Press Conference

Joel Bitonio: "We're working to be perfect as a group"

G Joel Bitonio:

On what type of challenge will T Jedrick Wills Jr. will have when DE Myles Garrett returns to practice and what kind of season Garrett can have after signing an extension and his goals to be NFL Defensive Player of the Year:

"Jed is going to have a big test. Right now, you still have guys like OV (DE Olivier Vernon) out there who is a great player on his own rights so he is still getting challenged. Myles has that explosive first step and is really impressive off the ball. He can give him an array of pass rush moves. It is going to be a good challenge for Jed. It is good because practice is going to be faster than the games. It is already faster than the games, but then when you get a guy like Myles, too, it is really going to step up, and once we get to the games, hopefully, it slows down for him a little bit. Myles as a player, from the first day he has been on the practice field, you can tell he was something special. The way he moves and the way he bends, it is just stuff you only see in a few guys in the NFL. It has been really impressive. I think he was on pace last year to be in that Defensive Player or the Year conversation. If he puts together a whole season this year, really there is no limit on his success."

On early impressions of offensive line coach Bill Callahan:

"He is a football guy, that is for sure. He is very detailed, he is very organized and he knows what he wants out of his O line. It has been good. We put in our work, and that is one thing we are going to do is work and get the reps, but we have a lot of young guys, a lot of new guys so we need those reps to really get into the groove that you want to have on the O line. He has been around it all. I think that is one of the best things about him is he has seen every situation in the NFL, and he has coached future hall of famers, some of the best guys to play the game at their position. He has seen what they do well and what we can do well, and he uses those to coach us. It has been good the first few weeks we have been back, and we are getting into pads finally so I think we will be able to take the next step as a unit as we go."

On if asked players or coaches about Callahan when he was hired:

"Yeah, I texted (Chiefs C) Austin Reiter right away because he was the closest person that I knew. When I was at the Pro Bowl, I talked to (former NFL C) Travis Frederick, who worked with him in Dallas for a couple of years. You want to get a feeling of what guys have experienced with these guys. At the NFLPA meetings, I talked to a few of the guys that have played with him before. All of them kind of stressed the same thing. He is very detailed. We are working to be perfect. We know we are not going to be, but we are working to be perfect as a group. It is all about the work. We are going to put in work. He is a tough coach in that sense where out at practice, it is hard work and it is drilling, but those are all things we need and we are going to use to get better."

On challenges for Wills when transitioning to LT after a virtual offseason program and no preseason games:

"It is tough. It is different for sure. I remember my rookie year, I was trying to put myself in his shoes. I thought about all the Phase I, Phase II of OTAs and all the extra rookie meetings we got, the rookie on-field time and then going through 10 OTAs and then minicamp. You had all that time to work on little details, little things and scheme. Now, you are just thrown into the fire and it is just like alright full-speed ahead, it is time to play. It is different. It is tough. There is learning curve, and luckily we have a bunch of practices here. We still have a month before the first game. It is not a huge amount of time, but I think he is going to get the reps needed. As much as we could virtually, I think he got the scheme down and those things. We are working against the clock, definitely. We have to get reps and we have to work in, and he is switching to the left side like you said, which is a big step. We are doing everything in our power to put him into that position to be successful, and we will try to help him in any way we can. It is definitely a different challenge. I think out of anybody you know, rookie O linemen, rookie quarterbacks and rookies in general use those OTAs to get used to what the NFL is like. This season, I think as much as any, it is going to be different than any season we have ever experienced."

Check out photos from the second day of Browns Camp

On if he can tell how Wills' transition is going without pads:

"Yeah, he looks smooth. If you would have told me he played left tackle in college, I would not have questioned it. He can still kick pretty well, he has quick feet and he is athletic. Like you said, we have not got into pads so it is hard to judge all the run blocking and those type of things, but from just a stance and a kick-step and firing off the ball, it looks like it is pretty natural to him. I think he is an athletic guy so that is definitely a bonus."

On if will keep his beard:

"That is a good question. I did not cut it. We were in quarantine mode. I think the barbershop and I was like, 'You know, I am just going to let it grow and let it grow.' Then as soon as all this started up, I was like, 'Whatever, I have not cut it for a while. It is getting pretty long.' People liked it. As of now, it is staying. I do not have any like 'I have to keep it or I do not need to keep it.' It is good right now. It has not bothered too much. It was a little hot other day, but we will see what happens."

On what is missing without C JC Tretter currently on the field:

"I think his experience and knowledge at the position. He is another guy, going into his eighth year, he has seen a lot of defenses and a lot of fronts, and he knows how to make those calls and bring that experience. You bring a rookie center in like (C) Nick (Harris), who has talent, can move and do things well, but he has not just been exposed to as many of the looks that we are going to see. It is up me, (G) Wyatt (Teller) and (T) Jack (Conklin) and those guys and (QB) Baker (Mayfield) to try and help him along as much as possible. JC is a great player, though. Losing him for however much time it is is different. On the other hand, it gets Nick reps in case he does need to play at some point this season. He is not going to be like, "Man, I have not got any reps with Joel or Wyatt or Baker at quarterback." Obviously, you never want to see a guy go down, but if you can get something positive out of it, it is Nick gets some reps, and that is always good when you are a young offensive lineman."

