BEREA, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Tom Brady returns to Cleveland for what is likely to be the final time for the future Hall of Famer Sunday with the 5-5 Buccaneers.
“It's Tom Brady, it's no secret, the elephant in the room,” linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah said. “Everybody sees him, everybody knows who he is, knows his accomplishments, knows what he's done in the game, so it's always an honor to go against a great player like him and we're looking forward to doing all we can to slow him down.”
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski is tasked with preparing his team to beat one of the greatest to ever do it and not be star struck.
“I don’t think you think about it that way. I think you have to worry about doing our job,” Stefanski said. “He is a great player. He doesn’t take sacks. He doesn’t throw interceptions. He throws it at a high level. He is on time and accurate.
“We really have to defend this offense and defend that pass attack, and again, the pass attack that comes off of their play-action, which is really good. Those are the challenges, not so much the big picture [of Brady’s greatness], if you will.”
Brady, 45, still has it.
Brady leads the NFL in pass attempts, fewest interceptions to passing attempts and highest touchdown-to-interception ratio.
“You know what Tom Brady brings, man,” linebacker Sione Takitaki, who played in the Browns’ 2019 loss to Brady and the Patriots, said. “He's one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. You definitely gotta prepare for him. He knows how to pick apart defenses. He's a real smart player, so we have to be aware of everything.”
Brady’s teams historically have an aura of invincibility but not this year’s team in Tampa Bay, who come in 5-5 and currently the No. 4 seed atop the NFC South in the NFL playoff picture.
Sharing the blame – Joe Woods is on the hot seat with his defense constantly in disarray and just not playing well so deep into the season.
“We all own what it is,” Stefanski said.
The Browns are tied for 30th in points allowed, 23rd against the run and 20th overall in total defense per game.
“It's a shared responsibility,” Takitaki said. “I feel like, as players, we gotta be gap-sound and play the call that we got on the field. We just gotta do better, you know what I mean. I wouldn't just put the blame on one person. It's a team sport, so there's a lot of shared responsibility, from sideline to on the field.”
Owusu-Koramoah hasn’t paid much attention to calls for Woods to be fired.
“I'm not necessarily focused on what others are saying about the organization or the coaches,” Owusu-Koramoah said. “What I am concerned about is how the players see him and how the coaches see him which is from a phenomenal lens in reference to his efforts and what he's doing. He's able to be that leader for us, to be able to talk to us in the right way, to be able to understand the players. That's the bigger aspect, to understand your players.
And as time goes on, he's learning more about us. As he learns more about us, we learn more about him. Now we're able to come together and you'll see in these next few games how we progress with that.”
One hypothesis for what is behind the struggles is that the defense might be too complicated, but Owusu-Koramoah disagrees.
“I don't think it's too hard or too much,” Owusu-Koramoah said. “It goes back to what we were saying in reference to learning your players, us learning him, OK, what can we do. It's all about trial, right? It's all about the trials and it's about testing the players, puling through the fire, allowing them to see if they come out as gold, come out sharp, that's just what that's about and I think every coach goes through that.”
Mancz in the middle – With center Ethan Pocic and backup interior offensive lineman Michael Dunn on injured reserve and Hjalte Froholdt not practicing Wednesday due to an illness, Greg Macz, signed Tuesday, took reps at center.
“Sometimes you get to late November and things can get wonky along certain position groups,” Stefanski said. “We are working through it.
Obviously, Hjalte is sick today so that presents some things that we will work through today. I think we will be alright.”
Stefanski was asked what the depth looks like at the position.
“There are a lot of guys that can do it,” Stefanski said. Charley Hughlett [can snap]. I think we have plenty of guys on the roster who can snap it. It is just a matter of getting them proper reps and getting them comfortable with that role.”
Special award – Browns running back Nick Chubb was once again the Browns nominee for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award to be handed out at NFL honors Super Bowl weekend.
Chubb, who is soft spoken, never celebrates or taunts and is the epitome of that the award represents.
“It means a lot,” Chubb said. “It’s a special award.”
Called on the carpet – Stefanski spoke this week to safety Grant Delpit and defensive end Myles Garrett about their postgame comments in Detroit following a 30-23 loss to the Bills.
Both players expressed frustration over the state of the defense.
“With anything, after losses there is frustration, and you just have to make sure what you say and what you share is stuff that you feel good about,” Stefanski said. “I think it is always important that if there is something on your mind to have a conversation with each other about it. Now, in some cases, words can get twisted and those type of things. Both of those guys in particular are very, very committed to this team and very committed to finding a way to win this week.”
Salute to service – The Browns will honor active military members, veterans and their families throughout Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Prior to kickoff, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Simon – a North Canton, Ohio native who served 19 years in the Marines – will be the team’s First and Ten Coin Toss Captain. The national anthem will be sung by retired Navy Petty Officer First Class Generald Wilson, complemented by a flyover of U.S. Army Helicopters from the Ohio Army National Guard 1-137th Aviation Regiment, and the colors will be presented by the United States Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard.
Toy drive – The Browns and local Marines will host their annual Browns Give Back First and Ten Toy Drive to benefit Toys for Tots at FirstEnergy Stadium prior to Sunday’s game.
Injury report – DNP: S David Bell (concussion), C Hjalte Froholdt (illness), S Ronnie Harrison (illness), CB Greg Newsome II (concussion), TE David Njoku (ankle/knee), LG Joel Bitonio (illness/rest), DE Jadeveon Clowney (rest), DE Myles garrett (rest),WR Amari Cooper (rest); LIMITED: RG Wyatt Teller (calf), DT Perrion Winfrey (concussion), LT Jedrick Wills (knee); FULL: RT Jack Conklin (foot)
Up next – Practice Thursday.