G Joel Bitonio (9.10.20)

G Joel Bitonio:

On JC Tretter practicing on Monday:

“He has kind of been through this the last few years he has been here. The way he works and the trust, I think the whole goal was to try to get back for Week 1. He is still working at it, but we knew he was going to have a chance to at least practice and see it how it feels out there on Monday so it was good to see him back out there.”


On if Tretter can hit the ground running and be a stabilizer for the Browns OL, if able to play on Sunday:

“Yeah, mentally he was there. Like I said, he has been in every meeting. He has been focused and ready to go. If there is something that is confusing you me, (G) Wyatt (Teller), (T) Jack (Conklin) or (T) Jed(rick) (Wills Jr.) kind of have the answer for him on the field and (offensive line) Coach (Bill Callahan) will clarify things for him. He has been out there ready to go. Just having him in the huddle the last three years, we have played next to each other a bunch so it is a confidence booster for me just to have a familiar face out there.”


On how to help Wills with his matchup this week against Ravens DE Calais Campbell:

“Jed has been working tough. The crazy thing about no preseason is we do not really know where they are going to line him up. They run a base three-down, four-linebacker kind of front. Calais can really be kind of lined up anywhere from nose guard to 3 technique to the 5 technique. We are thinking we are going to get him a little bit everywhere. I think Jed is preparing. We watched a lot of film and then we are going to scheme some things, but really it is just focusing on himself. We will see what Calais does well, and he is a great player and has been a great player for a long time. That was a big trade for him this offseason, but Jed is going to focus on his technique and understanding what he needs to do, and if he is confident in himself, I think that is a huge starting step.”


On if there is anything that he can do to help Wills mitigate any pregame or early game jitters, especially given the absence of preseason games:

“That is a good question because I remember my rookie preseason, there is definitely a lot of nerves and you do not know what to expect. It is your first time playing the NFL and practice is just different. I think just talking to him. I just tell him like, ‘Hey, just focus on yourself, go one play at a time and we will roll with it.’ Whatever happens out there, we are going to play the next play, communicate and just make sure we are on the same page for everything. If you are on the same page you are not making the mental mistakes, the physical stuff takes over. He has played football his whole life so if we can just put him in the right position, I think that will be a huge step.” 


On if the Browns could potentially run the ball 35-40 times a game with RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt playing together all season:

“It was great – first, congrats to Kareem [on his contract extension]. He has been a great guy in the locker room. He has worked his butt off and he has been a big factor for us, staring with last year and then kind of moving on from there, but it is good to have two backs that can do it. I think both of them can be that bell cow back, and we want to try and get our playmakers as many touches as possible. I do not know the numbers on the run, but I think if you run the ball enough to set up the play action or the play action sets up the run, both things work here. If we get enough touches to those guys, and usually you run the ball when you are winning a lot of times in the NFL so if we get 35-40 touches, hopefully, we are closing out games in the fourth quarter. Every O linemen is going to say yeah let’s run the ball as much as possible, but let’s just take advantage of the situations. If they are little in the box, we might have to pass more that week. I know we want to try and establish the run and see what we can do from there.”


On what about the current Browns staff makes it different from past years: 

“I think there is some real continuity from the top down. From (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew Berry and (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski to the coaching staff and the players, we are all on the same page. It has been a weird offseason with COVID and all that stuff. For a first-time head coach to come into that situation and have to have to kind of, like he likes to say, hit the curve ball, I think we have been organized, I think we have been ready to go and we have taken advantage of the opportunities we have had to practice and prepare Like you said, every year you feel like there is hope and there is new energy in a building, but with these guys, I feel like we are really working on the same page, we are all pulling in the same direction and we are looking forward to playing some games. You feel good and practice and stuff, but let’s see how it shakes out on the field. That is when we are really going to be tested.”