On how it feels trying to play like normal amid coronavirus, particularly on the OL:

"It is different. The Browns and the Haslams have done a great job of making us feel safe once we get into the building. We have been tested every day since training camp has started, and people in the building are only people that have tested negative for COVID. Once you get into the building, you feel safe in that sense, but you are still wearing the mask, you are still trying to socially distance and you are trying to keep away from people, which is different. In football, you are around guys, you are close to guys, you are eating together and stuff. Now, we have Plexiglas separating us in the locker room and stuff of that nature. For me so far when we have been on the field, though, it has been very similar. I am out there, and I am just like 'OK, we are playing football again.' You go, you block a guy and you get back to the huddle, and you do the same thig. You try and stay apart when you get to the sideline. I think the hardest thing for me is getting water because usually, they just have one water bottle you can pass around. Now, you have your own water bottle so you have to find where your water is at and get a fresh Gatorade and those type of first-world problems. Once you get on the field, it feels pretty similar. We will see when we play another team. We know the guys here are taking the precautions seriously, and to get in the building, you already have to go through a variety of tests. We are still trying to mitigate the time spent together, but once you get on the field, it feels like football to me."

On if has an indication if Tretter will return by Week 1 and how much can he help C Nick Harris prepare in the event Tretter is not ready to play Week 1:

"We do not really know with JC yet. That is him and the medical team to figure that out and the head coach. He has been around the facility so that is good to see. I think that is always a positive step. I think it will be all hands on deck to get Nick ready. If that happened, Nick would get the whole month and a week of practice, and I think he would be ready to go, but we would be able to help him. Baker is going into his third year now. Jack is an experienced player. He has seen a lot, and myself, we are going to [help him] and I can help make a point and I can find the MIKE, as well. I have been in these systems before so I think we would be OK. Obviously, we want JC. He is one of our leaders and one of our best players, and we want him out there, but I think we are preparing for worst-case scenarios."

On QB Baker Mayfield saying he has stepped up and made changes this year to be a better leader and be better mentally and physically:

"He talked to the team, and he had the opportunity to address us. He let us know it was not enough last year and he did not do enough to help the Cleveland Browns win, and he felt bad about it. From a leadership perspective this year, he has done everything right. He is trying to lead by example. Just looking at him when he showed up, he looked a lot better. His body looked better. He looked like he was moving really well. He looked strong. All the things you want to see in a quarterback. It is offseason talk, 'Oh, best shape of your life' type of thing, but he really did take those steps. That is the first part because you lead by example, and then as a quarterback, you automatically lead with you voice because you are the quarterback of this team. Just taking that step, you see him talking to some of the young receivers or even (WR) Odell (Beckham Jr.), (WR) Jarvis (Landry) and (RB) Nick (Chubb) and guys that have been around. We have a standard here now, and that standard can't change. As the quarterback of this team, you are the standard and you are what people follow, and I think he understands that now. We are ready to help him push that standard."

On if he has considered how strange it will be to play in an empty stadium, if fans are not allowed to attend games:

"It is going to be different. I think that is the greatest experience about the NFL is running out and seeing 60,000 fans, and if you are at a road game, you have to deal with some of the noise and you have to work on your silent count but scoring a touchdown silences those fans. It is going to be different. We have thought about it. We talked about our silent count the other day. We were like, 'Are we going to need it this year?' We were thinking to ourselves, 'Are we just going to be in an empty stadium?' As a player, it is going to be up to us to get that energy. I have watched some of the baseball games and basketball games, and it is definitely a different atmosphere. I think once it comes to time to play, guys have been pretty locked in and pretty focused, and I think it is going to become our new normal. Coach has stressed what team is going to adapt the best this year because it is not going to be normal. We can't expect it to be normal, and that is just something we have to deal with. Obviously, we want as many Cleveland fans to be there as safe as possible, but we will see once we get to that first game of the season how it is going to really play out."

LB Mack Wilson:
On his posts about the Browns LB core being disrespected and if that has provided motivation:
"Yeah, definitely because when you say things like that to the media where everybody can see it and really do not know what these guys bring to their position. bring to the field or what these guys bring to the team. You are basically saying that they are piece of crap. To me, that is how I am taking it because you say we are the 32nd linebacker core in the National Football League, and that is just total disrespect. I know the guys in the room have seen it, and I make sure that I remind those guys of what these people think of us. I just always tell them, 'We are going to prove the world wrong. We are just going to continue to work. Keep our heads down and just focus on the task at hand.' That is just taking it one day at a time because everybody is going to find out and that is what we are going to do. We are just going to keep working and show everybody otherwise."

