G Joel Bitonio (11.12.20)

G Joel Bitonio:

On RB Nick Chubb and G Wyatt returning to practice this week: 

“It has been good. They have a few practices in. It is really good. Hoop (TE Austin Hooper) is back, too. Besides (WR) Odell (Beckham Jr.) obviously, who is going to be done for the season, it feels like we are healthy again as a group, and all of those pieces have been pretty important to our run game and getting back on track. It has kind of been a big focus for us. It is good. Good energy at practice. Good weather out here. It has been fun to run around a little bit and see everybody back in the huddle. When you see Nick in the huddle smiling and just ready to play football again, it makes you happy.”

On what Teller offers the Browns OL, understanding T Chris Hubbard played will when Teller was out:

“Hub did a good job. He had never played guard for us and played for almost four games. It was actually really impressive to see. It is continuity. Wyatt and (T) Jack (Conklin) got all of those reps together, they worked together and they kind of understand what is going on. Wyatt did a good job. He was finishing people earlier this year and had some big time blocks. More than anything, it is just that continuity. You get the group together that took all of the reps together in training camp and has worked together, especially between the right guard and the right tackle. Wyatt is a big dude. I know he is excited to get back out there and give it a go.”

On playing in inclement weather conditions against the Raiders and potentially against the Texans this week:

“We have to execute better. We did not do well enough on offense against the Raiders in those circumstances. It is tough. The wind was blowing and all of those things. It is something that we preach. We play in Cleveland. There is going to be bad weather. We have an open field. We do not have a dome, which is something a lot of teams are going to here. I love it. I love paying in the bad weather. In terms of run-it-down-their-throat football, in the game against the Raiders, we just did not take advantage of our opportunities. We only had six drives, but when the clock is running and you do not have that many opportunities, you have to take advantage of all of them. We made too many simple mistakes to get off the field. This week, we are just focused. We have not even really talked about it yet because we are just focused on getting better at executing our assignments, but if we get out there and it is a little rainy or wet, I think we are going to be ready this week. I think guys understand we are playing in Cleveland, and it is November, December and January football and that is what it is all about.”

On the difficulty of maintaining footing and leverage when playing on a wet surface:

“You have to make sure you have the right cleats. (Head Equipment Manager) Brad (Melland), our equipment guy, does a good job of making sure you have the right set of studs or those really good cleats that they get. The last game, I felt good. I felt like my cleats were good, and we were able to run. We will see if it gets wet because then the grass kind of gets torn up a little bit more when it starts raining, but the defense has to deal with it, too. Usually, the offense kind of knows where we are going so I think that the offensive linemen have a little bit of an advantage in that. We can only slow down so much. A guy like (DE) Myles (Garrett) or someone you are blocking like that can slow down a lot more than we can slow down. I think it goes a little bit of an advantage to the offense, but you have to just make sure you have the right cleats, get out there early and make sure you are moving around and have the right footing.”

On Chubb, Hooper and Teller potentially returning and if there is a sense that the Browns can get back to being the top-level running unit from the first month of the season:

“We had a big break down with the bye week to go over things, and we went over exactly what was working for us and what has not been working. We broke down all of our plays, our averages and all that information, and we kind of went over what we wanted to improve at each position like on each play just to see. When you bring back an offense… I will argue with anybody that Nick is one of the best runners in the league. You bring back a guy like Hoop who is honestly – people think he is a receiving tight end, but he blocked his butt off in the games that he played. Obviously, Wyatt has been a good player for us. You bring back those three guys, and you look at it and you are like, ‘Hey, let’s take advantage of this.’ I think it is just about execution in general. Three guys coming back is not going to just magically change things. As a group, we have to execute a little bit better each play and see what we can do from there.”

On what the Browns offense missed the most when Chubb was out: 

“I think it is a one-two punch type of thing where it is not all going on (RB) Kareem (Hunt) or it is not all going on Nick where Nick can get a drive and then Kareem can get a drive. I think when they are on the sideline they might be able to see how things are hitting a little bit differently. Nick might be able to see like, ‘Oh, Kareem missed that one by one step. I am going to get it next time.’ When you are playing every snap, you might miss that when you are on the sideline. I think they complement each other well. Nick runs his tail off and he runs hard. He finds those dirty yards. We are excited to have him back.”

On entering the second half of the season and still playing meaningful games with a chance to be a playoff team:

“It is good. We would rather be in meaningful games than not meaningful games. It is one of those things that you work for, but what (Head) Coach (Kevin Stefanski) is preaching is a week at a time kind of mentality. We have not really talked about the playoffs or anything like that. We just talked about the first half of the season and what we want to do to improve as a team. If we keep improving, the wins are going to come, and we will play meaningful football down the line some more. It is good. We part ourselves in an OK position. We did not perform a couple of times. We felt like we gave one away last week before the bye, but we are in position. That is all you can ask. Now, we just have to improve each and every week and see where we are at the end of the year.”

On how different it feels to be playing meaningful games at midseason with a chance to reach the postseason:

“I feel like the last two years, we have not been out of it this early. We have had games that we were competing for, and if we would have won, we would have kept going. We are in the best position we have been in since my rookie year so it is definitely better. I would rather be in this position than losing a bunch of games.”

On the outlook for QB Baker Mayfield during the second half of the season as the Browns coaches continue to shape the offense to maximize players’ strengths:

“I think it is good. He was not here for a couple of days because of the COVID stuff, but he seems refreshed and ready to roll. I think we have seen some good things. I think the Cincinnati game gave him some confidence. We did not really have a chance to throw the ball down the field against the Raiders, but what we seen the last few weeks, I think we dissected kind of what we did well as a group and what we can improve on. He has attacked that head on. As the quarterback of the team, I think the coaches and stuff look at him first and it kind of works its way down. We are excited. We have a big test against Houston, who has played a bunch of good teams. They have a tough record, but they really played a bunch of good teams so it is going to be a great test for us. We are excited to see where Baker goes. He is working his butt off. Mentally, he is there and he is ready to go, and he is ready to go 1-0 this week.”

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