G Joel Bitonio (9.1.20)

G Joel Bitonio:

On how the Browns OL is coming together and the potential of two rookies starting Week 1: 

“I think every day we are getting a little bit better. There are things to work on. I think every day you find something new that you want to improve on and work on. That is just the whole season really. As you are working with an O line with two young guys that did not get the OTAs and offseason, every day you are just trying to find something to get better. We talk to Jed (T Jedrick Wills Jr.) about one or two things each day to work on, to focus on, to focus on to really try to improve so it really becomes more of a habit. We are getting there. (Offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan and (assistant offensive line) Coach (Scott) Peters, they are putting us in good positions to be successful. Now, we are just continuing to try to work on technique and get as many reps as we can before that first week.”


On Wills and C Nick Harris during training camp: 

“From Nick’s perspective, he is playing center so there is a lot on his plate making calls and things of that nature. He has done a really good job of picking that up. He is an athletic guy. He can move, he is quick and he gets to his position really well. Those are things that are really big positive signs. Jed, kind of the same boat. He has really picked up the offense well. You do not really see many mental errors and things of that nature, which is encouraging for a rookie that is just going through his first training camp ever and his real first practices ever, and just his daily improvement. I know he is going against guys like OV (DE Olivier Vernon), (DE) Myles (Garrett) and guys that have been to Pro Bowls and All-Pro in this league, and he is competing with those guys. It is not pretty all the time, but every day he is fighting and getting better. Not every block in the NFL is pretty. You might have to win sloppy sometimes, and he is learning that is OK. When you are at Alabama and you are playing teams, sometimes you just win every block, and that does not happen all the time in NFL. You learn from those mistakes and you keep improving, and you have seen that fight with him.”


On how he is helping Wills on the left side of the Browns OL: 

“It starts with communication from the huddle and making sure we know where we are working to and who we are going to and the nuances of each play because each play there is something different that you have to worry about, just from that point in the communicating. Once the plays over with you realize what happened, what went right and what went wrong and kind of learning from those situations. (Former Browns LT) Joe Thomas told me my rookie year, ‘What can this defensive player do to you that is going make this play not work for us?’ You kind of put that in your mindset, you try to eliminate that right away and then kind of go from there. Just little tidbits like that and just helping him try and focus on each and every play and understanding this league you have to play the next play. If there is a penalty, if there is a sack or if there is something that goes wrong, there is another play that is coming right up and you can’t get down on yourself. I think he is understanding that I am not going to bat 100 for 100, but we want to try and get to as close to that number as possible, just play as hard as we can and focus on the next play each and every time we get back in the huddle.”


On if the Browns are on track to be fully prepared for the season opener: 

“I feel like we are in a good spot. I think it took a while to get going with the ramp-up period here – you do not get as much contact and stuff – but the last couple weeks, we have been going pretty steadily. You put your whole playbook in on offense and defense, and now, you are starting to shrink it up and kind of go to the plays that have been working and the plays that you are going to want to run against Baltimore. I think we are in a good spot. It is going to take a good week of practice regardless. We want to come out here and get better this week. We have a four-day block here and then we really get into game week. We are excited with where we are. I think we saw some good things in the scrimmage on Sunday, and we are moving in the right direction. There are a lot of positives out there. You are only as good as your last day so we are going to come out there today, try and have our best practice yet and just keep building on those things.”


On C JC Tretter’s psyche right now and injury status: 

“Medically, I am not sure. I do not know how all that is working. Him and the training staff and (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski probably have a better answer for you on that. Mentally, he has been in every meeting. He is watching practice on his iPad and he is getting focused and ready to roll. I know mentally he is going to be ready to play, if he is ready to go physical. That is not going to be an obstacle. He has always been a smart guy, and he knows where we are play by play and issue by issue. I still talk to him in the meetings and make sure I’m like ‘Hey, this is what we are seeing out there. What would you call in these situations and those type of situations?’ It is definitely different, but if anybody can do it, he has done it the last few years where he has not practiced with high ankle sprains and things of that nature, and he has come into the games and he has been really mentally sharp. That is something that we are not worried about. I know he has been pushing himself. He is here every day just trying to get back and get ready for Week 1.”


On if there will be a greater responsibility for him if Harris is starting Week 1: 

“I think he will be in a good position. I think coach has done a good job of getting him ready, but when we are out there, the five guys got to figure out who we are blocking. If that takes me making a call or (T) Jack (Conklin) making a call or (G) Wyatt (Teller) or even Jed, we are going to figure out who we are going to and try and all be on the same page. Being a guy who has been in this system a little bit and kind of understands like, ‘Hey, this is the nuances of it,’ of course, I will be ready to help him and make a call if we need to, but I think he is on track to be ready mentally. He has done some good things, and I am sure Baltimore has something for us that we have not seen that we will have to adjust to on the sideline. We are getting there, and we have two weeks now to really ramp it up mentally for Baltimore. Yeah, I will be ready to take that step, if it is needed.”


