BEREA, Ohio — Throughout the offseason and training camp, coach Freddie Kitchens said the Cleveland Browns would find out the kind of team they had when adversity struck, and their biggest challenge to date came late in Thursday’s 21-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
With seconds remaining in the victory, the Browns saw their star defensive end, Myles Garrett, forcibly remove the helmet of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, and when the signal-caller pursued the matter further, he was hit over the head with his own protective equipment.
Subsequently, less than 12 hours after the game, Garrett was suspended indefinitely for the incident, but even with this latest challenge in their way, Kitchens believes the Browns will respond well, starting with Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins.
“Very confident,” Kitchens said following Monday’s practice.
“You either run toward each other or you run away when adversity strikes, and I think we’ve done a good job of running toward each other. I think that’s the part of being a family. When we’ve hit adversity, we’ve looked to each other instead of looking outside. I don’t expect anything other than that, and if we do that, we’ll be fine.”
In addition to losing Garrett for the balance of the season, unless his ban is reduced on appeal, the Browns must play the Dolphins without defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who pushed Rudolph from behind to the ground as the skirmish escalated.
The Browns were already thin up front, as defensive end Olivier Vernon missed his second straight game because of a knee injury and Chris Smith has played most of the season after the death of his girlfriend in a tragic highway accident.
“I think we’ve got a resilient bunch of guys that have accepted the challenge,” Kitchens said. “Every week, it seems like it’s been something different. That’s the way football seasons are though, so when you kind of become talked about, things come to the forefront more often, and our guys have been resilient from the standpoint of they’ve tried to stay focused, week in and week out, just doing the job.
“We just want to do a good job today and do a good job tomorrow, and then, do a good job of course, ultimately, on Sundays when we get graded.”
Although the Browns know replacing the kind of production Garrett brings to the field will be very difficult, Kitchens believes it can be accomplished through a commitment in practice.
“The strength is in numbers, and we have 11 guys out there for a reason,” Kitchens said. “Everybody has to do just a little bit more. Everybody has to do their job just a little bit more often. You can’t rely on the fact that so many things can get covered up because you have an elite pass rusher there.
“We’ve got some other guys that can get after the quarterback, but his production will be missed, so we’ll need some guys to step up in his production area, but also, we’ve got to rely on our corners a little more. We’ve got to rely on our linebackers a little more. We’ve got 11 guys that can take up that slack a little bit.”