BEREA — Left guard Joel Bitonio has bragging rights on former teammate Joe Thomas.
Bitonio became the first Browns player to repeat as the Dino Lucarelli Good Guy Award winner, as chosen by the local chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America. The award honors cooperation with the media and the way a player carries himself with teammates and in the community.
Thomas, who retired after last season, is the only other two-time winner but his awards weren’t in consecutive years. Bitonio said he’s followed the example set by former linemates Thomas, Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz.
“You respect people for the job they have to do, the job that you have to do,” Bitonio said Wednesday. “It is not hard to give you a day of the week or a couple of times a week to talk to you guys. Someone has to talk to you guys so you might as well put a good foot forward.”
Bitonio is available to reporters throughout the week and is friendly and insightful. The second-round pick in 2014 is the longest-tenured member of the Browns and a team captain. He hasn’t missed a snap this season.
“Obviously the easiest way to put it is he is a captain and everybody looks towards him, but the type of veteran leadership he brings to the table is that presence,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “He does not always have to say anything, but him knowing his job and how to handle things and get everybody on the same page upfront and just within the huddle of communicating things that the coaches want relayed. He is going to have it in the right moments, and I think that is his type of leadership. It has been vital for our team.”
Interim coach Gregg Williams approved the choice.
“He sets an example every day even behind the scenes outside of his play — somewhat of a calming effect on people being able to talk to somebody that has as much experience as we have,” he said. “We don’t have a ton of experience in the room in there so he has been a good voice, but the voice is only listened to when the example is set. He sets an example every day on how he prepares, how he practices and how he plays.”
Center JC Tretter, middle linebacker Joe Schobert, free safety Damarious Randall and strong safety Jabrill Peppers also received first-place votes.
FIGURING IT OUT
The Ravens gave up on receiver Breshad Perriman after training camp this season, but Baltimore coach John Harbaugh is glad to see he’s resurrected his career with the Browns.
“I do think and I have always thought that he was going to be successful in this league,” Harbaugh said on a conference call. “I am happy for him.”
Perriman was the No. 26 pick of the Ravens in 2015, missed his rookie year with a knee injury and caught 43 passes for 576 yards and three touchdowns in the next two seasons. The knocks on him were injuries and drops.
“More than anything, it was the lack of opportunities. The drops that he had would not have been quite so focused on if he had more opportunities because he would have made catches,” Harbaugh said. “The injuries really slowed him up and really hampered his development and opportunities.”
The Browns signed Perriman on Oct. 13 after the receiving corps was hit with injuries. He’s been a pleasant surprise with 13 catches for 295 yards, a 22.7 average and a touchdown.
“It’s just a matter of guys putting it all together,” Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr told reporters in Baltimore. “We all are light bulbs. We click at different times, so it’s just a matter of him maturing and figuring the game out. But he’s playing some good ball right now.”
Mayfield knew a little bit about the rivalry with the Ravens before the draft but has gone to school in the last eight months. Ravens rookie left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. was Mayfield’s teammate at Oklahoma, and Brown’s dad, “Zeus,” played for the Browns and the Ravens.
“It is pretty dramatic, to be honest. That is a very important thing that happened,” he said of Art Modell moving the franchise to Baltimore after the 1995 season. “It makes the history and this rivalry interesting. I think that makes it fun. It makes it passionate for the fans and something worth watching, especially when we are going to try to make this rivalry competitive again.”
The history will add another layer of intrigue to the season finale in which the Ravens (9-6) are looking to clinch the AFC North title and the Browns (7-7-1) are trying to finish win a winning record for the first time since 2007. The Browns won the October matchup in Cleveland 12-9 in overtime.
Rookie cornerback Denzel Ward remained in concussion protocol and isn’t expected to play Sunday.
** Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (biceps), center JC Tretter (ankle) and linebacker Tanner Vallejo (hamstring) didn’t practice. Ogunjobi and Tretter are expected to play, while Vallejo’s status remains in doubt.
** For the Ravens, rush linebacker Terrell Suggs (hamstring), receiver John Brown (hamstring) and cornerback Tavon Young (groin) didn’t practice.
** For only the second time this season, the defense didn’t get a takeaway Sunday in the 26-18 win over the Bengals. The other occasion didn’t turn out as well, a 29-13 loss to Houston.
“We have had opportunities. We just have to finish,” Williams said. “We have had balls in our hands. You have to get those.”