BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns went through the good, the bad and the ugly that can happen to a football team in Sunday’s 43-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the regular-season opener at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
The good came in flashes of tempo from the offense on two scoring drives, while the bad was 18 penalties for 182 lost yards, and the ugly happened when left tackle Greg Robinson was ejected from the game late in the first half after kicking Titans defender Kenny Vaccaro in the head, something he denies doing maliciously.
“I didn’t even know he was falling toward me, but as I hit the ground, I saw him and my foot just made contact,” Robinson said. “I think it looked worse than it was.”
The Browns faced a first-and-10 from their own 28-yard line when running back Nick Chubb rushed for a two-yard gain behind left guard Joel Bitonio. As the play was coming to an end, Robinson fell backward, and as his shoulders laid on the grass, he appeared to extend both legs toward Vaccaro.
While the left foot missed, the right landed flush against the facemask and right side of Vaccaro’s helmet.
Robinson was immediately penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct, and after a brief huddle from the officials, he was ushered to the sideline, and then, the Browns’ locker room for the remainder of the afternoon.
“During the play, I was just trying hard, but I ended up bumping into a guy and he braced himself and pushed back on me as I was trying to make sure the pile didn’t fall on me,” Robinson said. “As I fell, he was coming forward and I kicked him in his helmet.
“I don’t ever want to be labeled as a dirty player. I work hard and I try my best to keep the game clean, you know, because I know we are targeted based off reputation, but it’s something that I can’t control. All I can do is just play each play one play at a time.”
Although the most notable of the violations, Robinson’s kick was far from the only time the Browns struggled with penalties against the Titans.
The Browns were flagged six times for 15-yard infractions, along with four offensive holding penalties and an offensive pass interference call that wiped out a 22-yard gain near the end of the first half.
“It’s nothing we practice,” Robinson said. “Coach, he harps on just being smart and trying to play clean, and that’s part of the reason the referees are at our practices. You hate to see it, and it’s just inevitable. At times, some guys just play with relentless effort. When you’re in a tough situation, you have to overcome it, but just gotta play smarter and move on.
“You never want to let guys trigger you, get you out of your game, any of that. Just stay home with yourself, at the end of the day and just basically it’s man-on-man. Everybody talks. That don’t really win the game, so I feel like what we need to watch out for is guys trying to trigger us and just be smart like coach Freddie told us in meetings.”