For Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, the annual Thursday Night Football week has become routine.
He'll get a couple extra of massages on Monday night. He'll do some additional stretching. He'll spend more time in the cold tub to relieve his aching body.
The intensity for the next game is normally felt on a Wednesday inside the Browns' facility. That feeling is already here in Berea.
Monday's are normally a calmer day during the NFL week, with some light lifting, a few film review meetings and some lunch and handshakes with teammates before reconvening on Wednesday.
But on this Monday, players will be in the building until at least as 9:30 p.m., burning the midnight oil in order to devise the best game plan to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals. The team will absorb as much film as they possibly can over the next three days and translate everything in accelerated walk-through and practice settings.
Everything that normally takes a one week time span is now condensed into three jam packed days. Even the proper recovery time from Sunday's 22-17 win against the Buccaneers.
"Especially as you get older you don't start feeling good really until Friday, Saturday," Thomas said on Monday via a conference call. "You're not really back to health or you're not really feeling fresh, but the good news is it's a level playing field because both teams feel the same way."
The challenges for the Thursday Night game don't just rest upon the players' shoulders. Quality control coordinators and positional coaches began their prepping for the Bengals in the wee hours last week.
As inconvenient as the quick turnaround for the Bengals might seem, these are the circumstances coach Mike Pettine wants his Browns to be playing in.
"These are circumstances that we're going to have to learn to deal with - playing with different schedules and not playing at 1:00 p.m. every Sunday," Pettine said. "If you want to be a good football team, it's something you've got to get used to. This will be a good test for our mental and physical toughness this week."
The Browns have been rewriting a bunch of history this year and will have to do such again at Paul Brown Stadium. Cleveland hasn't won an AFC North road game since September of 2008, which was also against the Bengals. The more daunting task might be Cincinnati's prowess at home. In their last 14 games at home, the Bengals are 13-0-1 -- the longest unbeaten streak in team history.
"They're a good team, and one hallmark of good teams is that they win at home," said Thomas. "It can be a really tough place to play. Obviously, the stage is a little bit bigger because it's the Thursday night game. You're the only game on TV. It'll be a great test for us because, like I said before, the Bengals are probably the best team in the AFC North since the beginning of the season."
"I think (OL) Joe Thomas said it well when he said it was a measuring stick. We want to see where we stack up with the Bengals. They're at the top of the division right now. We split with the Steelers and lost a tough one at home to Baltimore. This is our first chance at the last division rival for us."
Additional Browns notes from Monday
- Isaiah Crowell (11 carries, 77 yards, 1 touchdown) was part of the reason the Browns put a 31-10 hurting on the Steelers back on Oct. 12. But in the three games since, Crowell has seen only eight total carries, including none against Tampa Bay.
- Pettine clarified the issue on Monday.
- "We evaluate everything from A to Z - how they're practicing, a lot of the factors that go into their play," said Pettine. "I don't want to get into projecting forward, but we assess each week who we feel gives us the best chance to be successful and that's what we roll with…No, it's not disciplinary. The kid is in very good standing with the team."
- The Browns didn't hold a normal practice, but were required to file an injury report. The medical staff projected Andrew Hawkins (thigh/knee), Jordan Cameron (concussion), Phil Taylor (knee) and Johnson Bademosi (concussion) would've missed practice.
- Billy Winn would've been limited with a toe injury. Brian Hoyer is listed as having a glute injury, but would've been a full-go in a normal practice setting.