Press Conference

Freddie Kitchens talks Pittsburgh preparation, Thanksgiving ahead of Sunday's game vs. the Steelers - Press Conference

Opening statement:

“Quick turnaround to play Pittsburgh again two weeks after we played them last time. (Steelers Head) Coach (Mike) Tomlin will have his team ready to play. We started preparation today to remain hyper-focused in what we have to accomplish this week and this day is the only thing our team should be focused about. Pittsburgh plays very well at home. They have 38 sacks on the year, and 30 of the have come at home. They are plus-9 on takeaway/giveaway at home so they have been very effective at home. We have to make sure that we do what we can control, and that is controlling the day. It is going to be a great atmosphere to play in. We know that, and we will be ready for that.”

On the importance of keeping composure and being poised against the Steelers, particularly given the quick turnaround from last week’s game:

“Composure is always the key, especially when you play divisional games. We hold divisional games to a high standard around here because they mean just a little bit more from the standpoint of how your season is affected. Emotion is always a part of the game. I have said this before, it is the ability to keep your emotion in check and play with composure and passion, instead of the emotion.”

On the Steelers high number of sacks at home compared to road games:

“Home field, crowd. They are able to be off on the snap, but we will be ready for it.”

On sensing DT Larry Ogunjobi’s excitement to return this week and his impact on the defense:

“Larry brings a lot of energy – relentless, resilient. Larry is a good football player. He is conscious of his rush lanes, his gap integrity, which makes him a good football player when you add his skillset to that.”

On DE Olivier Vernon’s status:
“He will be day to day. He will try to do something today, but he will be day to day.”

On other Browns players’ injury status:

“(S) Eric Murray is still out right now, and I do not know [the full injury report for today] yet to be honest with you. I am still trying to figure that out right now.”

On the Browns releasing DT Devaroe Lawrence:
“You have to make roster decisions during the course of the year.”

On the decision to cut someone on the DL, given the absence of multiple player from the unit:

“You take seven or eight to the game so all you need is seven or eight at the end of the day. Devaroe did a good job while he was here, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

On Steelers QB Devlin Hodges being named the starter in Week 13:

“We are more worried about ourselves than anybody else. We want to take care of ourselves first and worry about who is playing for them when we get there on Sunday.”

On Hodges starting earlier this season and having some tape on him:

“There is tape on him. There was tape on him last week when he came in. He did a good job of sparking them so I am sure he will bring passion and energy to the game and good decision making. We do not need to worry about who it is in particular. We need to worry about our job and doing our job. Everybody needs to do their job, and we will be fine.”

On limiting Steelers S Minkah Fitzpatrick’s impact during the previous game:

“We think Minkah is a very good player. He affects the game in several different areas. We expect him to come with his best game Sunday.”

On LB Joe Schobert’s high performance recently and his ability to be around the ball so often:

“I think he is great with his eyes, he is very intelligent, can react and focus and concentrate on what he has to do on an every play basis, which puts him in positon to make those plays. When he has been in positon to make those plays – sometimes guys can be in position to make plays and not make them – he has made them.”

On if Schobert has improved from last season to now:

“I think Joe went into the season wanting to make sure he brought his feet in tackling and was good with his aiming points in tackling, and I think his tacking has gotten a lot better.”

On if Vernon will participate in some of practice or be off to the side:

“I think just maybe off to the side mostly. He may go through something individual or something, but that is probably it.”

On how Thomas played last week:

“I think Chad played with a bunch of energy, affected the quarterback – which I think is good for a defensive end to affect the quarterback – and was solid in the run game. I think Chad needs to keep his head down, keep going and not be satisfied with anything other than the best that he can give us. I think that is what he wants. I am excited about Chad.”

On coaching the need to control emotions this week, knowing emotions will rise once on the field:

“It is easy – it is either you or the team, make a decision. That is it.”

On if the lesson about controlling emotions in the game was learned during the previous Browns-Steelers game:

“I think so, yeah. We have a young team that has developed during the course of the football season. I think that is what you would like to see is young guys getting [better]. Listen, we want to play smart, we want to be tough and we want to play smart. That is because that is what usually wins football games. That entails a lot of different things, and that is just one aspect of it. You kind of have to put it all together to be successful. Sometimes when you have younger guys, it takes them a little time to put it together. I think we are starting to see some of those examples that they can focus and concentrate just on the task at hand. That is it.”

On the key to the Browns offense’s ability to complete deep passes last week:

“We have made good throws. The protection has been good. We have been able to run the ball, which allows you to throw the ball down the field. The protection is good. The receivers have been where they are supposed to be. The quarterback is throwing the ball where it is supposed to be, and then they make the play. The biggest difference in last week’s game is we made some one-on-one catches down the field, contested catches down the field, and that is a good sign.”

