Hue Jackson takes the opinions of his veterans seriously. He meets with them routinely and gets their input on some of the most important decisions he has to make as the Browns head coach.
That counts the latest decision at quarterback, one that has thrust rookie DeShone Kizer in the driver's seat to be Cleveland's season-opening starter. If Kizer continues his upward trend in a start Saturday at Tampa Bay, he'll become the Browns' first rookie to start a season opener since 2012.
The days leading up to Saturday's dress rehearsal game will be equally important to Kizer as the ones he experiences throughout his rookie year. That counts inside the locker room and on the practice field, as he works to earn the respect and trust of a roster that skews younger than most in the NFL, but features a smattering of key veterans at most positions.
"I think he has to prove every day that he belongs," Jackson said. "That is his job as a quarterback. He has to earn the right from those guys."
Last week, veteran offensive lineman Joe Thomas expressed a sentiment that was shared by Jackson, quarterbacks coach David Lee and Kizer himself as he manned the second-team offense. Kizer, as a 21-year-old, fresh-faced rookie out of Notre Dame, they said in various ways, might not be ready for the rigors of the NFL just yet.
But as Jackson said Wednesday, Kizer "keeps passing every test, and there is still another one to pass." Passing that test, essentially, would be another day when Kizer proves to the 89 other players on the roster he belongs in the spot he's earned.
"Joe knows what we are trying to do," Jackson said. "We are trying to win, and that is all Joe Thomas wants. He wants the best guy out there that can help him win football games."
Even before he was named Saturday's starter, Kizer took Thomas' comments in stride. Briefed about them again Wednesday, he reiterated what Jackson said about what he has left to prove.
"There is a lot to show Joe Thomas," Kizer said. "That guy has seen quite a few quarterbacks obviously. My ultimate goal is for him to not see another one.
"In order to do that, I have to continue to show him the type of worker that I am and how much time I am putting in off the field in my preparation and making sure that he can go out and get the wins that he absolutely deserves."