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Mike Pettine press conference - 10/21

Opening statement:

"Wednesdays bring about the start of prep for a new opponent. Given our results last week, I know our guys are eager to get out there and compete and find a way to finish and get the result that we want. We all know that when we are prepared, we play well. That is what this part of the week is all about. It starts with our preparation, being mentally fresh, physically fresh, focused. With each week in the NFL, it is a new set of challenges, and the Rams certainly present a lot. They are coming off a bye. They have had an opportunity to heal up a little bit. Playing on the road in a dome is always a difficult task for your offense in terms of the communication. Then personnel wise, they present some problems.

"Defensively, (he) might be the best interior defensive lineman we will face all year in (Rams DL) Aaron Donald and an elite pass rusher (Rams DL) in Robert Quinn. Very similar to the challenge we faced this past week. Schematically, they stress you a lot. (Rams defensive coordinator) Gregg Williams does an outstanding job of moving his guys around. You get some exotic pressures. You don't want to get behind the sticks against this group. They will be able to bring it from a variety of places and play a lot of different coverages behind it. Certainly, a challenge and to add on top of that playing on turf, on the road in a dome, our offense, the margin for error is slim.

"On the other side of the ball, they've really built this offense around running the football. (Rams RB) Todd Gurley is really starting to blossom as a rookie. I think he has averaged close to 150 yards his last two starts. That is what they want to do. I think they are certainly going to see this as a matchup of their strength against our weakness, and we are well aware of that and have to have a great week of prep. That has to carry over to the field. We have to be able to execute when it comes to defending the run. We have to be on point with our alignments, the assignments, the technical parts of it, and with that being said, the passion, the want-to, the competitiveness to stop the run has to be there. They have a very capable group of skill players from (Rams WR Kenny) Britt to (Rams WR Stedman) Bailey to (Rams TE Jared) Cook. (Rams WR) Tavon Austin is a game changer. I think they do an outstanding job of finding ways, creative ways of getting him the ball. Whether it is screens, they will just put him at running back and give him the ball, jet sweep and all the accompanying plays off of that, I think they are doing a really good job of finding ways to get him the ball.

"That also that spills over into special teams. They are one of the more creative groups. They view punt as an offensive play. They will give you a variety of formations. Their punter [Rams P Johnny Hekker] can throw it. He is 6 for 8 [passing] in his career. They do a lot of things to test you. They force you to sometimes go vanilla in the punt return game, and that is an advantage for them.

"Across the board it is a big challenge for us. I know we will have a good couple days and we will go out there prepared.

"On the injury front, (DB) Charles Gaines is returning from short-term IR. He is available to now practice. (RB) Glenn Winston is returning from the PUP list. Both of those guys will be a welcome addition to the practice field. It is great to have them back. We will bring them along slow and see where they are. We will have a period of time to activate them and make a decision on what we are going to do in regards to getting them to the roster if that is the direction we want to go. Also, (TE Rob) Housler, (DB Joe) Haden, (DB Tashaun) Gipson and (LB) Craig Robertson would be the only guys that are not available to practice today."

On if competitiveness or want-to has been missing to stop the run:

"No I think, to me, if you want to take that next step, it starts with an attitude. You have to want to. I am not saying that has been missing, but in this game, for sure, if we don't go out there wanting to stop the run and wanting to play that street fight with them up front because that is what they are built to do and what they are going to do, then we will get embarrassed defending the run. Our guys have to be locked in. That has to be the No. 1 priority for those guys up front."

On how much the Browns liked Gurley in the draft and the impact of his knee injury:

"Looking back, there were the concerns and also the lateness of the evaluation. I know he didn't do much at the combine and then they were the late re-checks with it. I know there was a lot involved with that. With the medical aside, from a pure football standpoint, we saw this guy as a special back. He was right up there at the top of our running back board. I am sure he was in most of the draft rooms. I don't know exactly what the medical grade ended up being, but from just a pure football grade, he has proven it already. He is a special back."

On if the Browns would have selected Gurley if available at No. 12 overall:

"I don't remember exactly how our board was ranked. I am sure there would have been scenarios where he would have been in the discussion."

