C JC Tretter (1.18.21)

C JC Tretter:

On if the Browns ‘finally have the right head coach and QB’: 

“I believe so. I think what (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski) has done coming in as a first-year head coach in a year unlike any other, not having time to be in the building with the team and still shaping the culture and shaping the team the way he has, it is just a ton of credit to him. I think (QB) Baker (Mayfield) showed this entire year the type of player and leader he is, and that is what you need out of the quarterback room.”

On Mayfield’s growth this season: 

“He continues to get better since he came here as a rookie. He continues to grow as a player, as a person and as a leader, and that is what you need. Baker, I think his growth is not yet done. He is not a finished product and I think he would be the first one to tell you that, but you continue to see him get better and better each and every year.”

On where the Browns are as it relates to ultimately reaching the Super Bowl in the future, given the strong competition in the AFC and talented young QBs in the conference: 

“There are always going to be good teams. There is never going to be an easy path to the Super Bowl. That is why people can play a long time and never win one. It is never easy. Every team has to face other good teams to get there. We took giant steps forward this year as a team, and we need to continue to grow and continue to get better. This experience in the end will be good for us of getting to the playoffs and having that playoff experience, and then we just need to get better. The offseason is to get better as individuals and as a team and take advantage of that and come back stronger next year.”

 

On the Browns OL starting five’s potential to be the backbone of the team moving forward: 

“I think offensive lines always get stronger the longer they play together and the more experience they have together. There is kind of an unspoken language on the offensive line where the more reps you get with another player, the more comfortable you are and you do not even have to say anything and you just know what the other guy is thinking. The longer a group can stay together and have that continuity, the better that group will play as the years go on.”

On if T Jedrick Wills Jr. exceeded expectations this season, particularly given the unique circumstances this year, and Wills’ future: 

“I think Jed has all of the tools to be a really talented player in this league. He changed positions from college to the pros with not a lot of time, like you said, to ramp up into that position. I think he did really well this year. A full offseason or whatever we are going to have this year and another year of practice, preparation and learning under his belt, I expect definite improvements next year. I think that is what you expect out of a young, talented player like Jed.”

 

On if he can quantify how much progress the organization has made from last year to this year: 

“It is tough to put a number or percentage on it. Again, a lot of credit goes to Kevin and AB (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry) coming in here, shaping the team the way they wanted it to be, leading us in a direction and finding a lot of immediate success doing it. It is tough to compare any two years. We obviously found the success this year making it to the playoffs for the first time in a long time here, but it is always tough to actually quantify that.”

On how the team will benefit in the future from playing two playoff games this year: 

“Again, experience is tough to quantify, too. Being in those moments – I honestly think we handled them pretty well – the more you are in games like that and games against really good teams and win-or-go-home situations, it causes growth. That is what you want as a team is you need to continue to grow. The more you are put in those situations, the more hardened you are the next time that situation arises.”

 

On if he is confident that things will return to normal for the 2021 NFL season or if he is preparing to put together a new gameplan and be flexible as NFLPA President: 

“I still think we do not have the answer to that. It is something just like last year where we kind of lived in the moment and allowed the information to come and make the best decisions off of the information we had. I think that is the same place we are at right now where first of all, we want to get through this year and finish this year strong. That has been the goal from the get-go is completing a full season. Then a lot of it relies on how the country is doing, where we stand with everything going on with COVID and then making decisions based off of that. I do not have any clear answers. I think we always need to stay movable and adaptable with what we need to do, but those decisions have to be made of what we need to do in 2021 and what COVID is going to dictate.”

On how Stefanski and the Browns coaching staff did this season in the face of adversity: 

“He did a great job. The whole staff did a great job. Again, it is a situation nobody has experienced before so there is no history in it or no experience in it, but they all did a great job of coaching us up in unique circumstances unseen before – virtual meetings, some weeks not getting practices in and a lot of last-second changes to the schedule. They did a really good job preparing us in those circumstances.”

 

On his stance about wanting to make changes to the offseason program and how much ‘backlash’ he expects from teams: 

“First off, we need to get through this year and then we have to figure out what COVID is going to dictate next year. Backlash? I do not know if ‘backlash’ is the right word. My focus will always be on what is the safest way for the players to prepare and get ready for a season and what is going to cause them to be better off in the long run from a health and safety perspective. I think that should be everybody’s motivation – teams, coaches and everybody included. I am not too worried about that right now. That is a conversation we will continue to have. Again, I think we need to get through this season and then deal with what is going to happen next offseason in regards to COVID as we make those decisions.”

