BEREA — Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer leaves the noise-canceling headphones at home on gameday. He wants to take in everything in the hours leading up to kickoff, and his first NFL start will be no different.
“A lot of people like to put on headphones, and they kind of create a false reality to try to get hyped up and stay locked in,” he said Wednesday. “For me, I don’t like to listen to music. I like to be out there experiencing and allowing the moment to build so when you step out there for your first play, you have already felt that. You have heard the crowd, you have already smelled the smells and you are ready to go.”
Kizer will lead the Browns against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium for the season opener. He expects his emotions to be running high, although he said he doesn’t get nervous.
“This is a dream come true,” he said. “This is my first-ever start and my first-ever regular-season game so, yeah, when that time comes, it is going to be fun. But as soon as that coin flips and we are out there with the ball in our hands, I am sure it is just going to go back to the job that it is.”
Kizer, the No. 52 pick out of Notre Dame, fared well in the preseason but knows the regular season is a different ballgame.
“Everything goes to a whole another level,” he said. “My preparation has to go to another level and my mentality has to go to another level. But hopefully, I can just match that and do what I have been doing all preseason and try to find some success.”
He had mixed results in his first significant action at Toledo Central Catholic and Notre Dame. As a sophomore in high school, he lost on the last play. As a redshirt freshman at Notre Dame, he came off the bench and threw the winning touchdown in the final seconds.
“I have had a lot of experience of being thrown into the fire and going out there and being asked to execute and represent all the older guys on the team,” Kizer said. “Now, this is an opportunity here where I know I am going to have to step up and put ourselves in a position to win in the fourth quarter.”
He’ll get his first taste of the Browns-Steelers rivalry and is embracing it.
“I definitely have a lot of respect for this game,” he said. “This is one that really shows you what Northern Midwest football is. It is hard-nosed. It is tough. The fan bases are the same way. The cities are the same way. We all kind of grew up the same way.
“It is as blue-collar as it gets so now to be a part of this and to obviously represent Cleveland and this rivalry, I am looking forward to going out there and representing the city and everything that comes along with this.”
THE OLD GUY
Cornerback Joe Haden said he wasn’t angry the Browns cut him last week and didn’t immediately sign with the Steelers so he could get back at them twice a year.
“It is just the business of the game,” he said on a conference call with Browns media. “It (stinks) with the relationships that I had there with everybody in the entire building. It felt like family because I was with them for so long.”
Haden said he signed so quickly because the season was right around the corner. When Pittsburgh came close to other offers he received — $27 million over three years, including $7 million guaranteed — he chose to stay in the Rust Belt.
“It was the best team that wanted me,” he said. “I was just looking forward to trying to get to the playoffs.”
Haden confirmed the Browns met with him to discuss taking a pay cut from the $11.1 million salary he was owed this season. When a new deal wasn’t reached, he was cut. He acknowledged the contract and his performance the last two seasons when beset with injuries led to the Browns’ decision.
Haden isn’t turning his back on Cleveland or the Cavs.
“For sure will be at the playoff games because the Cavs are still my favorite team,” he said. “That won’t change anything, but I will be in Pittsburgh.”
THE NEW GUY
Josh Woodrum was preparing to sign to the Baltimore Ravens practice squad Sunday when the Browns claimed him off waivers as their fourth quarterback.
“Yeah, we have four, but obviously they saw something in me that they like and they were willing to take a chance on me,” he said.
Jackson doesn’t expect to keep four quarterbacks for long, but if the organization likes Woodrum (6-foot-3, 236 pounds) more than Cody Kessler or Kevin Hogan after a quick look, he could stick around.
“It’s awesome. It’s a really good opportunity for myself,” Woodrum said.
He signed with Baltimore on July 31 and had a strong preseason, going 25-for-36 (69.4 percent) for 321 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 115.6 rating. He added two rushing touchdowns.
He said was surprised when he was cut Saturday.
The Browns are his sixth team since he was undrafted out of Liberty in 2016. He’s never played in a regular-season game and said the bouncing around is difficult.
“Definitely mentally, emotionally, physically,” Woodrum said. “It’s been a tough journey, but it’s just started, so I’ve got to keep going.”
With the giant exception of rookie defensive end Myles Garrett (ankle), the Browns are as healthy as could be hoped entering the season.
Left guard Joel Bitonio (knee), defensive tackle Danny Shelton (knee), fullback Danny Vitale (ankle) and defensive end Nate Orchard (groin) returned to practice in a limited capacity. Jackson expects them to play.
Garrett, the No. 1 pick, couldn’t finish practice and his status for the opener was in doubt.
** Left tackle Joe Thomas was the only player who didn’t practice. He was listed with a knee injury, but it was his normal day off.
Jackson was caught dancing to a hip hop song during the early portion of practice, and the video wound up on social media.
“That’s not cool,” he said. “That was for my boys and not for you guys.”
** Cornerback Jason McCourty switched from No. 35 to No. 30. Safety Derrick Kindred went from No. 30 to No. 26.
** Cornerback Channing Stribling was signed to the practice squad. He was cut over the weekend.