On if the Browns dodged a bullet with RB Duke Johnson Jr. not being seriously injured in the game against the Broncos:

"Anytime a guy goes down or gets taken out of a game like that, there is always concern, but he is cleared and good to go."

On if Haden is still in the concussion protocol:


On evaluating the Browns pass rush overall, given the low sack numbers, and if the Browns are doing enough to pressure QBs:

"I don't know if you can ever do enough, but it is an area that I think some of it is a function of the situations we are putting ourselves in. When you don't have leads and when the down and distance situations aren't ideal, you are not going to get as many opportunities or as many opportunities where you can say, 'Forget the run' and 'I am stopping the run on the way to the quarterback' because they have to throw it here. It is a function of that and I think it is a lot of things. We need to win one-on-one pass rush matchups. Schematically, we need to make sure we are putting our guys in the best position and get the matchups that we wanted. If you want to say the low numbers – I have said this before – I have never been one to get too wrapped up in the sacks. I feel there were times even Sunday where we knocked (Broncos QB) Peyton (Manning) down a bunch and there were time where he threw the ball and it was into the ground or overthrows that we did have some effect. That is our challenge every week."

On how eager the Browns are to see Gaines practice:

"Very eager. He has done an outstanding job, along with our strength staff and our training staff, to come along. He has been in all the meetings. He is on point with what we are doing. The workout part of it, couldn't help but get his weight down. We feel like he is in great shape, but he needs to get in football shape. That is the downside of this. When you take that block of time off, even though he is available and 100 percent, it is the football part of it and that is why we will take it slow. With his designation, there is a window where has to practice for a period of time before we can activate him. It is different from (RB Glenn) Winston and (TE Randall) Telfer to where we can make that decision any point on that timeline. There is a rack of time where he has to practice."

On if TE E.J. Bibbs will be active, given Housler's injury:

"It is in the conversation. We haven't finalized yet how we'll work that out. We will know probably more after tomorrow. With the (LB Jayson) DiManche signing, I want Tabes (special teams coordinator Chris Tabor) to get a good feel for where he is. Once we get past the minimum position requirements, we will work backwards from special teams. I thought (DB) Don Jones did an outstanding job stepping in for us and it being his first week on campus. That is one area where you can have an impact early because there is a lot of carry over between teams with core special teams concepts. That is probably the X factor this week – where is DiManche as far as Tabes' plans – and we will work backwards from there."

On if special teams is what is keeping Bibbs off the field after an impressive preseason:

"The third tight end has to help you. That is where Rob will be missed. He did a good job for us on special teams."

On WR Dwayne Bowe's status:

"We make that decision each week. We build the plan and see where we are from a depth standpoint. I talked about the minimum position requirements – the top four guys are entrenched. (WR) Marlon is (Moore) doing an outstanding job on (special) teams when he's available. That just goes back to the last question: then, you have to work backwards from special teams."

On talking with QB Josh McCown about not making mistakes this week, given the Rams defensive front:

"It's a similar conversation to last week. Going against a group that rushes the passer as well as they do, as aggressive as they are defensively, they'll bring more pressure or it'll be more exotic pressure than what Denver did. Just add to it, the issues with communications. I think a lot of that has to do with the plan and that falls onto Flip (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) and to (quarterbacks coach) Kevin (O'Connell) and the rest of the offensive coaches and the interaction with Josh and the offense to make sure that this week simpler is better. You might have a play that could have a couple different checks based on what they're in, but if you can't get it communicated and executed in real time in that environment, it's not going to do you any good. We just have to make sure we're walking that fine line between getting ourselves in the best play but also, I said it in the meetings when we were game planning: 'Hey, just make sure simpler is better.' Simpler is better this week just because of the environment we're going to be in."

On if playing in a dome is a big deal:

"It is, it is. I know we're going to be playing up in Seattle and each stadium – I know Kansas City gets real loud, as well – but just the circumstances of being in a dome that forces you to – and what helps is having (QB) Austin (Davis). Austin Davis being there, he's been a part of that environment from the other side. I think he'll be real helpful for the quarterbacks this week."

On estimating only 35,000 fans will be at the game and if it still poses a challenge:

"35,000 when it's bouncing off the roof and coming back down, it's still louder than most outdoor stadiums."

