The Cleveland Browns and Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals started the week a bit gun-shy when speaking of their upcoming opponent. The teams’ animosities and anxieties seemed to have simmered down from the summer when Deshaun Watson promised fireworks in the home opener. However, the tone changed after Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase made some comments about the team’s name as the matchup nears.
The Browns had a quiet week as they tended to their wounded defensive back group. Denzel Ward, who suffered a concussion during the preseason, was cleared to play earlier this season. New free safety Juan Thornhill has spent the week resting with a calf injury. He is questionable for Sunday’s game.
As the Browns get set to host the Bengals in this Week 1 interstate showdown, here are four storylines to keep a close eye on in Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Ja'Marr Chase stutters
On Thursday, Ja’Marr Chase told reporters how he approaches the Browns game like every other opponent. Ja’Marr would complain about “the hooting and hollering” between the rivals, a reference to the war of words Ja’Marr started on the Pivot podcast last season. Chase would finish the question with feigned indifference, saying, “I was about to call them the elves.”
"It's a regular game to me."
"It's just the hooping and hollering about the Cleveland Browns. I was about to call them the elf's (elves)."
— Jeremy Rauch (@FOX19Jeremy) September 7, 2023
Browns players respond to Ja'Marr Chase
Franchise leader Myles Garrett said that the elves’ comments went too far, before joking that he would have a discussion with the young receiver during the game.
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) September 8, 2023
Myles Garrett isn’t the only player taking exception to Ja’Marr Chase. Cornerback Greg Newsome II said he remembered Ja’Marr Chase disrespecting him last season. Ja’Marr did not list Newsome II amongst the top cornerbacks he faced on the Pivot podcast.
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) September 7, 2023
Burrow gets an extension
(AP Photo/David Richard)
Cincinnati spent most of the week in anticipation of a Joe Burrow extension. The wait paid off as Ian Rapoport announced the 5-year, 275 million-dollar contract as Patrick Mahomes took the field.
Tee Higgins' early exit
The largest contract in NFL history made ripples across the Bengals’ locker room. Bengals starting wide receiver Tee Higgins, who is in the middle of negotiating a new deal, told reporters that he wanted to be a number one wide receiver in the NFL.
“I definitely want to show I can be a No. 1.” pic.twitter.com/Wo9gowFw7x
— Jay Morrison (@ByJayMorrison) September 8, 2023
Veteran leader Tyler Boyd told reporters that Tee Higgins got the short stick when it came to negotiations and hopes the player and team agree to a deal soon.
Tyler Boyd on Tee Higgins: “He got the short end of the stick. He’s worth a lot. They have to come up with some type of agreement. I hope they get something done over the next couple weeks.”
“It relieves stress and has you more comfortable out there.”
— Charlie Goldsmith (@CharlieG__) September 8, 2023
It’s highly unusual to hear a locker room apply pressure to the front office immediately after securing their franchise leader. Usually, these are celebratory times for the players and teams as they see their friends rewarded for their work. In Cincinnati, it seems like the opposite is occurring as players line up outside the general manager’s office.
This could be a situation to monitor when the Browns play the Bengals in the regular season finale. There’s a strong possibility that some of the relationships begin to fester in Cincinnati as the season progresses.
The Browns have remained quiet for most of the week, preparing for their division rivals in silence and out of the limelight. The game between the two foes should be an exciting match.