BROWNS

Browns quick hits: Joel Bitonio stands by 'Cleveland against the world' comments

Chris Easterling
Akron Beacon Journal

BEREA − Joel Bitonio's comments in the days after the Browns' preseason opener at Jacksonville certainly caught people's attention.

Bitonio, the Browns All-Pro left guard, spoke two days after Deshaun Watson made his only preseason appearance on Aug. 12 against the Jaguars. Watson, who has agreed to an 11-game suspension in a settlement with the NFL, was greeted with loud boos from those in attendance that night.

"You know, I think once Deshaun came out of the game we got booed less, but you go to a road game they boo you anyway, so you know what I mean?" Bitonio said on Aug. 14. "So we'll see how it goes. I'm sure, it seems like more than ever, Cleveland against the world, so we'll be ready for it."

There was some blowback to Bitonio's comments on social media, as well as on sports talk radio. There were some who felt he was using Watson as a rallying point for the team.

Cleveland Browns guard Joel Bitonio chats with Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce prior to the start of their joint practice at the Cleveland Browns training facility in Berea on Thursday.

Bitonio was asked about that reaction on Wednesday. He stood by what he said, while also making sure there was clarity to the point he was making.

"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,’" Bitonio said. "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. But I know where I’m at and where I’m at with Cleveland and the people on this team.”

Jadeveon Clowney, Daylen Baldwin absent; Isaiah Thomas back

Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and receiver Daylen Baldwin each missed their second consecutive practice. Neither was on the field during the Browns' two-hour workout Wednesday.

Clowney, who worked off to the side on Tuesday, was granted an excused absence on Wednesday. Baldwin has been in concussion protocol since Sunday's preseason game against the Eagles.

Cleveland Browns defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was all smiles after training camp on Thursday, July 28, 2022 in Berea.

Rookie defensive end Isaiah Thomas, who had been in Oklahoma with his girlfriend, Kelsi, for the birth of their daughter Aubri, returned to the team Wednesday. Thomas, despite playing with a cast on his right hand, participated in his first practice in more than a week.

Amari Cooper, Michael Woods II, Greg Newsome II, Jerome Ford, Chase Winovich and Chris Hubbard all worked on the bikes at the start of practice. Woods, Newsome and Winovich have all been out for more than a week with injuries.

There's been no immediate update on the status of the other players. Cooper, though, has regularly had a weekly veteran's day off throughout the preseason.

Wyatt Teller, Joel Bitonio rank as the NFL's best guard tandem

The NFL Network's Top-100 list has been rolled out over the last couple of weeks. That list, which still hasn't had its top 20 revealed, has featured multiple Browns players.

Those players include the only two guards on the list: Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller. Bitonio was ranked No. 55 on the list, while Teller was ranked No. 83 on the list.

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski talks with offensive lineman Joel Bitonio, left, and Wyatt Teller, right, during training camp on Wednesday, July 27, 2022 in Berea.

Pro Football Focus has both in the top five in the league in its preseason rankings. Bitonio is ranked No. 1 with a 93.6 grade, while Teller is No. 5 with an 84.9 grade.

ESPN ranked Bitonio No. 5 among interior linemen in the NFL, and Teller at No. 10.

“I think that is a cool ranking, but I think we also have to go out and prove it," Bitonio said. "Anytime really that I have gotten recognition or we have gotten recognition as a group, I think the first thing in my mind is like, ‘Well, we have to prove this now. We have to show the world that we can be the best guard unit in the league.’ It is something we strive for. Every day in practice we talk about pushing each other, pushing the group and just trying to take that next step because especially O-line play, there is always something you can improve.”

Joel Bitonio focused on Carolina Panthers defense, not Baker Mayfield

Two days after Baker Mayfield was named the starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, yet another one of his ex-Browns teammates was asked about facing the former No. 1 overall draft pick in the season opener. This time, it was one of the individuals responsible for keeping him protected, Bitonio.

Bitonio maintained a stance he's taken since Mayfield and the Browns parted ways in that he wished him well. However, he also acknowledged that his focus is more on the side of the ball that he and the offense is going to have to face on Sept. 11.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) and offensive guard Joel Bitonio (75) during practice on October 8, 2021.

"For me, I’m playing against Carolina’s defense, and obviously Baker’s going to be there for us," Bitonio said. "It’s going to be a good challenge for us. I know that the guys will be pumped up for it. But it’s the Carolina Panthers we have to face, and we’re going to be ready for that.

"And me and Baker are on good terms. I texted him throughout the offseason, and once he got traded there I wished him luck. I always had his back and I’ve always had his back and he was nothing but good to me as a person and so … We’ll be ready though for Week 1 and the Carolina Panthers."

One player who will have to prepare to actually defend Mayfield is linebacker Jacob Phillips, who was a rookie when Mayfield quarterbacked the Browns to 11 regular-season wins and the AFC divisional round of the playoffs in 2020.

Phillips said there's a balance between the business side and the personal one when it comes to former teammates.

“We still love Baker," Phillips said. "Obviously he was a past teammate of ours. Basically every teammate we have, you know, it’s a business. People are here one year, a team’s never the same. So obviously with him going there it’s going to be cool that we have kind of an understanding of how he plays obviously competing against him every day on the practice fields, so I think it’s going to be a regular game for us. Obviously you have more notes written down on the way he plays and different throws he makes and different things like that, but it’s going to be like every other week.”

Contact Chris at ceasterling@thebeaconjournal.com.

On Twitter: @ceasterlingABJ