Browns expect to play with pride, edge despite no playoff chances

CLEVELAND – The moment wasn’t lost on Joel Bitonio. The Browns’ All-Pro left guard’s face showed it even more than anything that he said.

The Browns saw any hope of a playoff appearance or a winning season blown away in the frigid winds of Saturday afternoon’s 17-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints. The best they can hope for is another 8-9 finish and, maybe, spoil the Washington Commanders’ NFC Wild Card hopes on New Year’s Day.

For Bitonio, the longest-tenured Browns player, the pain of that reality was etched across his face as he spoke following the loss. That’s even as he said the thing one would only expect to hear from him when asked if he’s allowed one eye to peek towards what could be next season.

“I’m focused on this year,” Bitonio said.

The Browns could always hide behind the potential − no matter how mathematically slim − of making the playoffs as motivation as long as it was still out there for them. Even if the playoffs weren’t something they could realistically attain, they could also fall back on finishing the season with just the fourth winning season since the franchise’s rebirth in 1999.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Amari Cooper (2) rushes for a first down during the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Saturday, Dec.  24, 2022, in Cleveland.  (AP Photo/David Richard)

Now, the question of motivation is a real one for them to face. What it becomes, though, is a more individual-based question than a team-centric one.

“If you don’t have some type of edge or chip on your shoulder to just play on any given Sunday, Saturday or Monday or Thursday, that’s not a good thing,” receiver Amari Cooper said. “This is our livelihood, this is how we support our families. No matter how you look at it, you should find a reason to want to go out there and put on a great performance because this is a privilege. You look at the statistics, players don’t play that long in this league. You want to go out there and show that you can be that player that beats those odds.”

Leave a Comment