On if he and Tretter talk about their consecutive offensive snaps streaks together:

“I do not think we actually like specifically talked about like, ‘Hey, we have played all these snaps together.’ It is just one of those things like there has probably been 16 games to 20 games where going into Wednesday and Thursday, you do not know if JC is going to make it, when he had the high ankle sprain and he had some other issues throughout the seasons. Every Sunday, he seemed to line up there so there was just something that kind of clicks with him, and it is like, hey on gameday, he is going to be ready to go. There might be a play or two in the game where you have to pick him up off the ground or something like that, but he is just a tough guy and he wants to be out there for his teammates. I think it is just a testament to his work ethic and his pride. I think guys have pride, they want to be on the field and they want to help your team. That is something pretty cool. Anytime you can play next to a guy for as many snaps, you feel comfortable in those situations and you want to be with those guys that kind of give you that confidence.”


On if he is curious to see how camaraderie within the locker room shows itself in games, given changes to the building due to COVID-19 protocols:

“It is different. I do not think we had as much time offseason to go to dinner and do all those kind of things that team bonding does, but we have done a lot of Zooms and we have done a lot of extra meetings just to get to know our teammates. As far as the O line goes, we are all kind of cut from the same cloth type of guys. You bring Jack in and you bring Jed and (C) Nick (Harris) in, and you have those relationships. With technology nowadays, maybe 20 years ago when people did not have phones, it might have been harder, but now it is like, hey, we are just talking and we are on Zoom. Everybody kind of knows how to use it so it is definitely different, but I still feel like we have had that time to connect and really try and understand each other.”


On the Browns offense not necessarily playing as well as desired in the practice at FirstEnergy Stadium and live periods and if that allowed the team to revisit items and have a greater sense of urgency to improve and be ready for Week 1:

“We kind of treated that like more of a regular practice. There wasn’t as much of an emphasis on, ‘Hey, this is a scrimmage.’ I think we were working things that we wanted to work for that day or that install that we were on. Anytime you don’t perform up to your standards, you want to fix it. The mistakes that were made, it was not one person; it was a thing here or thing there and it is practice so we kind of work on that. We come back to the drawing board and say, ‘Hey, this is what we need to fix and let’s not make the same mistakes again.’ If you can improve from that and you are not making the same mistakes over and over, that is a good place to start. I think there were some good things to take out of that. We have kind of seen it both ways, but there is always urgency. We didn’t have a full training camp and we didn’t have a full offseason so every day we haven’t been able to waste. We are really trying to take advantage of that next opportunity.”


On if he ever doubted the NFL season would start on time and excitement for Week 1 to begin:

“There were for sure doubts. I was kind of around JC all offseason, and I didn’t get any real inside information, but I kind of just went with his mood and his amount of meetings. Just seeing other sports and how long it was taking for teams to get going, there was definitely a question of if we were going to play this season. I was talking to my wife about it, and said, ‘We are going to prepare like we are ready to go, but you never know what the call is going to be.’ I think it is a testament to the guys in the organization, the players, the coaches and the support staff. Everybody has taken it really seriously to try and not have positive tests. It is pretty cool. I woke up this morning and we have football tonight, we are playing an NFL game and this weekend we have a full slate of games. I know we are excited as players. This is what we do. This is what we love to do. We get to play football for a living, and this is Week 1 of it. We are really blessed to be in this situation. I am excited. I am excited to watch football tonight. It feels normal. For a while there, I was like, ‘We haven’t had preseason games. We haven’t seen anything on TV. College football is not really in full swing.’ I think once the NFL gets going, it is going to feel a little bit more normal for everybody.”


On if the Browns may have an opportunity to surprise people this year, given the high expectations for the team last year:

“I think that is more of an outsider’s perspective. As a player, especially as an offensive linemen, I have to focus on each play individually and each game individually. No matter if someone tells us that we are going to win the division or we are going to come in last, that doesn’t really change my outlook on how I am attack a play or a game. It doesn’t help me that, ‘Hey, they are going to go 12-4 this year or they are going to go 4-12.’ You still have to go out there and really handle your business as a player. From our perspective as players, we want to go out there and perform and we want to be our best and we want to win games for each other in the locker room. That has kind of been our mindset. Have we not been talked about as much? Sure, but from a player’s perspective, we still have to prepare, we still have to work and we still have to get ready to play every game like it is the most important game of the year.”


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