On his evaluation of how Stefanski has dealt with adversity during his first year as head coach: 

“He has been great. He has always come into it with a gameplan, and from Day 1, he understood this season was going to be different. From a COVID perspective and like you talked about from social justice perspective, he has been on top of his game and he has kept his focus. Just not having team meetings together where we are on Zoom calls and stuff like that, all those things are different than normal, where we are doing so much more virtual stuff. He has been really ready, and he has really stressed to us that we have to hit the curveball this year. What are they going to send at us? Whoever deals with these circumstances better is going to have a leg up on the competition. His organization and his focus on those issues has been top-notch.”


On how Stefanski has handled this season compared to other head coaches he has played with or how other coaches around the league may be addressing the adversity: 

“It is one of those things that this is kind of a first time in a lifetime type of situation for most NFL teams so it is hard to tell how other franchises have handled it. I just know we are getting our work in, and we are focused as a unit. That is really all we can ask. We do not know what is exactly happening across the league, but Coach Stefanski has had a plan, he is putting it in place and we are making our way towards that goal.”


On if there was a greater concern for injuries coming into camp following a virtual offseason program: 

“I think that is why we were trying to stress – I think JC did a good job with the NFLPA – of having that ramp-up period because no matter how hard you train and you can train in the weight room and running and things like that, until you are really physically battling with somebody, you do not realize how much toll that is on your body. Like you said, a lot of our things have been really unlucky injuries you know with Achilles and stuff like that where it is kind of freak accidents, where I do not know if that would if we had OTAs or something, I do not know if that is changing those scenarios. You wanted to have enough ramp-up period for guys to get their bodies kind of used to pushing and pulling on each other because you never know how you are going to feel when you are blocking a 300-pound guy or two 300-pound guys are tackling and these situations where guys getting rolled up on. It is the soft tissue injuries and those things that you are trying to prevent with the ramp-up period. Some of those football injuries just happen. It is an unfortunate part of the business. Hopefully, we get as healthy as possible going into Week 1 and we have most of our key guys.”


On if TE Harrison Bryant stood out in training camp, given that he was named the Maurice Bassett Award recipient as the top rookie standout in training camp: 

“He is a mature guy. He is focused. He has not talked much, which is good for a rookie. He comes in, and he handles his business. From my perspective, every time the ball comes his way, he is making a play on it, and he pops right up when he gets hit. He is just doing all the right things you want to see in a rookie. He is a little smaller than some other tight ends, but he goes in there and he just tries to fight, and that is all you can really ask for of those tight ends. They are not used to blocking 280-pound defensive ends, and he comes out there, he attacks them and he wants to be a part of it. That is really all you can ask for from a rookie. He is focused and he does not really make those mental mistakes. From what I can see from the receiving aspect, every day he is coming down with a sweet catch or nice touchdown, and those are all exciting things.”


On if DE Myles Garrett missing time in camp has had an impact on the Browns OL’s preparation for the season: 

“He is a great player. He is one of the top rushers in this league, and anytime you get to battle him, you are going to learn things, but we have other good rushes our team. It is not like you are just getting ready for Myles Garrett every week. He is a great player, and it is good to get those looks and good to feel that speed because he has more speed than most edge rushers you are going face. He has been out there. He was banged up early start of practice, but a lot of those were kind of walkthrough days or we were not going against the defense. He has got his looks in, and I know he is going be ready to roll the next couple weeks and we are going to get plenty of looks against him. Anytime you go against a great player, it is good to battle, but I think our coaches have done a good job putting us in positions, moving (DE Olivier Vernon) around. We have other guys, (DT) Sheldon Richardson is a Pro Bowler, and we have guys that can rush the quarterback that we have had to block, and I think we are going to be prepared.”


On his impressions of G Wyatt Teller during training camp: 

“I know Wyatt worked his butt off this offseason. He was truly focused. He wanted to help transform his body a little bit and just be ready to play. He has had some chances his first two years in the league and he has been on a couple different teams, but he understood this right guard spot was going to be a competition and he wanted to work for it. He has done everything he has really needed to. He has come out there, he has competed every day, he has worked hard and he has continued to get better like the rest of us. Every day we are picking one or two things that we want to work on, and he has been part of that. It has been good. He has some experience. He has probably started maybe 15-16 games in his career, and when you have a guy like (C) Nick (Harris) next to you, all that experience helps. Him and (T) Jack (Conklin) working together, they have had a pretty good bond this camp. I think he has done a great job of really putting himself in a position to be successful this year, and I know he has really put in the work, especially this offseason and training camp, to try and give himself the best chance.”

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