C JC Tretter (12.30.20)

C JC Tretter:

On if some players have become lax on the COVID-19 protocols, given the number of recent close contacts:

“It is tough to say. It is tough to dive into each individual case. I think you first start at understanding this has not gone away. That is something that we have to continue to understand that this is out there. It is something you have to focus on every single day. It is not easy as cases around and in our community rise. We are members of that community. We live in that community. As we have seen right now, we have not seen an example of cases being transmitted within our facility here. We are seeing examples of cases come from outside of our facility. It is tough to stay away, but I think as long as you keep harping on wearing a mask, social distancing and then when you are in this building and wearing your Kinexon, as well, it takes care of those things.”

On if he was involved in any discussions of potentially rescheduling last week’s game against the NY Jets and if he is comfortable with the league’s decision to play the game, given his role as NFLPA President, as well as that some teams may have had an advantage with games being postponed:

“I will start by saying I do not think there is any conversation to be involved in. I think it has been pretty clear that games will not postponed because of some sort of competitive disadvantage due to high-risk close contacts. That has been cleared from the get go. We had an example in San Francisco, an example in Denver and two examples this week with Detroit and ourselves. That has been clear. I would argue the sentiment that teams that had full outbreaks that caused postponements was to their advantage. You talk to (DE) Myles (Garrett), who is still is talking about how bad it is sticking with him from having COVID, I would not think that having multiple people get COVID is to anybody’s advantage. I would strongly disagree with that sentiment. That is how it has been. If there is active spread within a team and there is a lack of containment, it is not safe for that team to come back together, let alone put them with another team. You just can’t do that. That is what we have seen examples of games being postponed is when there is active spread and the virus is moving through and we can’t contain it. That is when you have to start pushing the game back because you can’t bring one team let alone two teams together. If there is an incident where players are deemed high-risk close contacts, those have always continued to be pushed forward. We knew that going into the season. That is why practice squads were expanded and that is why we have had increased roster flexibility for those exact examples. There was really no conversation to have when that story or when that broke down on Saturday. It is what it is.”

On the potential impact if the NFL and NFLPA rescheduled last week’s game or other games 24 hours to give Head Coach Kevin Stefanski or others more time to reconstruct a gameplan, particularly given the playoffs are quickly approaching:

“I think it is a slippery slope. We have never seen that all year. I am sure San Fran earlier in the year, that game for San Fran earlier in the year counts just as much as our game does. Detroit having no coaches all week, I am sure they would want more time to have their coaches actually come back if the game was postponed. I think you enter a more slippery slope when you start postponing things not for health and safety reasons but for competitive disadvantage/advantage reasons. I think you just enter waters you do not really want to swim in.”

On rules changing in the final two minutes of NFL games and if rule changes could or should be considered for the last two weeks of this season:

“Again, I think you stick to the health and safety, and if games get postponed, solely to avoid more people getting sick. We found the person that was sick. We found his high-risk close contacts, and they can’t play because they are more at risk of turning positive and getting other people sick.”

On if he had to explain the COVID-19 situation to teammates this past weekend:
“No one asked. By this point, like you said, late in the season. Guys understand the rules. Guys understand the implications of those rules and understand what happens if you become a high-risk close contact. We have had plenty of guys be high-risk close contacts and not be forced to miss the game, but those five days are set in stone – you are out for five days [as a high-risk close contact]. When that happens, you understand that if it happens late in the week, you are not going to be able to play.”

On why the Steelers interior DL has so much success and if that is more a result of talent or scheme, referencing Steelers DE Tyson Alualu, DT Cameron Heyward and DE Stephon Tuitt: 

“You just listed three extremely talented defensive linemen. They do really good at bringing five and getting pressure with that. They have five very good rushers, and you as an offensive line realize in many cases you are going to have five one-on-one blocks and you are going to have to hold up. It is not easy. It is not an easy thing to do, especially when you are doing five one-on-one blocks against five of the better rushers in the league. That is something that they have that is a big advantage of theirs. You have seen the sack numbers for them over the last four years – all high each and every year because they have a lot of talent on that side of the ball. They are good pass rushers, but they are good in all phases of the game. It is a really talented defensive front. I think it is the most talented front seven in football.”

On if the Steelers DL does anything schematically that stands out to him or if it is solely due to their talent:

“They have a great scheme, too, but when you have that amount of talent in your front seven, you are set up for success as is. Then any scheme on top of it just helps the cause.”

