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  • Writer's pictureJoey Jarzynka

Browns' G Joel Bitonio Quotes 8.16.20


On what type of challenge will T Jedrick Wills Jr. will have when DE Myles Garrett returns to practice and what kind of season Garrett can have after signing an extension and his goals to be NFL Defensive Player of the Year:

“Jed is going to have a big test. Right now, you still have guys like OV (DE Olivier Vernon) out there who is a great player on his own rights so he is still getting challenged. Myles has that explosive first step and is really impressive off the ball. He can give him an array of pass rush moves. It is going to be a good challenge for Jed. It is good because practice is going to be faster than the games. It is already faster than the games, but then when you get a guy like Myles, too, it is really going to step up, and once we get to the games, hopefully, it slows down for him a little bit. Myles as a player, from the first day he has been on the practice field, you can tell he was something special. The way he moves and the way he bends, it is just stuff you only see in a few guys in the NFL. It has been really impressive. I think he was on pace last year to be in that Defensive Player or the Year conversation. If he puts together a whole season this year, really there is no limit on his success.”

On early impressions of offensive line coach Bill Callahan:

“He is a football guy, that is for sure. He is very detailed, he is very organized and he knows what he wants out of his O line. It has been good. We put in our work, and that is one thing we are going to do is work and get the reps, but we have a lot of young guys, a lot of new guys so we need those reps to really get into the groove that you want to have on the O line. He has been around it all. I think that is one of the best things about him is he has seen every situation in the NFL, and he has coached future hall of famers, some of the best guys to play the game at their position. He has seen what they do well and what we can do well, and he uses those to coach us. It has been good the first few weeks we have been back, and we are getting into pads finally so I think we will be able to take the next step as a unit as we go.”

On if asked players or coaches about Callahan when he was hired:

“Yeah, I texted (Chiefs C) Austin Reiter right away because he was the closest person that I knew. When I was at the Pro Bowl, I talked to (former NFL C) Travis Frederick, who worked with him in Dallas for a couple of years. You want to get a feeling of what guys have experienced with these guys. At the NFLPA meetings, I talked to a few of the guys that have played with him before. All of them kind of stressed the same thing. He is very detailed. We are working to be perfect. We know we are not going to be, but we are working to be perfect as a group. It is all about the work. We are going to put in work. He is a tough coach in that sense where out at practice, it is hard work and it is drilling, but those are all things we need and we are going to use to get better.”

On challenges for Wills when transitioning to LT after a virtual offseason program and no preseason games:

“It is tough. It is different for sure. I remember my rookie year, I was trying to put myself in his shoes. I thought about all the Phase I, Phase II of OTAs and all the extra rookie meetings we got, the rookie on-field time and then going through 10 OTAs and then minicamp. You had all that time to work on little details, little things and scheme. Now, you are just thrown into the fire and it is just like alright full-speed ahead, it is time to play. It is different. It is tough. There is learning curve, and luckily we have a bunch of practices here. We still have a month before the first game. It is not a huge amount of time, but I think he is going to get the reps needed. As much as we could virtually, I think he got the scheme down and those things. We are working against the clock, definitely. We have to get reps and we have to work in, and he is switching to the left side like you said, which is a big step. We are doing everything in our power to put him into that position to be successful, and we will try to help him in any way we can. It is definitely a different challenge. I think out of anybody you know, rookie O linemen, rookie quarterbacks and rookies in general use those OTAs to get used to what the NFL is like. This season, I think as much as any, it is going to be different than any season we have ever experienced.”

On if he can tell how Wills’ transition is going without pads:

“Yeah, he looks smooth. If you would have told me he played left tackle in college, I would not have questioned it. He can still kick pretty well, he has quick feet and he is athletic. Like you said, we have not got into pads so it is hard to judge all the run blocking and those type of things, but from just a stance and a kick-step and firing off the ball, it looks like it is pretty natural to him. I think he is an athletic guy so that is definitely a bonus.”

On if will keep his beard:

“That is a good question. I did not cut it. We were in quarantine mode. I think the barbershop and I was like, ‘You know, I am just going to let it grow and let it grow.’ Then as soon as all this started up, I was like, ‘Whatever, I have not cut it for a while. It is getting pretty long.’ People liked it. As of now, it is staying. I do not have any like ‘I have to keep it or I do not need to keep it.’ It is good right now. It has not bothered too much. It was a little hot other day, but we will see what happens.”

