After an offseason filled with big decisions as the new president of the NFL Players Association, JC Tretter was faced with a significant one about himself.
The Browns veteran center's knee "flared up" shortly after players were granted approval to return to team facilities for workouts. He could either fight through the pain with little reassurance it would get any better or address the issue right away with surgery.
Tretter chose the latter with the understanding it would prevent him from practicing much at all during training camp and potentially sideline him for the early part of the season.
With four days to go before the Browns' season opener in Baltimore, Tretter said he felt good about his decision. He participated in his first practice Monday and was back on the field Wednesday and listed as a limited participant.
"I wrestled over what the right answer would be or what the best answer would be. In the end, I think we landed on the right answer," Tretter said. "Behind the scenes, we just worked really hard. I give a lot of credit to the training staff. When we made the decision to go in and get it scoped, that was the conversation was how do I get back in time for the first game and we put a plan in place and we continue to push through that and make sure we are checking all the boxes.
"We will continue to do that the rest of the week, and make sure everything is working right and we can continue on moving forward."
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said the team will wait until the end of the week to make a determination on Tretter's playing status.
Since he signed with the Browns in 2017, Tretter has not missed a start despite dealing with a number of different, painful injuries. Tretter and LG Joel Bitonio have been the stabilizing force of an offensive line that's undergone plenty of transition at the other three positions.
"You do not want to miss games. You do not want to miss players," Tretter said. "You just want to take advantage of every change. You are not going to play forever. You want to make sure you are out there taking advantage of all the chances we get. A lot of it is a pride thing of making sure you are out there and available. That is the one real statistic you can have as an offensive lineman is availability. You always want to be available for your team, to help your team win."
CB M.J. Stewart (hamstring) was also limited at Wednesday's practice. Stewart had been sidelined for multiple weeks with the injury.
The new normal
There won't be any fans at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday when the Browns and Ravens kick off the 2020 season. Baltimore is among the majority of NFL teams not selling tickets for its first home game of the year, and it could be an environment the Browns experience multiple times throughout the season.
It's a new situation for just about everyone, but Stefanski said the team has tried to prepare for the unique atmosphere.
"We have tried to replicate that noise out here on the practice field so we will have that just playing on a loop as we practice so the guys are used to that," Stefanski said. "It is going to be unusual. It is going to be a little eerie. For both teams, I think once you get through it, it will kind of just become the norm."
Everyone has a wrinkle
Asked if he believed the Browns had an advantage over the Ravens on Sunday because of the offseason coaching change and new additions on both sides of the ball — therefore giving the Ravens little to prepare off — Stefanski disagreed.
"I would tell you every year teams come in with a wrinkle," Stefanski said. "I can promise you there are things that they have been working on in practice that we have not seen and that was not on tape in 2019. That is just the nature of the first game. I go back to the preseason, even without the preseason, it is not like us or another team would be showing a lot of that stuff in the preseason. You are saving it for Week 1. That is just part of the deal going into Week 1."