CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Cody Kessler may have been inactive for the first week of the 2016 NFL regular season, but that has not changed the first-year signal-caller’s mindset or preparation.
With Robert Griffin III being lost for at least eight games because of a broken coracoid bone in his left (non-throwing) shoulder suffered in the season-opening 29-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field last Sunday, Kessler is continuing to prepare as though he is the starting quarterback.
“My mindset has never changed,” Kessler said. “I always prepared myself as a starter no matter where I was at on the depth chart, and that is the way you have to go about it. You cannot go in thinking, ‘I am not going to play. I can take this rep off.’ You have to go in the same way I did last week. Going into Philadelphia, I prepared myself as if I was going to play a game.”
With Griffin already out for at least two months and newly minted starter Josh McCown having a history of injuries, including a concussion and broken collar bone that cost him multiple games in the 2015 season, Kessler knows staying on the ready is of the utmost importance.
“You have to keep preparing as a starter,” Kessler said. “You can never predict what is going to happen in different games or different situations. I have always told myself whenever that time does come, whether it is this year, early, late, next year, whenever it may be, I just want to be prepared and be ready.
“Something that I really want to focus on is mastering the position, being able to go out and play flawless. Not that there is not going to be mistakes, but as long as you can eliminate those bad plays and have more productive ones, there are a lot of guys that do that in the NFL and they are in a successful position. That is something I respect and I want to be.”
In three years as a starter for the University of Southern California Trojans, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Kessler completed 949 of his 1,259 pass attempts for 10,330 yards and 88 touchdowns against 19 interceptions.
During his junior season, Kessler completed 315 of his 452 attempts for 3,826 yards and 39 touchdowns against five interceptions. All of those numbers were career bests for Kessler. As a follow-up to his career-best junior season, Kessler completed 298 of his 446 attempts for 3,536 yards and 29 touchdowns against seven interceptions during his senior year in 2015.
In the preseason, Kessler completed 19 of his 28 passes (67.9 percent) for 92 yards with one touchdown and no turnovers, but held onto the football too long at times and was sacked seven times, including a pair of safeties against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
“There were some ups and downs, but I think the best part for me was just a learning process, being able to get in and get the reps I could in some live game action,” Kessler said. “For me, obviously being a perfectionist, I want to go out there and produce right away. At the same time, I have to be smart about it and just learn from it.”