On why the Browns offense seems to start out slowly:

"Sometimes, it is a matter of figuring an opponent out. They do a good job early and we are still getting a sense for how they are playing us. There have been a couple games where teams have come out and played us a little bit different than what we anticipated and have had to make adjustments. With the quarterback, there have been some games where he has missed some throws early and has gotten in a groove and a better sense of what we were getting and improved as the games goes on. They are all different. I don't see that necessarily as this is a reoccurring problem for us as being slow starters. Some games, we have gotten out of the gate. You look at the very first game of the year, offensively, that drive, 17-18 plays, whatever it was. I don't think that is a huge concern, but it is a priority every week. That is why we script out the openers. The guys know these are the formations, these are the plays we are going to run. They have a good sense, and they can study them and know them. That is important. Especially on the road, you want to get out of the gate early to get the crowd out of it."

On if the Rams' support in St. Louis is as strong as ever given reports of potential relocation:

"My main focus does not leave the inside of this building. I get it that it is there. We have all read it and know what is going on. I am sure that is a difficult thing for a fan base, just the uncertainty. It is nothing that we can really concern ourselves with."

On if the noise level is still the same in the Edward Jones Dome as the Rams could potentially face relocation after the season:

"Yeah, again the fact that it is inside, it is going to be noisy. I don't think you can get too wrapped up in there are only this many people here. We simulate it as we do every week with the music. It will be nice and loud when we are in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage. I would rather overdo it in practice. There are times in practice where we don't look very good, and that is a function of the mentality we have as a staff. I would rather wear ankle weights in practice. It is really easy to call a field pressure on a toss sweep to the field and feel good that you stopped it, but that is not doing you any good. I would rather call a defense and say what is the hardest play to defend in this and run it. You walk that fine line between we want to be confident going into the game, but at the same time, we want to have tested ourselves during practice, and the crowd noise piece is just another part of that."

On knowing other players at age 30 who had a drastic change in production like TE Gary Barnidge:

"Not off the top of my head. To me, if you know him, it doesn't come as a surprise to you. He has been given the opportunity. I think there are some guys that over the course of their careers that they get type-cast as 'This guy is a No. 3 three tight end or he is the fourth linebacker or he is an ideal third safety, but he will never be…' It is only when opportunities present themselves, whether it is a player leaving via free agency or whether it is an injury – most of the time it is an injury – and all of a sudden a guy gets in there and you get the result that shocks everybody and kind of breaks out of that mold. It doesn't come as a surprise, and I have spoken at length on Gary's professionalism and how he handled himself. It is great to see."

On if he assumes McCown will be able to put last week's game behind him, given he is a veteran:

"I do. I think he's been around enough. I don't see him as a guy – having been in the league as long as he has been, he is not going to let it carry over. He'll use it as fuel to help him this week move on. This is an aggressive defense. They present a lot of challenges. I don't think he is going to have a lot of time to think back."

On why his run defenses have seemed to struggle the past three years:

"It wasn't in New York. One year, we were No. 1. We were in the top five, I think, a couple of those years, as well. It is a source of frustration. It is. There are some games, not all of them – I am not going to sit here and say all of them – there are some games where you are playing an opponent that is extremely polished in the pass game and you are willing to concede [rushing yards]. The forward pass beats you a lot quicker than the run does. There have been games where you have gone into it knowing you are going to be in lighter spacing and we would rather give up a 4- or 5-yard run than a 20-yard chunk play on a pass. That is not the case, and it has been a few times. It is probably the biggest issue that we deal with here. I know there were some growing pains going to a new system and having new faces in the front seven again this year, but it is something that we will always emphasize and always strive to be better. I truly believe when you can stop the run when you want to then that is going to open up so much more for your pass rush and your ability to defend it."

On similarities in his run defense in Buffalo and this year's Browns defense:

"I was just there for the one year and that was a special front four. Those guys could rush the passer. We were playing in the division where we played New England twice and played a bunch of teams that were pass first, run second. A lot of those games, we did have the mentality of 'Let's stop the run on the way to the quarterback.' I don't see a lot of similarities. The personnel is very different. You are always going to mold what you do schematically to the players that you have available to you."

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