:

“He is over his stomach sickness, yes.”

On if he has appealed to Browns players’ sense of pride following Sunday’s game:

“I fully expect these guys to come back and put their best foot forward. At the end of the day, we just have to play smarter.”

On if he thinks of Alabama rather than the NY Jets when he hears the name Pro Football Hall of Fame QB Joe Namath, given most people recall the NY Jets first:

“Yes, I do.”

On if Namath was one of his heroes during his college playing career:

“Him, (Kenny) Stabler. Alabama has had some great quarterbacks. I was not one of them, but they have had some great quarterbacks. I know Kenny better than Joe, but I do know Joe. Both of them are great guys. I kind of think of all of them. I would not just say Joe. I would say all of them. He could throw it. Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. Did you know that? Where is Kenny Stabler from? Are you going out on a limb there? Yeah, Mobile, Foley. Do you know who else is from Foley? Research that. In the National Football League right now, there are a few of them actually.”

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