Day 17, the last day of public Cleveland Browns training camp practices, concluded on Thursday, and you can find our full Day 17 recap here. Let’s hear what Hue Jackson and both quarterback DeShone Kizer and Brock Osweiler had to say.
- Jackson opened with comments about the weather shortening Thursday’s session and an overview of his team’s upcoming schedule.
“We finally had the weather chase us out. I wanted to stay, but when those sirens go off and they say lightning, the players know they go [inside]. I try to get them to stay, but they look at me like, ‘Coach, we are not staying out here.’ That was the end of training camp for our guys. Tonight we will finish up our good meetings and the guys will get out of here. Tomorrow is their day off, and we will come back Saturday and Sunday and get ourselves ready for Monday night. We have a big game Monday night.”
- What does Jackson see as his team’s training camp accomplishments?
“The team is really competitive on both sides of the ball. It is a group that will get after you. We are physically better than where we were a year ago. We are more mentally tougher. We are stronger. Again, that credit goes to our weight coaches (Director of High Performance) Adam (Beard) and his group, and like I said, I think it is a better roster. We still have some questions to solve. Obviously, the quarterback situation, we will get that finalized as we go. We are playing guys in some positions still to find out how they fit and where they fit, but for the most part I think we have a good idea of who we are – who we are defensively, who we are offensively and who we are on special teams. Now it is just fine tuning some things over the next three weeks through these next three preseason games to get ready for the season.”
- What new revelations has he had about his team since training camp began?
“When you have a new staff and you have some different players offensively, defensively and special teams, it is just how fast can they come together. How fast can those guys find chemistry with each other, whether it be in the locker room, as a team, all of those different things? I think that happened pretty quickly, and I give a lot of that credit to our staff. From (defensive coordinator) Gregg (Williams) on defense and the rest of the defensive staff and obviously (senior offensive assistant) Al Saunders on offense and the rest of the offensive staff and (special teams coordinator Coach (Chris) Tabor, they have all done a good job, but at the same time, this is just the start of it. There are going to be some huge games coming up in our future and we just have to keep getting this team better.”
- He gave an update on defensive tackle Danny Shelton’s injury.
“Danny will be week to week. He has a knee, and like the other guys, nothing that I think that is way over the top, but he will be week to week and we will get Danny back as soon as we can.”
- What’s his biggest roster concern besides the quarterback competition?
“I think still when you look at our young receiving group, we have to step up there. That is the only obvious [position]. We still have a really young the tight end group. I feel really good about the offensive line group. I wouldn’t say young because those plays need to be made in games and big games that are meaning. I think when you look at our secondary depth is coming that we need to continue to work through and look at. I feel good everywhere else. I think there are some answers. Obviously, we have some guys that are down right now, but we will get those guys back. I anticipate getting them back sooner than later. We are on the right path. We are on the right track. Now, it is about continuing to put it together. Now if we can have some luck and put it together, there are some good things ahead for this group.”
- Which position battles will be solved before preseason game No. 3?
“The kicker situation is obviously something we need to work through. I think the pecking order as wide receivers is concerned, I think that is going to unfold. Who is going to catch the balls and get those balls? I think those questions will be answered within the next three weeks. I think we will be set by the time we hit the regular season. Obviously, the quarterback position is the biggest piece of it all.”
- How important is having versatile veteran John Greco on the roster now that two of his offensive linemen have been hurt?
“Absolutely. He is somebody I trust, somebody I know. He knows how to play. He did a lot of great things for us last year before he got injured at center and guard. He is a guy that is a plug-and-play guy. He knows to walk in and play. (OL) Marcus Martin has done a good job, too. He has had a really good camp. I am looking forward to watching some other guys play, as well. I don’t want anybody injured. At the same time, it is an area where we have some depth so we have some guys to go out there and battle.”
- Is there anything else he could have gotten from rookies DeShone Kizer and Myles Garrett in terms of attitude and approach?
