Browns coach Rob Chudzinski met with reporters today before practice. Here is a transcript from the news conference:
Opening statement: “Good morning. Let’s jump right into New England. A great challenge for us this weekend. They’re a great team. Obviously, I have the utmost respect for (Patriots Head) Coach (Bill) Belichick and his staff. They’re 9-3, first place in the AFC East. We have a group of guys that are competitors, and I know that they’re looking forward to the challenge this week, and we’ll be ready for that challenge.
“As you look at New England on offense, an outstanding offense. The balance between run and pass has been excellent this year. They’re running the no-huddle, which creates issues and we have to be ready for. It all starts with (Patriots QB) Tom Brady, one of the best in the game, one of the best that’s ever played. It’s amazing. He has new faces around him and is still able to produce the way he has throughout the course of his career, making plays in critical situations and finding ways to win. The receiver position, a couple of rookies, (Patriots WR Aaron) Dobson and (Patriots WR Kenbrell) Thompkins, who are playing as well as (Patriots WR Julian) Edelman and (Patriots WR Danny) Amendola, who in the slot that really give people match-up problems as you’re watching them on tape. They have a number of running backs that have been very productive. (Patriots RB) Shane Vereen is a dual-threat that plays a lot in their packages as a runner and as a receiver. At tight end, they use multiple-tight end packages. (Patriots TE) Rob Gronkowski, probably the best all-around tight end in the game, is a real weapon and a very difficult match up for teams. Their offensive line is very good, very solid, plays well and does a good job in both the run and the pass, as I mentioned, really helping their balance this year.
“Defensively, they’ve had some injuries, but they had guys step up and step in for them. They made key plays at key times. As you look at their defensive line, they’ve been hit by a number of those injuries, but those guys have stepped in and played solid. Their outside linebackers are a real good group. (Patriots DL Rob) Ninkovich and (Patriots DL) Chandler Jones, you look at Chandler Jones and his ability to create pass-rush; he’s a difference-maker in that area for them. Their inside backers, (Patriots LB Brandon) Spikes and (Patriots LB Dont’a) Hightower, are solid, good players and they’ve played well for them. Their secondary is a very good secondary. You look at (Patriots DB Aqib) Talib as a corner, as a match-up corner, and he’s playing against the best receiver that the opposing team has. (Patriots DB Alfonzo) Dennard and (Patriots DB Kyle) Arrington have played very well, as well. Their safeties are very versatile guys. I’m familiar with (Patriots DB) Steve Gregory from my time at San Diego, and (Patriots DB Devin) McCourty, are both playing their roles so well. They do a lot of different things in terms of dime; they can move those guys move down, they can play them deep as a safety so real versatile in terms of what they do in that standpoint.
“Their special teams is ranked No. 2 in the league. They’re solid in all phases. (Patriots K Stephen) Gostkowski is the No. 1 kicker in the league right now. Obviously, in all three phases, they give us multiple challenges, and we’ll have to get ready and have a great week of preparations to prepare for them.
“As far as our quarterback situation goes, it’s a very fluid situation, unique, one that I haven’t necessarily been around. I’ll name the starter later in the week. Right now, as we stand, (QB Jason) Campbell and (QB Brandon) Weeden have both been cleared for activity, not for practice but for activity. That’s where we stand, and it’s too difficult to know exactly when they’ll be cleared through the process any farther. So what we’ve done is we’ve added (QB) Caleb Hanie on the roster. We’ll work both him and (QB Alex) Tanney today in practice and get a look at both of those guys. It’ll be a good opportunity to see them running our plays and preparing with our game plan ,getting ready to play New England. Again, I’ll make that determination later in the week of where we’ll go with the starter.
“As far as any other injuries go, (LB Craig) Robertson and (LB Tank) Carder, they’ll work back into practice today. Roster wise, I mentioned Hanie; we moved (DB Julian) Posey up from the practice squad; (DB) Chris Owens is on IR, as is (LB) Brandon Magee. That’s the moves that we made to offset those [transactions].”
On not selecting either Hanie or Tanney right now: “I’d like to see more of them and see them actually doing and going through the course of the game plan this week.”
On how long he can wait to make a decision: “We can wait until Friday or all the way up to game day, if we have to. I think we’ll get a better sense, though, as we get into practice and as those guys are getting the reps. We can go either direction once we get into that and once we get a feeling for one way or another.”
On if he is hopeful Campbell or Weeden can return by Sunday: “Hopefully, we get everybody back for Sunday. Again, we’ll make a determination based on when guys are back, how much practice time they’ve had and so forth.”
On if the medical team assesses Campbell and Weeden each morning and if it’s possible that either player could be cleared to practice on Thursday or Friday this week: “All of those things are possible but not predictable. Really, it’s out of my hands and it’s really a difficult thing to determine. It just is how they feel and how the medical team evaluates them.”
On if Tanney hasn’t had enough NFL experience to be named the starter ahead of Hanie: “It’s just we haven’t had a long look at him. He primarily last week worked the scout team and then got a few snaps, and we did things more after practice on air than anything. Both of these guys, we’ll get an opportunity to look at them and we’ll make the determination.”
