Cleveland Browns left guard Joel Bitonio has seen a lot as he enters his ninth season with the team.
During that time, Bitonio has played for four full-time head coaches and an interim head coach, blocked for 15 quarterbacks, lead the way for running backs from Ben Tate to Nick Chubb, and seen the Browns make the playoffs just once.
Through it all, Bitonio has been there for 112 games and not missed a start for the past five seasons, so it is safe to say he knows his way around the NFL.
That is why it is a good idea to listen to Bitonio when he speaks, especially when it comes to the situation the Browns are facing in the 2022 regular season.
A few days after their opening game of the preseason on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Bitonio pointed out that the Browns will be facing more than usual animosity from opposing fans due to the controversy surrounding quarterback Deshaun Watson, who will miss the first 11 games while serving a suspension for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy.
Bitonio went on to say that, more than usual, it will be “Cleveland against the world” this fall.
While that seems like a solid assessment of the situation, Bitonio’s comments created some needless hullabaloo on social media and within the sports talk world.
On Wednesday, Bitonio reiterated a basic truth of life in the NFL - opposing teams get booed by the home fans no matter who the quarterback is (quotes via cleveland.com):
“I noticed, and what I said was, we’re going to go to stadiums and we’re going to get booed by people no matter who’s playing quarterback for us and as a team we come out and say ‘Cleveland against the world.’ If people want to take that in the wrong context or talk about it in the wrong context, that’s their opinion but I know we have good people on this team that are working hard and trying to be the best for the Cleveland Browns and that’s where I am at as a player who has been here for nine years, and if someone wants to think that I don’t love and appreciate things in my life, that’s their opinion.
“I’m sure every stadium we go, we’ll be booed. I don’t know if it will get worse. I think people get tired of booing, you know? But I’m sure every time (Deshaun) goes out there, there’ll be some sort of boo to start the game and we’ll kind of go from there.”
There will likely be some extra vitriol directed at the Browns this year because of Watson, but it is hard to imagine it will be any worse than what the team faces when they travel to Pittsburgh or Baltimore. And, as always, the best way to quiet the home team’s fans when playing on the road is to win.
If anyone on the Browns has any questions about how to deal with the situation, they may want to simply ask Bitonio, the man on the roster who has pretty much seen it all in the NFL.