BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns played arguably their biggest game in a decade when they faced the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh last Sunday, but they did so without a key member of the secondary.
For undisclosed reasons, Browns coach Freddie Kitchens left home starting safety Damarious Randall from the Pittsburgh trip, where Cleveland surrendered a 10-point lead late in the first half and suffered a 20-13 loss, the 16th straight road setback to the Steelers.
“It felt awkward, but like I said, onto next week, really not thinking about last week,” Randall told reporters following Wednesday’s practice at team headquarters in Berea. “It is in the past and things happen, but just keep pushing.”
Not willing to say much about the ban other than it was because of “some internal issues,” Randall feels he is back in good standing with the organization.
“Definitely, it was never about trust,” Randall said.
Kitchens added, “I trust Damarious is going to go out, prepare and play and everything is the same. I have no problems with Damarious.”
The Browns struggled to break up long passes from fourth-string quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges, as he completed throws of 30, 31 and 44 yards, with the 30-yarder going for the game-tying touchdown with one minute remaining in the first half.
While Randall felt he “definitely would have made a difference in the game,” there was some frustration over his absence.
“We lose a brother,” defensive back T.J. Carrie said. “We lose a brother that we felt like definitely could help us in the game and definitely brings a certain type of leadership capability and playmaking ability. It’s definitely difficult when you practice all week, and then, you find out he’s not going.
“Definitely makes us have to think and put it in our minds that, ‘Okay, we’ve got to step up even more,’ and I think that’s something that we struggled with. We didn’t do that this past week and it really affected us.”
Reports of Randall’s ban from the Pittsburgh trip surfaced that he did not want to practice in the cold on Thanksgiving, something that the veteran defensive back laughed off as his media availability came to a close.
“I played in Green Bay,” Randall said. “What type of report is, ‘I didn't want to go out in the cold?’
“Y’all are crazy.”
In his contract year, Randall has been limited to seven games (six because of injury and one as a team-enforced punishment) and registered 35 total tackles, including 26 solo stops and nine assists, with the first two sacks of his career and four passes defended.
Over 22 games in two years with the Browns, Randall has registered 120 total tackles, including 98 solo stops and 22 assists with two sacks, 13 passes defended and four interceptions, including a memorable one where he handed the ball to former coach Hue Jackson after the latter joined Cincinnati’s staff following his late October dismissal from Cleveland.
“Everything is resolved, just kind of onto the Bengals this week,” Randall said. “We handled everything internally, and that’s as much as I can say about that.
“I’m not gonna get into details about it. It is what it is at this point, and we’ve just kind of moved on from it.”