BEREA, Ohio -- Conventional wisdom might say that chemistry on a football team is built through practices and games from the camaraderie of competition, but Cleveland Browns offensive line coach Bob Wylie believes in creating cohesion long before players take the field.
To Wylie, it is important to create chemistry throughout meetings so that players can focus on their assignments on the field.
“It comes in the chemistry in the meeting room,” Wylie said.
“The chemistry you create in the meeting room between the coaches and the players is more important than any X and O that I can draw on the board. That is the most important thing. The Xs and Os fall into place, but the chemistry that is created in that room is what really comes.”
From an offensive line perspective, the Browns have gotten plenty of good news in the chemistry-building department, as several veterans, namely guards Joel Bitonio and John Greco, have returned from injuries that kept them on the sidelines and out of practice and games since the middle of last season.
“It always feels good when the guys come back,” Wylie said. “You look forward to see them coming back, getting back into the swing of things, getting back into the groove of what we are trying to accomplish. That is always a good feeling for the coaches at any position.
“We are bringing them back slowly. We are not bringing them back where they are going to practice 100 plays a day. We are bringing them back slowly. We will slowly fit them in. They are enjoying it.”
After a standout rookie season in 2014, Bitonio was expected to be a key part of the Browns’ offensive line in 2015, but an ankle injury limited him to just 10 games, and ultimately, led to his placement on injured reserve following a lopsided loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in December of 2015.
Following an offseason to heal, Bitonio played in the first five games of the 2016 season, but was forced to the sideline for the remainder of the year because of a Lisfranc injury in his right foot that required surgery in mid-October.
Bitonio has played in just 15 of a possible 32 games over the last two years.
“He is a true professional,” Wylie said. “He has the passion and the heart for the game. He has that, and he worked himself into coming back and doing that. Joel Bitonio is a guy that I would go into the foxhole with. I would take him to war. I would go with him because I can trust him. I can trust him.”
And stalwart left tackle Joe Thomas, who became the first Browns player ever selected to 10 straight Pro Bowls last season, is another player Wylie has the utmost faith in and respect for.
“He will get himself ready the way he needs to get ready, and he has played next to Joel before, so the communication between them is really good,” Wylie said. “He knows how to play the game. I am not worried about how many (practice) snaps he gets or if he doesn’t have enough, no. He is fine in what we are doing.”