On what is missing without C JC Tretter currently on the field:

“I think his experience and knowledge at the position. He is another guy, going into his eighth year, he has seen a lot of defenses and a lot of fronts, and he knows how to make those calls and bring that experience. You bring a rookie center in like (C) Nick (Harris), who has talent, can move and do things well, but he has not just been exposed to as many of the looks that we are going to see. It is up me, (G) Wyatt (Teller) and (T) Jack (Conklin) and those guys and (QB) Baker (Mayfield) to try and help him along as much as possible. JC is a great player, though. Losing him for however much time it is is different. On the other hand, it gets Nick reps in case he does need to play at some point this season. He is not going to be like, “Man, I have not got any reps with Joel or Wyatt or Baker at quarterback.” Obviously, you never want to see a guy go down, but if you can get something positive out of it, it is Nick gets some reps, and that is always good when you are a young offensive lineman.”

On how it feels trying to play like normal amid coronavirus, particularly on the OL:  

“It is different. The Browns and the Haslams have done a great job of making us feel safe once we get into the building. We have been tested every day since training camp has started, and people in the building are only people that have tested negative for COVID. Once you get into the building, you feel safe in that sense, but you are still wearing the mask, you are still trying to socially distance and you are trying to keep away from people, which is different. In football, you are around guys, you are close to guys, you are eating together and stuff. Now, we have Plexiglas separating us in the locker room and stuff of that nature. For me so far when we have been on the field, though, it has been very similar. I am out there, and I am just like ‘OK, we are playing football again.’ You go, you block a guy and you get back to the huddle, and you do the same thig. You try and stay apart when you get to the sideline. I think the hardest thing for me is getting water because usually, they just have one water bottle you can pass around. Now, you have your own water bottle so you have to find where your water is at and get a fresh Gatorade and those type of first-world problems. Once you get on the field, it feels pretty similar. We will see when we play another team. We know the guys here are taking the precautions seriously, and to get in the building, you already have to go through a variety of tests. We are still trying to mitigate the time spent together, but once you get on the field, it feels like football to me.”

On if has an indication if Tretter will return by Week 1 and how much can he help C Nick Harris prepare in the event Tretter is not ready to play Week 1:  

“We do not really know with JC yet. That is him and the medical team to figure that out and the head coach. He has been around the facility so that is good to see. I think that is always a positive step. I think it will be all hands on deck to get Nick ready. If that happened, Nick would get the whole month and a week of practice, and I think he would be ready to go, but we would be able to help him. Baker is going into his third year now. Jack is an experienced player. He has seen a lot, and myself, we are going to [help him] and I can help make a point and I can find the MIKE, as well. I have been in these systems before so I think we would be OK. Obviously, we want JC. He is one of our leaders and one of our best players, and we want him out there, but I think we are preparing for worst-case scenarios.”

On QB Baker Mayfield saying he has stepped up and made changes this year to be a better leader and be better mentally and physically:  

“He talked to the team, and he had the opportunity to address us. He let us know it was not enough last year and he did not do enough to help the Cleveland Browns win, and he felt bad about it. From a leadership perspective this year, he has done everything right. He is trying to lead by example. Just looking at him when he showed up, he looked a lot better. His body looked better. He looked like he was moving really well. He looked strong. All the things you want to see in a quarterback. It is offseason talk, ‘Oh, best shape of your life’ type of thing, but he really did take those steps. That is the first part because you lead by example, and then as a quarterback, you automatically lead with you voice because you are the quarterback of this team. Just taking that step, you see him talking to some of the young receivers or even (WR) Odell (Beckham Jr.), (WR) Jarvis (Landry) and (RB) Nick (Chubb) and guys that have been around. We have a standard here now, and that standard can’t change. As the quarterback of this team, you are the standard and you are what people follow, and I think he understands that now. We are ready to help him push that standard.”

On if he has considered how strange it will be to play in an empty stadium, if fans are not allowed to attend games:  

“It is going to be different. I think that is the greatest experience about the NFL is running out and seeing 60,000 fans, and if you are at a road game, you have to deal with some of the noise and you have to work on your silent count but scoring a touchdown silences those fans. It is going to be different. We have thought about it. We talked about our silent count the other day. We were like, ‘Are we going to need it this year?’ We were thinking to ourselves, ‘Are we just going to be in an empty stadium?’ As a player, it is going to be up to us to get that energy. I have watched some of the baseball games and basketball games, and it is definitely a different atmosphere. I think once it comes to time to play, guys have been pretty locked in and pretty focused, and I think it is going to become our new normal. Coach has stressed what team is going to adapt the best this year because it is not going to be normal. We can’t expect it to be normal, and that is just something we have to deal with. Obviously, we want as many Cleveland fans to be there as safe as possible, but we will see once we get to that first game of the season how it is going to really play out.”

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