Let me put it this way, we're not best friends like everyone thinks we are. I just remember Charlie played for an Akron team that threw the ball around. He's very mobile, very athletic. He's a great competitor.
So you weren't best friends with him?
Everyone keeps asking if we hate each other since we're rivals now. No, we're competitors and I admire what he's doing.
Is this a dangerous game? It would mean nothing more for Cleveland than to knock you guys off.
I'm sure. We always have a bullseye on our chests, especially playing that team from Cleveland. It's just as big for us as it is for them.
Do you feel like you're peaking at the right time?
I feel like we're getting healthy at the right time. We still need a little help first.
You've talked in the past about fighting to make a big play. Lately, you've seemed to think more first.
Yeah, especially coming down to crunch time when you know you can't afford to make a mistake. I'm taking that playoff mentality. There were some plays against Minnesota where I maybe could have tried to sneak one in there, but I'd rather take the high road right now and play it smart.
It's easier to do that now?
It's still tough because the competitor in me wants to fire it in there and give my guys a chance to make a play. I'll still do that. I just have to use my head and be smart and make sure I don't hurt this team.
You guys had to settle for some field goals last week, but your defense playing well is giving you that leeway. Do you worry about not being able to punch it in?
I think the thing is that we played a Minnesota team that when we got down inside the 20, I don't know that we faced a tough defense. Ask a lot of the offensive guys, I know I felt that way with their front four and their secondary. It was a tough defense when we got inside. We got in the end zone once. But we're not going to be mad or disappointed with three points. We obviously want the seven, but we'll take three if we have to. Every time we get the ball we want to put points on the board.
What about the playoff scenarios and what has to happen?
Everyone's talking about it, but this team is focused. We know we need help, but it doesn't matter what everyone else does if we take care of business. We have to do that first, take care of what we can control and go from there.
Do you worry at all about any long-term problems with your thumb?
I try not to. I try to focus on right now. It's feeling better every week. We haven't dinged it too much and the X-rays we take every week come back good. The thing is, that's why we consulted to the doctors to make sure there wouldn't be any long-term effects. They didn't seem to think there was unless we hurt it worse. Right now is the here and now and I have to do what I can to help the team.
Are you concerned that players are going to come after the thumb (A nomination, dear readers for the dumbest question of the year)?
No. The ball's always going to be in my right hand so they're going to be coming after the ball. We know that they're coming after it and it's going to get hit.
There's a good chance you get Marvel Smith back this week. What's he bring to your line?
It's great to have that veteran leadership back, but Trai (Essex) has done a wonderful job. He's gone up against some great defensive ends. On one hand it's good to get Marvel back, but I know that Trai has stepped up and done a wonderful job and I know that if we need him, he can come in and do that as well.
Hines (Ward) and (Antwaan) Randle El have spoken about
Cleveland's improved corner play. Have you noticed that?
Absolutely. They've really stepped up in the secondary. They've played some great wide receivers, Chad Johnson and some other guys. They've done a wonderful job of shutting down some quality receivers, so it will be a challenge for us.