On the level of confidence with G Wyatt Teller and T Jedrick Wills Jr. on the Browns OL and what the unit can do with them that it may not be able to do when other players are filling in: 

“(T) Chris Hubbard did a great job of filling in for a lot of games this year. We feel really confident in whatever group of five we trot out there, and we feel confident. Now obviously, we have a starting five that went into the season who we prepared most with and who has the most reps together so when you are able to get Jed back and get Wyatt back, all of that work, all of that timing and all of that communication all kind of settles in a little bit and everybody feels a little more comfortable and everybody knows the calls and kind of almost the unspoken language at the line of scrimmage of where my feet are going to be, where his feet are going to be and what can I say that they will know what I am saying without having to actually make a call. All of that stuff just comes with practicing a bunch and playing together a bunch. You gain that when you have people with more experience playing together.”

On why the Browns are better equipped to handle the Steelers front seven compared to the Week 6 matchup and preparing for and anticipating playing against the Steelers starting defense, despite the team resting some starters: 

“It would be a miscalculation if we did not [prepare for that]. We go into this game ready to take their best, and I think they are going to give us their best. How do we play better than we did last time? You look at the tape, we have continued to get better. It was a long time since we played them last. We have grown as a team and we have grown as an offensive line since then, but you get back to the basics, work on your fundamentals and watch that film. That is always kind of the best way to learn before facing a guy is look back at when you faced them last and see what you did well and what you did not do well and really learn from that.”

On the challenges with the schedule changes today heading into an important game on Sunday, understanding the team has had to adjust to it multiple times this year: 

“Like you said, we have done it so much that I do not think it even makes us bat an eye at this point. We have moved our schedule around and we have kind of had to hurry up and wait to where we know we are going to come in but we don’t know when and you are kind of sitting around the house. We have done that quite a bit now. I do not think it even phases guys at this point in the season.”

On if anyone on the team was bothered by Browns players being put on reserve/COVID-19 as close contacts because it seems like something that could have been avoided: 

“It is tough. Again, you have seen it. It is tough to play in those situations. I do not think there has been a lot of success of the teams that have had a large number of guys on the COVID reserve list. It is not easy, but that is the year we are playing. It is an unfortunate set of circumstances to get us in that position. Again, I think if you wear your mask, you wear your Kinexon and if you socially distance, I think that is the lesson we have learned from this is that you will be fine and be able to play. The odds are you are not going to get the virus in the first place, and you will not be classified as a high-risk close contact.”

On how the team is handling adversity with hoping players will return from reserve/COVID-19 this week while understanding there is a possibility the Browns will lose more people to the list prior to Sunday: 

“The good thing about today is we had extended [virtual] meetings, which is what they participate in. They are all Zoom meetings so you get more time in the classroom and more time to learn the gameplan. They would not have been able to be on the field so you have longer meetings instead, and they are able to learn and pick up all of the information we would have done during a walkthrough or during a longer practice. You can twist that into a positive. Again, you have to be ready to play and understand again we have not seen the spread within the building so we are hopeful that will continue. You have the same risk of everybody else of a new case popping up. Like I just said, when you are in this building and wearing your mask, wearing your Kinexon and socially distancing, you will not be put on that high-risk close contact list. As long as you redial into those three aspects of it, I think we will feel pretty confident it will be safe for the guys that are not sick to be able to play on Sunday.”

On QB Baker Mayfield’s mood and approach this week: 

“Baker is good. Baker is dialed in. Baker is ready to go. Had a great, great group of meetings, talked through all of our looks and our checks, and we had a good little shorter practice but a really crisp practice. I think Baker is ready to go.”

On how he would grade what the NFL and NFLPA have done to host this season, given some criticism for playing games the year, including as it relates to ‘greed’: 

“I think what we as a union looked into when this whole thing started is we really did look at what I guess we would call the ethical issues of playing a season in a pandemic. I think that was as we started the conversation was a big part of it. I think if we were going to pull resources away from our communities and if we were going to put first responders at a higher risk, I do not think this season happens. I think the guys and just the players themselves would have voted not to play this year if that was what was going to happen. I do not think a criticism in that way of greed. I think we have always looked for the safest way for our communities to move forward and then the safest way for us as players to continue to play the game, continue to get paid and continue to put a product on the field. I think that the amount of work that went into it and the amount of adaptability that it caused – which is not always a strong suit of any business, let alone the NFL – of being willing to evolve and change, and this year needed it for it to work. I give both the NFLPA and the NFL a ton of credit for working through all of those issues and leaving the ethical issues in the forefront and making them the most important to start the whole conversation.”

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