On if both Hanie and Tanney will get reps with the first team today: “Both will get reps [with the first team] today.”
On if it is an option to prepare a small package for Hanie and Tanney and play both: “I’m going to leave all options open right now.”
On how difficult it is to work in such a unique, fluid situation: “It’s something that I haven’t done before, but I think we have a plan to address that. Obviously, we’ll tailor the package to whichever guy ends up being the starter and to what they can do and to what is going to be effective, hopefully, versus New England.”
On what ‘cleared for activity’ means and how close Campbell and Weeden are to being ready for practice: “There’s different levels of activity the guys can go through. It generally builds up. Like I said, I have no way of knowing and being able to tell you when that is. It just depends on those guys and them getting evaluated daily and how they feel and how they progress through it.”
On Owens’ injury and if DB Leon McFadden will play more: “Owens sprained his knee so obviously that’s why we put him on IR. McFadden has been playing more and more in recent weeks. He’s earned that opportunity. Just going back to training camp, he was injured an awful lot and fell behind. He’s been able to catch up and he’s really earned the opportunities that he’s gotten, and every week he’s gotten more. It’ll be a good opportunity for him. I feel good about his progress and how he’s come along.”
On the severity of Owens injury and if the timing in the season influenced putting him on IR: “Just long he will be out.”
On Weeden’s second half against Jacksonville compared to the first half: “As I mentioned the other day, he did some good things in the game and made some good reads, great throws, obviously hung in the game, and we regrouped at halftime. I think it says a lot about him and his resiliency coming back in that second half and doing the things that he did. Obviously, we have to keep working on those critical mistakes and knocking those out.”
On evaluating a player attempting to minimize turnovers: “It’s a process that you continue to go through with a guy. As guys make mistakes, you want to see progress that they eliminate and make less and less of those type of mistakes. You look at any quarterback in the league, they’re going to throw interceptions and they’re going to make mistakes in reads and they’re going to see things or not see things, but you’re looking for guys to learn along the way and have that type of growth and that’s the key.”
On if he knew who he would start if all four quarterbacks were healthy: “Some of that is hard to say because it depends on how much practice all four of those would get. Again, we’ll just wait as it goes and see how it goes and how the guys practice, if they get back, and how the guys are practicing that are practicing right now.”
On if Campbell or Weeden must to practice to start or if they could start if cleared on Saturday or Sunday: “At this point, I would keep all of the options open. Obviously, that wouldn’t be ideal; I would like to see them back practicing, but we’ll have to weigh that with seeing the practice and the other guys practice, as well.”
On if assistant general manager Ray Farmer lobbied to bring Tanney to Cleveland sooner: “No, he did his evaluation on him and liked him, as I had mentioned, and was a round him for a long time and had seen him on a day-to-day basis in Kansas City.”
On why the Browns signed Tanney before Hanie: “At that particular time, Tanney had been practicing, as I had mentioned, and had been working in Dallas. (He) had a good grasp of their system, which was similar to our system, and as I mentioned, Ray’s experience with him said a lot for us.”
On WR Josh Gordon not being able to throw himself the ball this week: [Laugh] “If we can find a way, we’ll try to find a way.”
On where Gordon ranks in terms of athleticism compared to players he’s coached in the NFL and college: “He is an excellent athlete. The combination of his size and his ability to move and how smooth he is, that’s what makes him special. You see big guys a lot of times that aren’t as smooth and can’t move in the same way. He can burst, he can accelerate and he’s deceptive because you look at him and you don’t think he’s going as fast as he’s actually going.”
On his initial reaction when he saw Gordon on the field for the first time: “That’s the thing, his size stands out to you and then the way he ran. The thing that he’s really improved at as you look at him is his route running and understanding the game. He’s stepped up and made big catches across the middle. He’s taken hits; he’s bounced off. His run after catch has really impressed me. I’ve talked about it many times, you see the things, you see the growth out of a guy like Josh and you see the maturity and you see a player that’s getting better and better and better, and certainly, still has a lot of room for growth.”
On if it is a coincidence Gordon’s production has improved since the trade deadline passed: “I think, in my mind, seeing him every day is a little bit different than your perspective and seeing him just in the games. I’ve seen constant growth throughout and getting better. Sometimes, certainly there are things that aren’t perfect and we coach him and work on them with. He’s really receptive to coaching. He wants to be a great player and that takes time sometimes, and there’s some ups and downs that you go through. Just sitting down, the meetings I have with him on a week-to-week basis and sitting down, his receptiveness to a getting coached and his receptiveness to the plan for him and getting better, again, I can’t say enough about how he’s approached this.”
On if Gordon is getting double-teamed: “You don’t always see it when two guys are lined up right over top of him, but sometimes there’ll be a guy underneath and a guy over top. Sometimes those are the type of things he’ll get from a double-coverage standpoint that aren’t as obvious. I think that he’s been a guy who’s affected the coverages and people in certain games have tried to take him out of the game in that way.”