The Browns have a penalty problem. It's kept them from scoring early in games; it's kept the defense on the field after third-down stops; and, ultimately, it's kept them from winning close games.
The players will tell you some of their penalties weren't penalties. They'll tell you some of their opponents' successes were enabled by missed calls.
Gregg Williams doesn't want to hear it.
"I do not want to hear (the players') excuses," Cleveland's defensive coordinator said Friday. "I do not make the excuse. I do not want them to make the excuse. Everybody is going to make a mistake. We have to play. We have to do our part."
Williams isn't standing up for the officials, per say. He's pushing players to overcome the referees' mistakes. That's part of the reason the Browns use referees in practice: to help players overcome that adversity.
"It helps me push the point of finish the play," Williams said.
But "finishing the play," while simple in instruction and repeated in football circles across the country, isn't as easy as it sounds. Williams said it's instinctual for players to stop when they anticipate a whistle, even citing a scientific term called conditioned stimulus response, or reacting to what you're used to, as evidence. ("I have no idea what you're talking about," Jabrill Peppers said when asked about Williams' use of this term).
But as Williams continued, he said his players' jobs are to resist that natural urge. They need to fight until they hear the whistle, not until they expect the whistle.
Clearly, Williams' message has rubbed off on at least one player.
"You cannot expect a hold or anything like that to go your way," defensive end Myles Garrett said when asked about fighting through perceived penalties. "You just have to play through it. Unless they blow the play dead, you have to keep on going. Unless it is absolutely blatant, do not expect anything to go your way."