“No, Myles walked in here with the right mindset. He was going to earn the right to show his teammates and coaching staff that he was who he was. He has done that every day. I still think there is another level for him to get to. I think he is talented. I think he is still learning the National Football League game and just the grind of it all. It is going to be different for him, but I think he has some good mentors on defense and coaches who are going to get him through it. DeShone has done a good job of just walking in here, being very humble and just working through this process with myself and (quarterbacks) Coach (David) Lee and the other quarterbacks. He has done a good job. He has to keep growing, and I keep saying this to you guys, it is the raising of a quarterback. I don’t think you do things too soon. I think he has to earn the right if he can, and if he can’t, that’s OK. We are just going to keep pushing him and putting him in the right environment to keep getting him where he needs to be. He is talented – we all know that – it is how fast can he grasp all of this and handle it and be able to perform at a high level.”
- Can he recall a scenario of a young quarterback being pushed into action prematurely and it being a detriment?
“Absolutely. If the guy is not ready, I think it is hard to put a young man out there because of so many different reasons. This is the National Football League. It is the best of the best. These quarterbacks only have so many hits in their bodies. If you put those guys out there and they start getting sacked and hit early in the year and are not sure how to do things correctly, then I don’t think that helps them. I would never do that to a quarterback. I wouldn’t do that to any player on our football team. You have to make sure a guy is ready and can handle the pressure of playing at that level.”
- Does Jackson believe John Wooten’s comment that former NFL TE Shannon Sharpe owed him an apology for Sharpe’s criticism of his statement regarding his team’s stance on the National Anthem protest issue?
“I came prepared. I am going to read this so I can get this out of the way, and I am not going to comment on what Shannon said. Shannon has the right to say whatever he wants to. I appreciate what John said, but I am going to pull this out. I have been carrying this for about two days. I knew if this question came, I wanted to make sure I said it right because I don’t want to be misquoted ever again in any way, shape or form. Let me go here.
“I’d like to share a couple thoughts on my recent post practice comments when I was asked about how I’d feel about a Browns player protesting during the national anthem. First off, our players know that I have a great appreciation for every single one of them. I respect and support their right for peaceful protest; a right afforded to every American. We’ve always made it clear to our players that they should embrace the platform they have as an NFL player to improve our community and use their platform in a positive, thoughtful and respectful manner. Our team, along with every other team in the NFL and every other sport at every level should reflect what is good about America – our diversity of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, as well as equal opportunity. There are issues in our country right now that are far bigger than football, and I understand that and respect that, as well. The issues do impact our players and will compel them to react in many different ways. My personal feeling is that over the last season, we’ve seen players come under unfair scrutiny for protesting during the anthem, mainly because the focus has become on whether or not a player is being disrespectful to the flag or military and not on the issue and cause attempting to be addressed by the protest. The intent of my comments was not to discourage individual expression from our players in light of a cause that moves them to personal expression. I’m disheartened that I gave anyone that impression because I did not speak with enough clarity. However, my words did reflect my concern – that I would express to any player – about protesting during the anthem. There are many effective ways athletes can utilize their platform if they so desire, but I would respect any individual decision, as ultimately, it would be the player’s choice after much thoughtful dialogue. As an American, I am of the belief that our unique strength is in the diversity of our nation. As an NFL Head Coach, I strive to have this same belief reflected in how I lead and value every player on our football team, as well as every individual within our organization. My actions will continue to mirror those beliefs both personally and professionally in a manner that serves to better us as a people and as a country.
“That being said, again like I said, I think some things were kind of taken the wrong way, but at the same time I get it. Everybody has an opinion, but my players know how I feel, how I react and how I respond to what they are trying to accomplish.”
Check out Jackson’s entire interview on ClevelandBrowns.com.
- Is his having moved to second in the quarterback rotation a sign of progress for him?
“Yeah, absolutely. This is an opportunity now to go out there with a different group of guys and play against a little different competition level since I will be playing against some twos and some ones now. It will be fun to go out there and to gain experience playing with some guys who have some experience on this side of the ball as well and really evaluating myself against some higher talent.”
- Does he know how long the Giants will have their first defense in the game Monday night?
