JC Tretter entered the open market in 2017 with a sense of uncertainty after four seasons in Green Bay. Tretter just knew he was likely headed to a new destination.
Nearly three years later, Tretter didn't want to experience that same feeling. He liked it in Cleveland and took pride in the growth he'd seen in the organization during his time with the Browns.
That's what made Friday so rewarding to the veteran center. Eight games away from the end of the three-year deal he signed in March 2017, Tretter signed a three-year extension to remain in Cleveland through 2022.
"Anybody wants to feel at home and wanted," Tretter said. "That's one of the best feelings you can settle in and make Cleveland your home and kind of have that franchise you have ties to and not move around to three teams. That's really one of the best feelings for me knowing now I can be a Cleveland Brown and be happy about that."
In three seasons, Tretter has turned himself into a high-potential player who battled injuries and a crowded depth chart in Green Bay to one of the best centers in the NFL. He bulked up significantly after his first season with the Browns and displayed plenty of grit and toughness throughout a 2018 season in which he played through a high ankle sprain.
Tretter hasn't missed a snap in his 40 games with the Browns and continually impressed a front office and coaching staff that both saw plenty of turnover during his time in Cleveland.
"It is not a badge of courage to go out and just play hurt. You need to play well while being hurt, and JC did that last year," Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said. "We reward guys that play well here, are committed to what they are supposed to do and buy in totally to the team type concept. JC is all about the team. He is all about the fact that he wants to do what he can do to help us win. I think it shows that hopefully."
Tretter said he wouldn't be able to celebrate the extension until after the Browns get through Sunday's game against the Bills and next Thursday's quick turnaround against the Steelers. Perhaps the celebration would be more fitting in March, when hundreds of NFL players hit the open market in search of a new team while Tretter rests easy knowing he's found a home in Cleveland.
"It is a great feeling," Tretter said. "I went into the year understanding the possibility of having to play out all 16-plus games and then go from there. Luckily, the two sides were able to lock things down early and kind of take any thought out of the process."
The Browns' offseason roster on April 1, 2021
Kitchens said he's seen plenty of improvements from Thomas, a third-round pick in 2018 who didn't play much as a rookie before taking on a backup role this season.
"I think his motor, his passion, his anticipation, his understanding of gap control and where he has to be and where he fits in," Kitchens said. "It is just a matter of doing it every down now."
— Though Kitchens hasn't disclosed just how much Kareem Hunt will play in his Browns debut, he said Friday that the talented running back would not be limited or restricted to a certain number of plays.
Hunt, who is coming off an eight-game suspension for off-field incidents that occurred while he was with the Kansas City Chiefs, hasn't played since Week 12 of the 2018 season.
"We will see how the game goes," Kitchens said. "We just need to continue to build Kareem's endurance and some of that stuff kind of factors in."
— The Browns don't plan to activate rookie OL Drew Forbes before Sunday's game, Kitchens said.
The Browns have until next Thursday to make a decision on Forbes, who was designated to return from injured reserve Oct. 24. If the Browns don't add Forbes to the 53-man roster before their Week 11 matchup with the Steelers, Forbes will return to the injured reserve and be ruled out for the season.
Forbes, a sixth-round pick out of Southeast Missouri State, suffered a knee injury in Cleveland's last preseason game.