G Joel Bitonio (1.15.21)

G Joel Bitonio:

On his experience last Sunday night: 

“Obviously, I wanted to be out there. That was the hardest part. All day Sunday, I was just like, ‘I should be preparing for this game.’ Watching it, it was pretty exciting. The first play, it was a good start. It was fun. If it was a lot closer, I would probably be a lot more stressed out, but when you get up 35-7, you can breathe a little bit. It was tough not being out there, but I was so proud of how the guys fought, just the execution and just how everybody kind of came together and picked up the slack for guys that were out – OV (DE Olivier Vernon), (CB) Denzel (Ward), myself, (CB) Kevin (Johnson) and (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski. There was a whole group of guys, and just everybody who needed to step up made a play. It was really cool to kind of experience that from the top down.”

On how happy he is that he will have the opportunity to play in the postseason this week for the first time: 

“It is great. It is huge the team won that game when we moved on to the divisional round. Obviously, I am excited. I am ready to be out there, I am ready to play and do my best, but it was always about the team and how they were going to respond. We have been in those situations all year. It was just really cool to see those guys step up and make plays. Obviously, I am pumped to keep playing and ready to get after it this weekend.”

On what he was doing during the AFC Wild Card game: 

“I was sitting in a chair downstairs in my basement. I have a big TV – I have like a 70-incher down there. I was just watching. I was pretty calm, though. I tried not to get too excited or too up or too down. I was just taking it play at a time, but when you go up 28-0, it is hard not to keep that excitement in.”

On G Michael Dunn’s performance: 

“It was awesome. Mike has been here since a few days into training camp this year, and he has just been an awesome person from the get-go. The way he works, the way he attacks every day – even though he had not been playing and he was on practice for most of the year and the way he learns, he did everything that he possibly could to be ready to be thrown in that situation. Obviously, you had guys like Hub (T Chris Hubbard) and (C) Nick (Harris) who were supposed to be there, but they were banged up. He went in and took advantage of that. He played a great game. The thing is when you play a position in football, that is the position I was watching the whole game was left guard, and I was like, ‘He is killing it right now.’ He did a great job. Obviously, it was tough to see him go down, but he put everything on the line for them. It is a testament really to who he is as a person and the work he has put in all year to go out there and accomplish that. I was very happy for him because he proved he could play in this league and be a guy.”

On his reaction to the first play of last week’s game and if he was able to still stay calm in that moment: 

“I stood up for that one and made sure we got the recovery. It was more of a shock thing, like make sure there are no penalties and make sure everything is right. It is funny because sitting on the sideline usually, and me, (C) JC (Tretter), (T) Jack (Conklin), (G) Wyatt or one of the guys would look at it each other and be like, ‘Alright, let’s get a pick six here or let’s get a fumble here.’ For it to happen on the first play, it was a great start. The crazy part was my neighbors where I live, and after the game, they were outside of my house going crazy and lighting off fireworks. My wife got some of the footage on video. It was pretty cool. It was just cool how I was kind of part of the celebration in the sense where you do not really get to experience that when you are playing in the games.”

On Browns OL members continuing to step in and play well, including Dunn and G Blake Hance last week: 

“It starts from the top with (offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan, (assistant offensive line) Coach (Scott) Peters and (coaching assistant) Coach (Ryan) Cordell. They have all done a good job of making sure those guys are ready to play because they do not get the reps all year. O linemen do not really rotate like that. Unless someone is banged up, they do not get the reps in practice and are on the scout team and stuff like that. It was great. It is a testament to JC leading the line out there and really just being able to communicate with those guys because they come from a different system and stuff, but if they understand some of the terminology, the way he explains it and stuff like that and I think JC and Jed (T Jedrick Wills Jr.) communicating with those guys at left guard was a big key, as well.”

On what it meant for WR Jarvis Landry and other Browns teammates to dedicate last week’s game to him: 

“I was very appreciative. I had so many people reach out to me and so many people check on me and my health and my family. It was really overwhelming in that sense. It is hard to put into words. It means a lot in the sense that I have been here for a long time, and you try and put in everything that you can and you want to be in those big games and you watch your teammates and stuff play in those big games. To hear a guy like Jarvis or (QB) Baker (Mayfield) say that they are playing for me was big. I was just proud of everybody, and I am ready to be out there with those guys this week.”

