Head Coach Kevin Stefanski (12.7.22)


Opening statement:

“Going on the road. Division opponent. I think everybody knows what is at stake. We understand the magnitude of the game and all of those type of things. Really for us, what we do is we lock in on the opponent, we lock in on the gameplan and we focus on Wednesday. That is really where we are today trying to make sure we have a really good day of preparation. This is a team that we know well, they know us well and all of those things when you talk about division opponents. Really well coached. Great players across that roster. We have to be about our business if you want to try and win on the road against a really good football team.”


On balancing the magnitude of the game with QB Deshaun Watson shaking off some rust and if there is consideration of Watson not playing the full game:

“No, we are going down there to win a football game. That is our focus. Deshaun is our quarterback. We are focused on having a really good day of practice today and having a great day on Sunday. That is where our focus is.”


On how long it may take for Watson to return to full form:

“I don’t know if I can put a timeframe on that type of thing. I know he is working very hard. He is locked in on the gameplan and working hard out at practice. Like I mentioned to you guys before, I think there are things that come up in your first game back that you have to just correct. I think all of those things are what we are working on Monday the day after the game and into today, as well.”


On if Watson is putting more pressure on himself given the high expectations:

“I don’t think so. I think Deshaun understands the role he plays for us in our offense and on our team. I think he really narrows his focus to make sure that he is ready to go on Sunday.”


On if it is more challenging for Watson to throw with anticipation when playing in a new offensive system and the long layoff:

“Certainly, game reps help when you are talking about anticipation, but I would say all types of throws and all types of plays game reps will continue to help. He is very comfortable with what we are doing. Again, the focus for him, for our offense and for our team is having a really good Wednesday.”


On what makes Bengals QB Joe Burrow special:

“He is extremely accurate, makes great decisions with the football, very athletic, can make every throw and runs their offense really well. I think they do a great job. (Bengals Head) Coach (Zac) Taylor and (Bengals offensive coordinator) Coach Brian) Callahan what they are trying to do with him and that entire offense, I think they do a really nice job. He is just very talented. He can make plays within the framework of the offense and can make plays off schedule. A really, really good player.”


On the Browns defense’s success in recent matchups against the Bengals and Burrow:

“You don’t pick up where you left off. You don’t start this game where the last game ended. It is 0-0. They are going to have their guys ready to go. We have to have our guys ready to go.”


On the element of familiarity when facing division opponents, especially during the second game of a season:

“It is really interesting because when you have schemes that have stayed in place over the last three seasons, you really can go back and look at three years ago. There is the element of, ‘We have done this. They have done that. Does it show up in this game?’ You really don’t know. You try and be prepared. You have more tape to go back and look at. You can look at your schemes against certain of their schemes, but who is to say that either side doesn’t have a changeup this week type of thing?’


On if the Browns offense can make adjustments to catch opposing defenses off guard or if it is ‘too late to try to reinvent the wheel’:

“I really think week in and week out you are trying to add elements to either your offense or your defense that the other side has not seen. That is definitely something that we have tried to do over the course of time. Sometimes it is small, and you may not notice it. Sometimes there are big changes, whether it is personnel, schematic or those type of things, that are readily apparent. I really do think week in and week out you are going to get something different from the opposing team.”


On if the Bengals might try to make significant adjustments since the Cincinnati with Burrow are 0-4 against the Browns:

“From their perspective? They are playing at a really high level. Their offense is playing at a very high level. They have talented players. They have a really good scheme. You always anticipate to see some wrinkles of what they do so I would anticipate that in this game, but I don’t know that they depart far from what they are doing offensively. They are a very, very good offense.”


On LB Reggie Ragland and Ragland’s potential to contribute in this week’s game:

“Obviously, Reggie just got here so we will see where he is from a mental standpoint. He is spending a lot of extra time with (linebackers) Coach (Jason) Tarver and (run game coordinator) Coach (Ben) Bloom to get up to speed with what we are doing defensively. We will see how far along he comes this week.”


On if the Browns are potentially ‘in Burrow’s head’ after consecutive wins:

“No. Again, he is a really, really good football player. I have a ton of respect for him, for Coach Taylor and for that team. They are coming off of the Super Bowl. They I know will be ready to go Sunday, and we have to be ready go Sunday.”


On if he has noticed improvement in the Bengals’ pass protection:

“Yeah, I think he has been sacked four times in the last four games after our game. The ball comes out very, very quick, which I think helps protection. I am sure they are doing a little bit better job obviously with schematics or what have you. They can get the ball out of their hand quickly because they have really good players on the perimeter. They can get the ball in the hands of any one of those receivers. They have a couple of good running backs. They do a nice job getting the ball out.”


On if he believes in the mantra that turnovers come in bunches:

“I have certainly seen that in games. I can think back to a few games that we have had where they do. I have no idea if the numbers back that up or not. I would love for them to come in bunches. I am all for it.”


On how the Bengals offense changes with Chase in the lineup after not being available in the first matchup:

“I think you have to see. I think that was his last game back this previous one. See as they are working him in if his workload increases considerably. I think we just have to see. He is dynamic. Any time he touches it, he can go. He can catch a slant, he can catch a go ball or they can throw him a wide receiver screen. He can do it all, and he is very, very explosive.”


On if there is a sense of confidence with the Browns secondary now back to full strength:

“We just have to play good football on Sunday. Whoever is out there, you have to play good football against a really good team, and that is a challenge.”


On game planning for the Bengals running game and Bengals RB Joe Mixon who has missed multiple games recently due to injury:

“We would expect him to play. They have multiple running backs that they can throw at you. They all run hard. They run downhill. We expect them to run the football. That is part of their formula in their wins they are still running the ball a good bit while throwing it. It is going to be a challenge because you have a very, very good pass attack and they can definitely hurt you in the run game. They have really sound schemes, they block them up and they have good running backs. That is again the challenge of facing a very, very good offense.”


On if the Browns feel confident about calling a number of running plays for Watson:

“I think the first game back for Deshaun, like any of us, there is a football game shape that you can certainly feel in the first one. I think he felt good postgame, but it is a lot when you are getting through that first game. We will see how it goes. Gameplans change week to week. Sometimes it will call for him to run a lot. Sometimes it will call for him not to run at all. It really depends on the game.”


On WR Donovan Peoples-Jones recording 76-yard punt return TD and the Browns’ strong performance on special teams last week:

“Obviously, you are always thrilled if you can contribute in any which way offense, defense or special teams so for Donovan and the punt return team to come through like they did last week was awesome, and Donovan gets the (AFC) Special Teams Player of the Week. That is a great honor for him, but it does take 11 guys. It takes the returner and the 10 other guys to do their job to open up a scene like that. Always looking to win the field position battle and win those hidden yards, and then if you can be explosive and go score, obviously that is a huge thing towards winning and losing.”


On G Joel Bitonio winning the Browns Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and how ‘solid’ Bitonio has been since becoming head coach three years ago:

“‘Solid’ is a great word. He is an extremely talented football player. I have been around some good guards. He is up there. He is really, really good. He is athletic, powerful, good in the run game and good in the pass game. Move him out to left tackle, plays great at left tackle. On the football field, he has been extremely valuable to us. Then off the field, extremely valuable to this football team but very helpful to me personally, just having a veteran who you can trust and who has kind of been through it all. It has been very helpful.”


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