October 23, 2014

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Browns QB Brandon Weeden says he has “very good earmuffs” to block out mounting criticism

BEREA — The continual calls for him to lose the starting job.
The impractical idea that he should be released.
The cutting criticism of every missed receiver and questionable decision.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden has been the most popular target of angry Browns fans in the days following the loss to the Detroit Lions. He insists he hasn’t heard a word.
“I have very good earmuffs on, went out and got about the best ones I could,” he said Wednesday. “You can’t listen to it.
“All I care about is what goes on inside this building. If the guys in this building have my back and I have theirs and we’re all on the same page, it really doesn’t matter what else is being said. We’re a football team here and I love coming to work with these guys every single day.”
Weeden’s been through a lot in six weeks. The Browns lost their first two games, he missed two games with a sprained thumb, was replaced by Brian Hoyer as the starter, then regained the job when Hoyer suffered a season-ending knee injury.
“I think everybody in here has got a lot of confidence and trust in what Brandon does,” left tackle and captain Joe Thomas said. “We definitely think he’s the guy that can lead us this year to the playoffs.
“He definitely feels the support in here from us. It’s unwavering and we see all the good things he does and not just one play here or there.”
The earmuffs come with a set of blinders. The world is full of negativity to avoid.
“The easy ones are obviously social media, which has turned into a joke,” said Weeden, who said he and his wife deleted their Twitter accounts. “Watch movies with the wife or whatever, but just don’t listen to it. I’ve been through ups and downs enough, and I’d like to say that I’m mature enough to not listen to what a 7-year-old kid has to tell me about how to play quarterback or whatever it may be.
“I’m not concerned with it. I’m concerned with helping this team win games.”
A theme inside the locker room — if not outside it — is that Weeden wasn’t the only guilty party Sunday against the Lions. Running back Willis McGahee said he missed a block that led to a sack, and coach Rob Chudzinski referenced plays where no one got open.
Receiver Davone Bess agreed it was a collective loss and supported Weeden, but said it’s possible for a team’s confidence to get shaken by a bad game from its quarterback.
“It can. But you gotta buckle down, man, and keep the locker (room) together and not really worry about what they’re saying outside,” he said. “I know that’s probably hard to do, but we’ve got to do it.”
This isn’t the first time Weeden’s heard – or ignored – criticism. It may be the loudest.
The ill-advised fourth-quarter interception off a backhanded flip has been the lightning rod for the abuse. Weeden’s toss has been compared to kicker Garo Yepremian’s slippery Super Bowl attempt, and “Yakety Sax” was added as background music on a Youtube.com clip.
“It’s no different for me any week,” Weeden said. “There’s no new negativity. It’s part of playing the position.
“It’s behind me. Obviously, I didn’t lose any sleep over it. It stung at the time. It will probably always sting. If I go back and watch that game again, it will bring back memories.
“It can’t happen. Just don’t let it happen again. That’s the way I feel about it.”
Chudzinski, who said Monday he never considered benching Weeden for Jason Campbell, likes how Weeden has handled the adversity.
“His mindset has been good and I think that what you try to do as a coach is you accentuate the positives,” Chudzinski said. “He did some good things in the game. If you look at the first half, he was getting the ball out and he was very efficient and managing the game well, so you really focus on those and then you correct the things that he didn’t do so well. And we’ve gone through and talked about some of those decisions.”
Weeden sat through the coaching critique during the film session Monday, then stopped at headquarters on Tuesday, the players’ off day, and talked with Chudzinski again.
“I like his attitude,” Chudzinski said. “He’s taking responsibility and accountability, as we all are. He’s working hard with Norv (Turner, coordinator) and doing everything that he can to improve and I expect that to happen and expect him to play well.”
Weeden is 0-3 as the starter but replaced Hoyer in the first quarter and beat the Bills. Weeden ranks 28th in the NFL with a 71.4 rating, 30th with a .562 completion percentage and tied for 25th by throwing an interception on 3.3 percent of his passes. He has four touchdowns, five interceptions and has been sacked 18 times.
Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is on the other side of the spectrum. He’s fifth with a 101.9 rating, ninth with 1,646 yards and tied for eighth with 10 touchdowns.
He was the No. 24 pick in 2005 – Weeden was No. 22 in 2012 – and sat behind Brett Favre for three years. After some early adversity and the unenviable task of following a legend, Rodgers established himself as one of the game’s best. He was the league MVP in 2011, and his career rating of 104.7 is the best in history, easily outdistancing Steve Young’s 96.8.
He can still relate to what Weeden is going through.
“It’s in times like that where your mental toughness is tested, your character comes out,” Rodgers said on a conference call with Browns reporters. “I think you learn how to move forward from those things. You have to go through it, we all did.
“Anybody who’s played his position has made throws like that or decisions like that. I did my fair share last week as well. You just have to learn from those things, be critical of yourself every week and realize that it’s part of the territory, the criticism that comes your way as a quarterback.”
Cleveland fans are especially tough on quarterbacks, and they’ve gotten worse in the last decade. Weeden was never embraced by many fans and didn’t receive a grace period because he arrived as a 28-year-old. A plethora of people have given up on him despite a resume of only three starts this year and 18 in his career.
“I don’t know many other guys that are having to go through that situation,” he said. “But when you play the quarterback position at any level, those are the questions you’ve got to answer. Winning is a cure-all. If you can win games, that cures everything. I need to do my part to be more consistent to help this team in whatever way possible.”
Weeden said he received support from other quarterbacks who told him they’ve made similar or worse decisions as the flip interception.
“If you play this position long enough, you’re going to make mistakes,” he said. “It’s how you bounce back and learn from those things. I’ve had several buddies from around the league remind me. They said, ‘This position’s hard enough. You can’t dwell on the past. You move on and try to not let it happen again.’”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.