On what makes RB Nick Chubb so tough and what he sees from Chubb this season:
"It is an argument that I always talk to my guys about and my friends. We always talk about who the best running back in the league is, and I go with Nick Chubb. There are a lot of things that Chubb does that a lot of running backs do not. That is what he brings to the team – his positive energy, he does not say much and he is one of those guys who is going to be all about work. He is just different. He runs hard. He can do everything. I feel like the part of his game that a lot of people do not notice or a lot of people do not talk about is his ability to catch the football. He can do that, and that is something that I have been seeing Chubb work on after practices with just catching footballs on the machine, catching tennis balls and things like that. I am going to always say, like I tweeted out a week ago maybe, my teammates over anybody in this league, and it is going to always be like that. I honestly believe Nick Chubb is the best running back in the National Football League. I am going to continue to say that until I play somebody else and they show me otherwise. That is what I am going to stick with."

On where he will play in defensive coordinator Joe Woods' scheme:
"It is really up in the air. I have been doing a lot of reps at WILL linebacker, which is cool. I played WILL last year. They may want me at WILL, but (linebackers) Coach (Jason) Tarver said it is open for everybody that is competing for a starting job. I do not know if I am going to start. I really do not know what position I will be playing. I am just trying to learn all three so I can contribute to the team in any way I can."

On why the Browns LB core is better than what others have said:
"I know you probably are not saying we are better than other linebacker groups across the league, but it as I am saying I do not feel like we are the worst. That is just my take on it. Put it like this, I feel like they are just going based off big time names of guys who are on different teams. We have guys in our linebacker room who really did not make a name for themselves yet. We are looking to do that this year. Like I said, it is total disrespect when you talk about guys being the worst linebacker core. They are going to see, basically. I really do not have much to say. Like (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski says, 'No bark. All bite.'"

On LB Jacob Phillips:
"Jacob, he is a great guy, first of all. I met him my sophomore year in college. I have always been like a big brother to him. We stayed in connection with one another. As far as his game, he is long, he is athletic, he can run, he is versatile and he can play any linebacker position on the team. He can do a lot of great things. I feel like he has been doing a great job of just working hard, taking it one day at a time and not getting frustrated. That is something that I talk to him about all the time from my rookie experience. Don't ever get frustrated because it is new to you, and it is the National Football League. They expect you to be as crisp as you can, but you are going to mess up. Just make sure you mess up full speed. I always tell him, 'I am here for you whenever you want to talk ball or whenever you want to talk just in general' because I had guys who were there for me last year. I just try to do whatever I can to make him comfortable and to help him in anyway."

On what has changed for him in Woods' defensive scheme:
"First of all, Coach Woods is a great guy. Ever since the first day we met him virtually, I feel like he has been doing a great job of making it known that it is not about him and it is about us collectively as a defense, collectively as a team. He has been doing a great job of just putting things in front of us and basically breaking down everything to the best of his ability to the way that we can learn the defense. He put together a great defensive staff. I feel like those guys have been doing a great job with giving us everything and trying to simplify it to the best of their ability so we can just learn, go out and play fast and not do too much thinking. To my knowledge, he has been doing a great job. I feel like he has been putting everything together as far as us defensively. It is going to be good."

On having two former LSU players on the defense and if he calls Phillips 'Rockhead', which S Grant Delpit said was his Phillips' nickname at LSU:
"It is cool having LSU guys on this defense. Mr. (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew) Berry and Coach Stefanski did a great job with their draft choices and things like that and trying to get some of the best guys in the draft. I just am disappointed that all of them had to be from LSU (laughter). Both of those guys are great guys. They are going to do a lot of things to help this team win. I don't call Jacob 'Rockhead' or whatever Grant said."

On LB B.J. Goodson:
"From meeting him the very first time in virtual meetings, I could tell he was one of those guys who was vocal. We signed him and I did a little background research on him just to see his play style and see what he was going to bring to the room, basically. I was impressed. As far as him being here, I have learned a lot from him. Just his energy, he is always there every day and his vocal leadership that he shows on the field. You can just tell he has that experience with being in the NFL for five years. It kind of rubs off on all of us in the room. He is the leader for us in the room because of the experience he has. You can be a rookie and lead. All of us are leaders. As far as B.J. having the experience, he leads the way and we are right behind him. He is a cool guy. Some things he may mess up on at practice, I will talk to him and tell him, 'You are supposed to do this,' and I listen to him. We are all young in the room, and we are just trying to get better and prove the doubters wrong."

On the biggest difference expected for his game this year and what he did in the offseason to improve:
"The biggest difference I think people will see is me fitting the run, my eye progression and things like that. Just me being able to be in the National Football League for my second year, I kind of have a feel of the play style of everything, I have developed and I have better study habits. I have learned how to be a pro even more. Just picked up little tips in the offseason on how to be a better linebacker. (Former NFL LB) Takeo Spikes, I was working out with a few other linebackers across the NFL in the offseason just trying to find ways to get better. I feel like I am going to have a good year, and I feel like we are all going to have a good year as a team. I just feel like this is like my sophomore year in college when I was at 'Bama, and I had a feeling that I was going to do big things and do whatever it took to help us win. That is the feeling I have now. Hopefully, that is true. Just going to take it one day at a time, one week at a time and do whatever I can to help us win in any way possible."

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