You could see the wheels churning in Tashaun Gipson's head as he said one thing and immediately thought of the other.
Gipson stood by his locker Monday and talked excitedly about the prospect of returning to the field in time to help the Cleveland Browns through their push for a playoff berth. Somehow, the topic landed on whether Gipson would wear a brace on his injured knee when he returned to action.
"Brace kills your swag. I can't be out there with a brace, man," Gipson said. "You see a guy back there with a brace playing DB, it's automatic, I'm going to check and throw it his way."
And then it hit him. Would that be such a bad thing for one of the NFL's interceptions leader?
"You know, that might be good, too," he said. "I could use that. If I don't need a brace, I won't play with a brace. I won't put myself out there if I'm not good to go and don't feel like I can help the team. If I feel like I can help the team out, I'll be back there."
Gipson's been sidelined for the past two games with a knee injury he sustained in the fourth quarter of Cleveland's victory at Atlanta. He won't play Sunday against Cincinnati and isn't sure if he'll even practice this week but he has his eyes set on the Browns' Dec. 21 road trip to Carolina.
His eyes lit up as he pictured it.
"I'd like to play against Cam Newton and get a couple of picks against Cam Newton; seven or eight, nine or 10," Gipson said, half-joking, half-serious.
"Just being focused and just knowing everything we have in front of us, it's the playoffs and we have a nice playoff push and we can definitely make it. I think that just being able to come back and play and finish this season strong, that's what keeps me afloat and keeps me going. Seeing these guys and they come in here, Joe (Haden) and Buster (Skrine) and (Donte) Whitner, guys I talk to on and off the field. Just seeing those guys and being able to make a push with those guys, I think that's what drives me."
Watching from the sidelines has been far tougher to handle than any of the pain Gipson's experienced in his knee over the past few weeks.
Gipson admitted the running dialogue in his head includes curse words and "a lot of screaming" whenever the Browns surrender a first down or big play through the air. When he watches film of games he didn't play, Gipson identifies all of the potential plays he could have made that might have changed the outcome.
Gipson stressed he's not downplaying the performance of his teammates when he does this. It's just the level of confidence he carries, one of the main reasons why he still maintains the NFL's lead in interceptions (six) and interception return yards (158).
"When you're confident within yourself, you know the plays you're capable of making," Gipson said. "Those plays probably could have been the deciding factor. It's just that drive that pushes me to be back out there with my brothers, man. It's tough watching it on the sidelines."
Veteran Jim Leonhard's performance in Gipson's place has made it a little easier to stomach. Leonhard's made two pivotal interceptions in the last two games, one coming in the end zone at Buffalo and another that set up a field goal against Indianapolis.
Add it up, and that's eight interceptions from the Browns' free safety position this season.
"I don't know who the ghost of the past of that free safety spot that we're playing, but he's working, right?" Gipson said. "Jimmy Leonhard just came in there and he's been doing his job. I listen to Jimmy Leonhard, man. He's like a coach out there. There's things Jimmy Leonhard has taught me and I credit him for a couple of interceptions I've had this year, things that he's taught me that he's showed me he's seen. I just got younger and fresher legs than Jimmy Leonhard.
"He's come up huge for me and it's been a blessing to have someone like him and Donte Whitner at such an early age in my career right now."