“No idea. No idea, and I think that is the cool thing about the preseason is that it really challenges the quarterback position – understanding his system to be able to go against whatever comes up. There is not a set gameplan. You never know what you are going to get, whether it be some basic Cover 1, basic Cover 3 or they might throw the kitchen sink at you. If you understand your system well, you should be able to go out there and be successful against whatever they give you.”
- What’s his take on his first preseason game performance after having more time to study the game film?
“There is a lot. Every play is evaluated from its own angle. There are a lot of good things within a play, but you can still notice that you are doing some things that you need to fix up. I feel like the biggest thing I took from that game was when I’m out there, I’m comfortable and I’m ripping it, I am very confident. When I first stepped in there and things are flying from all different angles, that confidence kind of takes a step back. I need to figure out how to get myself into a position that from the first snap that I step out there and the first rep that I take that I can be as comfortable and as confident as I possibly can be. That is only going to come from reps and going out there and getting the experience that some of these other guys already have.”
- What’s he think about teammate Joe Thomas saying rookie quarterbacks need some time before starting?
“He has been in the NFL since I have been in seventh grade (laughter) so whatever he says is probably pretty accurate. Obviously, it is still the same message that I continue to push. The more time you have, the more comfortable you become, the more confident you are throwing the ball, and he is just seconding that statement. The more time I have, the better I will become. This, once again, is a process. I’m trying to just dive in, trust in it and understand that the coaches and the front office have a plan. As long as I can continue to get better each day, hopefully that plan will lead to some success for myself and this team.”
- Has Kizer consistently grown throughout the developmental process or has he had any setbacks?
“I think that I am consistently heading in the right path. There haven’t really been too many big things that have fallen, and I think that the way I have been able to move my way up the depth chart and earn more reps has been a good visual of that. The biggest thing for me right now is making sure that as I continue to get better and the more that I do learn, that I continue to progress in other things other than the small things I have been focusing on. We have talked about communication 1,000 times, and I’m starting to get that. Now, I need to make sure that once I become good at that, that now I take that attention and that extra time and apply it to something else, whether it be some footwork things, whether it be the camaraderie I have with my teammates, that other time needs to be spent on something else in the quarterback position. Right now, it is about trying to evaluate where I am and all of the different aspects of this position, and making sure that I am improving every day.”
- What’s he think about Joe Thomas saying he was being groomed to be the starter Week 1?
“To be honest with you, I was just made aware of it from our media department. I haven’t seen any of the comments. I just kind of heard in general what Joe was speaking to. The only I would say is obviously you enjoy getting compliments from your teammates, especially a teammate like Joe Thomas, a Pro Bowler and going to be a future Hall of Famer. At the end of the day, Joe is not going to decide who the starting quarterback is going to be, at least I would assume that is probably going to be the case. That will be a decision that (Head) Coach (Hue Jackson) makes, and that is where I will leave that one.”
- Is Osweiler playing his best NFL football, or will he be if he’s the starter when the regular season starts?
“With every single day I have spent in this offense, I have grown. I understand the offense a little better every single day. Every single day I spend in this offense, I become a little more comfortable with it. You have to understand, every time you learn a new offense in this league, you are learning a new foreign language that you need to understand and be able to operate in a matter of two or three seconds sometimes. The more reps you get, the more comfortable you become, and that is where I am at right now. Obviously, I have gotten a ton of reps throughout the spring, a ton of reps throughout training camp. Coach has done a tremendous job of making sure all of the quarterbacks get somewhat of equal reps so that we all have the same opportunity to grow in this system. Bottom line, I just feel very comfortable. When you feel comfortable, you are going to play confident and you are going to be able to play to the best of your ability.”
- Are the Browns focused on winning games despite the lack of faith outside their locker room?
“I don’t care what everybody else says. The only opinions that matter towards the Cleveland Browns are what the players believe, what the coaches believe and what this Cleveland Browns building believes. Outside of this building, nothing else matters. As far as players go, every single year when you show up to training camp, all 32 teams have the same goals. Everyone is striving to win a world championship, everyone is striving to win a division championship, and that doesn’t change for the Cleveland Browns. We have the same goals as everybody else.”