On his experience with COVID-19:

“I was pretty normal. I was a little tired on Monday and Tuesday, but that is pretty normal after 17 Weeks of a season so I was not thinking anything of it. I did not really get too sick. Symptom-wise, I did lose taste and smell for a little bit – mostly smell. I could taste a little bit. I was good. My family stayed healthy. I quarantined in the basement, and they were upstairs and they tested negative this whole time so they are doing good, which was big for me. I made it out OK and I know a lot of people struggle with it so I was happy to make it out alright.”

On how frustrating it was to miss his first game in four years, particularly with it being a postseason game:

“For me, it was tough because the games I had missed prior in my career, I was in a boot or I knew I could not go out there and perform, and I felt like if I had to play on last Sunday night, I was going to be able to play. That was the hardest part is I felt healthy enough to go out there and play, but I could not be out there with the guys which felt like you are letting those guys down a little bit. Like I said, they stepped huge.”

On how COVID-19 tests were done for his young daughter:

“The just did it like everybody else with my daughter. They swabbed the nostril – they do not go up into the brain or anything. They swabbed the nostril and it tickles her a little bit, but she is a trooper. I have not seen her do it, but my wife said she is a beast. She likes it. She laughs when they test her. It is pretty much like everybody else.”

On if the playoffs are even more special to him knowing former Browns teammate T Joe Thomas never appeared in a postseason game:

“Yes, it is tough. I talked to (QB) Case (Keenum) and I have talked to Joe. Case has been in a lot of places in this league, and he told me about it. You go to a room and you hear how many guys have played in the playoffs here, and usually, unless a team has been there, it is usually 10 guys or less on a team. It is hard to make it in the playoffs in this league. Joe Thomas texted me, and he was obviously hurting for me. He was the most confident Browns fan I have been around. He was telling me that we were going to win. He was like, ‘There is no doubt in my mind we are winning this game. I know it for sure.’ He was very confident that we were going to pull this out so he knew I was going to get another shot. It is tough to win in this league. It is tough to be in those positions, and I am just grateful to have a chance to play.”

On if his neighbors were shooting fireworks off for specifically for him or if the neighbors had already stocked up on them:

“I think they stocked up. They were excited that the Browns were going to the playoffs and winning that game. It was cool. There was a good amount of them out there and you heard him. I think they were ready to celebrate if we won anyways. It was very cool. It is kind of like that scene in ‘Remember the Titans’ when they are about to go to the state championship and he is like, ‘We are not working tonight. We are going to go tell them we are going to state.’ It was kind of a cool moment. We have great neighbors, and a lot of them sent over food and stuff like that. We are very appreciative of that.”

On if he had any fever or chills as symptoms:

“No, they sent me thermometer and the little thing that goes on your finger. I was checking three times a day, and I was always good. I felt pretty normal. I napped a lot the first couple of days, but I was in meetings last week and I was focused. I was trying to go through it like I was about to play the game, watching the film and stuff. I was pretty locked in, but I felt overall pretty good.”

On what makes this Browns team so special and confident heading into Sunday’s game:

“It starts from the top down. (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski has done a good job of making it about the team and talking about the standard of play that we want to play with around here. There have been no excuses. When we go up there and we win or lose, it is on us and it is on how we play the game and who is going to be out there. It is who we have for that week and who is going to step up and that is a standard of play that everybody wants to meet, and that is what we kind of worked to on this team. I think just playing together. You win some games and you have lost some games this year. You bounce back a bunch of times and you just been through the fight guys so there is a confidence about it. We obviously know we are playing the Super Bowl champs in the Chiefs, one of the best teams in the league, and they have playmakers on offense obviously but they have some great players on defense, too. We know it is a huge challenge. We know that they are going to come and give it their best shot. It is win or go home now. We are trying to focus on ourselves and trying to put the best version of the Browns out there that we can.”

On if anyone has played any pranks on him when returning to the building like Stefanski said Keenum did and if he texted with Stefanski during the game:

“No one has pranked me that I know of so we will see if that comes out. We texted a couple of times throughout the week, but he said his phone was going to be off so I did not want to be guy that texted him. The amount of text messages I got through people checking in, and I had a few people ask me if I was watching the game. I was like, ‘Uh, yeah, I am watching (laughter).’ I realized he was probably going to be overwhelmed, as well. Once we handled our business, I was ready. I was like, ‘Alright, I have to get in game mode. I have to get ready to play this next game.”

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