G Joel Bitonio (1.3.21)

G Joel Bitonio:

On how the moment feels when reaching the postseason for the first time in his career: 

“It was great. It was a great team win. It was not perfect by any means. We had some guys out, and I know they rested a bunch of guys and had some guys out, too. The team found a way to win, and that is what it is all about. It would have been really cool to have 67,000 people in there, but the 12,000 that were there were making some noise. It was much appreciated. It is just one of those moments you will look back and be like, ‘That is something we have worked for for seven years now.’ It is just cool to have a chance to go to the playoffs. We have a chance. We are in the dance.”

On his message to the team after the game: 

“It was just I appreciate everybody in the room and the work that they put in from the top down, just working to change the culture here. There was a culture of losing and a culture of not being able to finish some of the games that we have been in. I just appreciate everybody and hopefully we are setting the stage for a winning culture in Cleveland for a long time.”

On the difference in the Browns culture now: 

“Honestly – I have talked about this a few times in some press conferences – just the top-down structure, everybody is pulling in the same direction. (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski does a good job of taking it one day at a time and one week at a time and playing for each other. We set a standard, and win, lose, or draw, if you do not play the standard, there are corrections to be made and there are things to be done that are going to benefit the team. We are all trying to work to those goals. We have the talent now. Now, it is just about execution, and we have done enough this year to get into the playoffs.”

On his emotions entering today’s game, given the impact of it and the circumstances of the past week: 

“It was a big game. We knew we had to handle our business – win and get in. We had good focus about ourselves. In the two practices that we got to go into the building this week, I thought we had good practices. I thought there was a focus about us. For me, it felt like a normal game. Obviously, there was more on the line than a normal Week 17 game for us, but we were focused and ready to go. There was a little bit of emotion and some excitement out there. You want to play your best, but it felt pretty normal like a normal game. It was obviously a big one, but we were just trying to focus and execute the best we could.”

On the rollercoaster of emotions when the Steelers scored and went for two and then the game-sealing run by QB Baker Mayfield:

“Our defense has been in that situation a few times this year where we have been up by eight or something and they got a touchdown but they have done a great job of those two-point conversions. When they scored, it was like alright we have to get down, we have to get points and get in field goal range at least. We have all of our timeouts and we have enough time to do it. We were focused on that. They got a stop, and we were like, ‘Alright, now we need a first down.’ We recovered the onside kick, and we put that little Baker run in this week for third-and-short. It was a good play, and Baker sealed the deal. That was special getting Baker to seal the deal there. He is the quarterback of this team and the leader. To have the ball is in his hand to finish the game, that was impressive.”

On how he will celebrate tonight:

“Just go hang out with my wife and baby. We will probably watch some football. Nothing too crazy. We are in a pandemic right now so we will just hang out at the house. It is good. I will probably watch the film and see what we need to do to get better. Just hang out with the family.”

On what emotions Stefanski showed after the win, given Stefanski is an even-keel person, and the importance of that type of personality with the adversity the team faced this week:

“There were some emotions. He was excited to get the playoffs and get the win, any means necessary. We have had a rough couple of weeks with the COVID outbreak and the COVID protocols and things like that, but the guys on the field knew what we had to do, and he was excited about that at the end of the game. He is not satisfied, though. We are going to learn from this tape and move on and try and improve for next week. It is just the guy he is. He was definitely happy, and you can tell he has a little bit different emotions, but it is almost robotic sometimes the way he goes about his business because he is just the same guy, he has his standards and he was appreciative, though, of everybody’s work – just from the top down, everybody’s work. That is what he was appreciative of and then us playing as a team. You could tell he was very appreciative of that.”

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