- What’s his level of concern regarding the left side of the Browns offensive line on Monday night without Joe Thomas and Joel Bitonio?
“I have no concern. Obviously, give credit where credit is due. The New York Giants have a phenomenal defense. They have great players. They have a lot of veteran players, but I believe in every single player that we have on our team as well. It doesn’t matter the age. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have. Whatever five guys Coach puts out there at the offensive line positions for Monday night to start the game, I am going to trust those guys. I believe in those guys, and I am very excited to hit the field with them.”
- How does he see his opportunity to start a second consecutive game for the Browns, albeit in preseason?
“As far as opportunities go in the National Football League, you don’t know when they are going to come. It is all about just being prepared for them. Every once in a while, you will get a couple day notice on ‘You are going to start the game’ or ‘You are going to go second,’ or ‘You are going to go third’. You can mentally prepare for certain things, but for the most part, you just want to go out there and show what you are capable of and make great decisions with the football. Sometimes, the best decision is a throwaway. Sometimes, the best decision might be a sack. Things might be breaking down in the pocket and rather than forcing something downfield and risking a turnover, just eat the ball and move on to the next play. Really you just want to go out there and show what you are capable of, show that you understand the offense and you want to execute it to the point where Coach Jackson is obviously very pleased. He takes great pride in the way he coaches us in this system. He is very black and white on what he expects on certain play. Now it is just time to show him – games are really tests – that you understand the coaching points he has given you and now go out there and execute that.”
- What does he think he needs to do this week, and possibly next week, to earn the team’s starting quarterback job?
“You would have to ask Coach Jackson that question. That is not up for me to decide. Obviously, quarterback play in the National Football League is pretty plain and simple. If you protect the ball, if you score points, if you motivate your offense, if you get first downs, you are going to have some success, but that is up to Coach Jackson.”
- How much does he think about not over striding when he throws?
“Of course. First of all, (QBs) Coach (David) Lee is the best coach I have ever been around as far as fundamentals. He is just, he is phenomenal and because of that, I have become a better quarterback since I have become a Cleveland Brown. Coach Lee is just a tremendous coach and I love working with him every single day. As far as to answer your question, when the game starts you can’t think about fundamentals. You have to go play football. Where fundamentals come in to play is pre-practice, you know, warming up, working on things before the practice starts and then working on things in individual. When you get to team periods and you are going full speed, 100 percent all out, you just have to go play football and hopefully in time, by doing enough repetitions at those drills, then it just becomes your normal throwing motion.”
- How are the Browns receivers coming along as a unit?
“I am so proud of our receivers. I think on paper, you guys probably look at it and say, ‘That is a very young group.’ It is a young group, but the thing about that is it is really irrelevant. The thing about that group is they come to practice every single day and they work extremely hard. I see (WRs) Higgy ( Rashard Higgins), Ricardo (Louis), Speedy (Rannell Hall) – I can name them all and they are out there and they are just busting their butt, whether it be a pass play, a run play, they are blocking down field, they are making plays to get our running backs big gains. They might be on the back side of a play just running a clear out route, but those guys are going as hard as they possibly can. Regardless of their age, they play hard, they play with a lot of enthusiasm, they play with some swagger, they have fun and I really love this receiving group.”
- Are they figuring out how to create separation and how can an experienced quarterback like him “throw them open” if necessary?
“Yeah, you just hit the nail on the head, I was going to say anytime a receiver versus man-to-man coverage can break away from their defender, they just now made my job easy. I am going to hit them in stride and we are going to have a big play. There are going to be times where maybe they are getting held up or they are playing a great corner and they just can’t quite get that separation. Now, I need to throw a good ball to allow them to separate from that defensive back. This is the ultimate team sport. It takes a great line, quarterback, running back, tight ends and receivers just to have one successful play. If you have one guy off on one play, it could screw up the whole deal so everybody needs to be in sync and that is what we are striving for in practice.”