On if aligning RB Kareem Hunt in different positions pre-snap affects opponents’ Ss:

“Somebody is always responsible for him in coverage so it all depends on what they want to do. Sometimes it could. Sometimes it doesn’t have an effect. It depends on who they want to really cover him with. That is not really necessarily Pittsburgh but in general – general philosophies.”

On memorable games in his career with energized environments:

“Not really. It has been so long since I played. I know you can’t tell that by my physique (laughter). It is not that damn funny, alright? (laughter) What about this guy? He really liked that one, didn’t he? Goodness gracious. It is kind of a dig at me though (laughter).”

On the Iron Bowl:

“It is incredible. It is great passion. The passion carries over to the state, to the stadium and to the cities. It is incredible. That is the reason why you play this game and that is the reason that you coach is for games where both teams… Listen, we have all the respect in the world for Pittsburgh. What they have done over time, this year, is nothing short of amazing. It is a great organization, a great team.”

On having to experience the Browns-Steelers rivalry to fully understand it, especially given the Browns’ record in recent years:

“To me, it takes two to have a rivalry. We have to have our part. We have to do our part. That is probably not going to sit well with some people, but to me, you have to win your share to make a rivalry.”

On if he has done enough recently to help revive the rivalry:

“I do not think I have done anything.”

On if the Browns have done enough recently to help revive the rivalry:

“No, I do not think our team has done anything. Our team needs to be focused on this week. I think that is what they feel. We have not done anything. What have we done? We have not done anything.”

On beating Pittsburgh two weeks ago reviving the rivalry:

“No, not even close.”

On the confidence provided moving forward if the Browns can beat the Pittsburgh twice in a season:

“We are only worried about this week, and we do not even care what ramifications it has. That is not even in our realm of thinking. We are only worried about preparing today. Truly feel like our guys are only worried about preparing today. They have demonstrated that over the course of the week. Let’s see if we can stay hyper-focused again this week, and that means today. We have to narrow our window of what we are focusing on, and that is just today.”

On if he ever uses former players to talk to the team about what beating the Steelers means to them and if he will do it this week:

“That is always an option and I haven’t before – not necessarily during the season, I have not done this in 11 games now, I haven’t before. I will do anything in my power to give us the best chance to win so if that ever feels like that is a determining factor – if you can guarantee it for me, I would definitely do it.”

On if he ever emphasizes to the team that some people state the Browns-Steelers rivalry is dead due to the Browns’ performance in recent years:

“No, I think this team is totally different than other teams. I think we understand what this game means to us and to our season. Rivalries are great for fans. Rivalries are great for you after the fact, but, listen, it should be a big enough deal for us that it is the next football game and it is the next divisional game.”

On if he will help cook the turkey tomorrow:

“I will, hopefully. It may be a little later. My daughters and lovely wife like to eat early so I do not know if that is going to happen.”

On tomorrow’s team schedule:

“We will keep the same schedule. We will just move it up and start our day about an hour early. Everybody thinks of the holiday season differently, but I think this is truly a time to give thanks – that is what it is for, right? – is to give thanks for what you have, and I think we are all fortunate to be in this business to play and coach football for a living so do not ever lose sight of that. Then to be around friends and family, people who help you throughout the year that care about you throughout the year no matter the wins or the losses, that is what it is kind of for. I want them to be able to do that.”

On if he is having anyone special people over for Thanksgiving:

“Are you asking to come (laughter)? You dug me a while ago on when I said, ‘You can just look at me and tell that I have not played in a while.’ Now you are wanting to come over for Thanksgiving (laughter)? 

On Cleveland Indians Manager Terry Francona also having a self-deprecating sense of humor:

“Tito (Terry Francona) is not coming over, but he is welcomed to, though. I am not sure he is still here. Tomorrow quite frankly, I do not know yet. I know the football season is a tough time for families because of the time that you spend away from them. I know I will spend probably late, late afternoon with my two daughters, my wife and four dogs.”

On if seeing Auburn QB Bo Nix, the son of former Auburn QB Patrick Nix, playing in the Iron Bowl against his alma mater Alabama makes him feel old:
“At least Patrick is a couple years older than me. I do not know if you know the story about that, but Patrick and I played in high school together. When we played each other in the ‘95 Iron Bowl – that is how old I am so I have a reason for looking like this – in the ‘95 Iron Bowl, we were from a small town and went to high school in a small town in Alabama. The whole city is like 6,000 or 8,000 people in Attalla, Alabama went crazy because it is kind of a big deal. Alabama and Auburn, and one was at Auburn, the other at Alabama. We have a lot of good memories, a lot of good high school memories with Patrick. So do I feel old? I feel old every morning.”

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