Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Takeaways from Browns practice and interviews …
1. Memo lost: Baker Mayfield was fined $12,500 for comments against the officiating in the Seattle game. Apparently the memo about not doing that got lost during the bye week.
The quarterback didn’t back down on Wednesday when asked if complaining about the calls was worth it.
“One, I wouldn’t say it’s complaining when it was blatantly obvious,” Mayfield said. “I’d say it’s just stating facts. Freedom of speech. I thought, it’s ok, but I get fined for it. It’s the league. That’s what they do. They fine you for some ridiculous things.
“That’s just how it is. There’s a reason everybody’s talking about it. It’s not just me. It goes for every team. With how our team is, we’re not going to get a lot of calls. We know that. Especially going into this week. There’s no time to worry about it, no time to stress about it. Just play our game.”
Mayfield was asked if he really thought he’d be fined for his comments when he said them.
“I knew I was going to be fined, but it needs to be said. People have to be held accountable for their job. And when it affects my job, it sucks. Because it’s not in my control.”
2. O-line speculation: Coach Freddie Kitchens declined to identify any forthcoming changes on the offensive line and tilted the narrative to not upsetting the apple cart at all.
“I have never said anything about possible changes,” Kitchens said. “You guys have said that or asked me those questions. Just because guys are taking different reps at different positions does not mean changes are being made.”
When a roomful of disbelieving faces stared back at him in the media room, Kitchens added, “I just don’t want you guys to get mad at me on Monday that no changes are made.”
A source said that Justin McCray handled the bulk of reps at left tackle on Wednesday. McCray has been lauded for his versatility to play all five positions, but he has never started a game at left tackle in the NFL. It’s also possible that Wyatt Teller could replace Eric Kush at right guard.
A year ago before the ninth game, the Browns inserted Greg Robinson at left tackle, and the move had a positive impact on protection and flow of the offense.
Mayfield was asked if too many changes could be unsettling to the offense.
“I think if you look at last year, what we did with the offensive line, it kind of gave us a new energy to push forward,” he said. “It’s whoever’s in there we need to trust and be able to play. That’s the M.O. we’ve been kind of stressing. So whoever’s in there, we trust him and we’re going to go attack.”
3. SMH: The Patriots are having a historical season on defense – first in yards allowed, first in turnovers, first in interceptions, first in turnover differential, first in scoring, first in sack differential. Kitchens pointed out they are probably first in tackling, too.
“To me, [their defensive numbers] are more than staggering,” Kitchens said. “This is a record-breaking pace that they are on and a pace that I do not know will ever be matched. Listen, they are tremendous in all areas.”
And to think, three of their top five tacklers on defense were starting players on the winless Browns of 2017 – cornerback Jason McCourty (first in tackles, with one interception), linebacker Jamie Collins (second in tackles, first with 4.5 sacks, second with three interceptions) and nose tackle Danny Shelton (fifth in tackles).
Nobody plugs in players from other teams – Collins originally was a Patriot and returned after three years with the Browns – and maximizes and matches their skill-set to his system like Belichick.
“They have done a tremendous job throughout the years of doing that,” Kitchens said. “I know it is not a surprise to anyone anymore, and it seems like when guys leave there, they are not as good of players as they were there. Hats off to everything they do from an organization standpoint.”
4. Seeing dead people: During the course of committing five turnovers (four interceptions, one fumble) in a 33-0 loss to the Patriots on Monday night, Jets quarterback Sam Darnold was wired for sound by ESPN and was heard to say on the sideline, “I’m seeing ghosts.”
What he meant, of course, was that Belichick’s disguised defenses had him reacting to things not really there.
So Kitchens was asked if he ever “saw ghosts” when he was quarterback at Alabama.
“Let me tell you about quarterbacks in the National Football League,” Kitchens said. “They usually do not end up coaches. If they were any good at all, they probably are not coaches.
“I am not trying to dig anybody other than the fact that I was not very good so when I woke up in the morning, I usually saw ghosts. If I knew I was practicing that day – hell, ask the coaches I played for – I saw them. I do not know if it was ghosts that I was seeing, but it was something other than my receiver. Usually, I was seeing the other team’s colors because usually I threw more to them than I did mine.”
5. Brownie bits:The Browns are as healthy as any week since the regular season started on Sept. 8. The only player not practicing was safety Damarious Randall (leg). Kitchens termed Randall “day to day.” But if Randall isn’t practicing after a full bye week off, he probably is not going to be ready to go for Sunday ...
Mayfield said his sore hip is gone. “I feel good. I got some rest and now I am ready to go," he said. "I'm happy I got a week off."