On how fun it was to play with the Browns OL members this season:

“It was great. A really talented group. (Offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan did a really good job of preparing us. It was really exciting. Guys always love being able to run the ball, and being in an offense that is centered around that, it is always exciting for an offensive line. It is exciting to know that we are all going to be back next year and will be able to grow together and continue to learn and get better, and hopefully, continue to provide this team a run game that helps this offense and this team win.”

On if there is more out there for the Browns OL with Wills and G Wyatt Teller gaining more experience:

“Definitely. We still have room to grow, both all as individuals and as a group. We have not reached our end goal.”

On Callahan’s contributions to the Browns offense this season:

“Bill did a great job of prepping us – a very bright guy, gets us in the right positions and is very smart on how he draws up runs and how he makes things look the same but gives different wrinkles and different motions so the defense does not know what is coming. He has seen everything. He has been around a long time, and that gives you advantage. It is great as a player to talk to Bill about what you are seeing because you know he has experienced it in the past, and he will have two, three or four different ways on how to block it or how to matchup against it. Just having that amount of knowledge from one person is always great.”

More on his letter about the impact of the offseason program and how potential changes to it could benefit players’ overall health and safety when comparing players’ time working out in the facility to time working out individually:

“I would rather this interview to be solely on the Browns so I would rather push that for tomorrow in the [media availability] I do with the NFLPA for any of the questions with the NFLPA, if you can jump on that one. I would rather just reflect on the season we had and a lot of great things we did this year and be solely a Browns player this afternoon.”

On what specifically the Chiefs did in the first half to limit the Browns to only three points on their first three possessions:
“It is tough to pinpoint any one thing. Some of it is just game flow. Like you said, you know when you are facing a team like that with as much firepower they have is you need to consistently find success on offense to make sure you stay in the game. They jumped out to that early lead. We have the last drive of the second quarter not go our way where we almost put points on the board. Then that second half, I think we settled in. We were able to run the ball more, set the tone that way and start moving the ball up and down then field and keeping them a little off balance on what we were going to give them, whether it was a run or a pass. Credit to the coaching staff there. I have been in games before where you fall behind two scores in a game like that and the willingness to run kind of goes away and coaches want to get into the pass game. I think our willingness to stay with the run there helped bring us back into contention of that game and not let them just tee off on pass rushes.”

On what allowed Stefanski to be successful when facing adversity this season while helping establish the culture for the team this year:

“Kevin’s personality is steady and sturdy where Kevin is the same guy every day. He is very laser-focused on the task at hand. I think he focuses on the culture of our team and what we need to be thinking about every day, and he messages it every day to make sure that we are on the same page with what the expectation is to make sure we are all together on what our goals are and what we are focused on. I think he has a really good conscious effort on messaging that on a daily basis. I think that is one of the big things that helped us kind of stay on track on such a wild year with so many changes and so many unexpected twists and turns. To have your leader be so steady and so even-keel and message the right things every day, I think that keeps everybody on the same page.”

On if it is a big deal that the whole team ‘bought in’ and how hard the entire team worked this season:

“Absolutely, this is still the greatest team sport, and you need everybody on the same page to have success and you need everybody understanding what the expectations are, both on the field, in the locker room and at practice of what is expected of you, what you need to expect out of your teammates and then have guys live up to it and understand that is the standard and that is the standard that is enforced every single day and there is not dropping below the standard or you will not be here. That is how the great teams operate, and that is how Kevin shaped our team.”

On if there is one moment he will cherish most from this past season:

“The one that pops in my head is the Cincinnati game where we come back and have that last drive to win it. Those are the games that you remember the excitement and that feeling that everybody felt we could win that game, even in the situation we were in with not a lot of time left and having to move the ball downfield. That is a game that I will probably always remember from this year of just that feeling of winning a tight game and coming back from behind in kind of a tough spot. I would probably say that one.”

On the RB tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt this year and moving forward:

“They are two No. 1 backs in this league. I think Nick is arguably the best runner in football with what he is able to do with the ball in his hands, the physicality and the speed he can run with. Kareem is so versatile as a football player, being able to run, being able to be utilized out of the backfield and utilized in the slot as receiver. They just let us do so much. It is nice having no real drop-off when one of them has to go out because you have another No. 1 back coming in. Like I said, we are built off of the run game to start, and we need to be able to run the football to open up everything else we want to do. To have two running backs that do that so well, it is really big for our offense.”

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