G Joel Bitonio (6.16.21)


On if he liked the flexibility offered by this year’s offseason program:

“Yeah, it was great for me. My wife had our second at the end of March so we were right in the heart of that. It was good. I worked out at the facility actually a few weeks in the offseason, and I got to a few other places to work out. A little bit back and forth. You just get flexibility. You are not here for four hours or six hours. You can work out for two hours, get your stuff done and get in and out. A lot of options. I think the main argument is just that you have the ability to choose to do what you want. If you feel like your best bet is to come in and participate in OTAs, that is what you get to do. If you have something come up – a doctor’s appointment or something with your family – you have that right to stay home and figure that stuff out. For me personally, it was great. I got to spend time with family. Once you get into the season, it is such a grind that you want to cherish those moments when you get that opportunity.”


On the challenges with high expectations for the team entering 2021:

“I like having expectations. It means you have the potential to be a good team, but that is really all it means, though, is potential. You have players here, but we have to go out and execute. It starts from the top with (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew Berry and (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski. They put us on the right path already. We understand it takes work. Nothing is going to be handed to you in this league. From Day 1 of the virtual meetings this offseason, it has been about work, how can we improve and the things we need to improve on as a team and get better to make it to the Super Bowl. That is everybody’s goal in this league, but expectations are really just talk for us. It is something that we start off on, but we are working. We want to be the best we can, and we just want to give ourselves an opportunity to play as long as we can this year.”


On how the Browns OL can build upon success from last season:

“Like you said, I thought we played well, but we evaluated ourselves. (Offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan, (assistant offensive line) Coach (Scott) Peters, Coach Stefanski, we came up with individual plans of how we can improve ourselves this offseason and then as a group with communication. Jed (T Jedrick Wills Jr.) is going into his second year. A lot of O linemen take a big step from Year 1 to Year 2. All of us are in the same system for the first time in a long time. In my career, I have only had that a couple of times or maybe once. For me to have the same offense again is big. You have an understanding of the plays and what we want to do, and now, we are just really finetuning things and coming together in that sense.”


On an example of how having the same coaching staff makes things easier for the team:

“When you get a new coach, everything – the schedule of the practice, the schedule of the day, the offense, terminology, the cadence, literally everything – that can be different has the potential to be different. You are learning everything from step one. A lot of the stuff is the same, but it is different terminology. Here, we go out, and we are running. We have the same playbook. We go over brief install, because you have time in the offseason, but it is all plays that you ran. There might be a little tweak here, but it is like riding a bike; you are just getting back on it and figuring out how it is riding right now. You can change everything in the offseason if you have a new coach. With us, we are just picking up and trying to improve the things we need to work on.”


On if he hopes this new style of and flexibility for the offseason will be the process going forward:

“From my perspective, I do not know how it is going to go in the future. From a big picture look at things, if you think about a season, let’s say you end in February. That is everybody’s goal, right? You have to come back mid-April so you are looking at maybe two months off. When you show up to OTAs, you are supposed to be in good shape, because you have to be able to run and you have to be able to do things. How many weeks off are you really giving your body to get to that point? Then you do the nine-week or 10-week program and you have another six-week break, where you are supposed to get some time off, but you have to be in shape for training camp. All of these things lead to a process in the old days or what we were accustomed to where you are just training to be ready at all times. If you can get a training regimen where you can peak in August going into September, I think that is the best way. I think there is a way where we can still have an offseason and we can either push it back or move it around where it is almost more of a ramp-up period instead of these segmented breaks where it is kind of hard to give your body a true break. From my perspective, I do like the voluntary part, but I do think there is an answer out there of let’s look at the science, let’s look at the data and should we be trying to peak in April and then trying to peak again in September? Or is there a way to ramp that up where you do not have to peak and do the voluntary stuff? I think we have learned, too, that virtual meetings and virtual things can be beneficial, as well.”


On if QB Baker Mayfield proved last year that Mayfield should be the long-term quarterback in Cleveland:

“Yeah, I think so. Since he has been here, I have always thought very highly of him. He has always been a great teammate to me, and what he has shown on the football field, the positives far outweigh the negatives. I think you just continue to take those steps and continue to improve. This is a big year for us and a big year for him, but I know he is looking forward to it. That is kind of what he lives for and those big moments. We are getting ready to roll.”


On how he believes Mayfield will handle attention and speculation around a potential contract extension:

“I think he understands that the No. 1 goal is playing football. If you play football well, everything else is going to take care of itself. I think his agent and I am sure his group of people who are supporting him are telling him that. You just play good football, and the other staff will take care of itself. He has the right mindset. He looks like he is in great shape. He is throwing the ball well. He has a grasp of the offense. All of those things are just positives. He has the right mindset. He has not even mentioned a contract extension to anybody in the building, I do not think, player-wise. I think he is focused on what he needs to worry about and kind of let the rest take care of itself.”


On the Browns DL and additions to it this offseason:

“It was fun. We did not go too crazy full speed because we are not in full pads, but just seeing the group of guys out there moving around and the athletes we have over there. (DE Jadeveon) Clowney and (DE) Myles (Garrett) are a pretty good tandem just to look at, but you have (DE) Takk (McKinley), you have (DE) Porter (Gustin), (DT) Malik (Jackson) and (DT Andrew) Billings on the inside. You have a lot of players who have experience in this league and are great players and great athletes. It is cool. There are going to be some good battles in training camp.”


On the benefits of being around the coaching staff in person this year compared to all virtual work last year:

“It was kind of crazy because you walk in the building for the first time, and if you are vaccinated, you see people without masks on and coaches for kind of like the first time ever. They had been wearing masks. That was one thing and getting used to seeing everybody’s faces again and getting used to people. Besides that, when you are in person, you have the ability to see how someone is moving or be coached up differently. We sent videos in virtually and things like that, but when you are in person, it is a little bit more hands on. You get that practice time, and you get to build a little bit of more of a relationship with this guy’s personality. You go into last year and it is all Zoom. You do not really have that time to chat and joke around in the meetings room, and those are some of the coolest things about football – eating around the lunch table, being in the meeting room and those types of things. You get to know guys on a different level from that perspective.”


On if there is anything from last year’s offseason work that can be carried over to this year based on the team’s success in 2020 and if expectations should be higher this year:

“I think we have built on that, and I think that goes back to Coach Stefanski and the program he set up. The things he has built as a coach and put into place, I think those are still there. I still think we are bringing that stuff we brought from the past year, but now we have a chance to grow from it. Everything has that chance, but for us, it was a new coaching staff. We had never been in person with them all of this time. It will give us a chance to grow. I am excited with the guys we have and the coaching staff in place. Now, for us, it is like, ‘Hey, we have to work, we have to put in the time and see what happens during the season.’”


On challenges facing a DL that has multiple players who can move from inside to outside and line up anywhere among the line:

“It is a big challenge. You hope the best guy does not line up over you when they have three or four guys who are like that (laughter). It is a challenge because they can move things and they can shift the D line. You think Myles is going to be playing D end and that is where you want to double team him, and then they move him inside to a 3-technique. Hopefully, you respond in that way, but you never know in an offense. When you are playing defensive end, you can get chipped from running backs, you can get chipped from tight ends and help that way. Inside, it is usually with a center or guard, but if the slide is going the other way, you might… They can run stunts off of it. They can do three-man games. They have the ability to move around. If you put three of your rushers on one side and leave Myles on the other side, are you going to slide to a three-man side or are you still going to double team Myles? There are a lot of options that can open up.”


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