Joel Bitonio can hear the clock ticking. Not precisely Marisa Tomei as Mona Lisa Vito stomping her foot on the porch in “My Cousin Vinny,” however the sense of urgency is there.
Bitonio, the left guard who was named first-team All-Pro for the second straight 12 months Friday, has at all times taken losses hard. He’s too gifted and too devoted to easily settle for defeat.
Bitonio’s tone was totally different after the Browns misplaced 17-10 to the Saints on Christmas Eve and 28-14 to the Steelers on Sunday to finish the season with a 7-10 document. He was dejected.
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“I hate using the word, but I’m getting older,” he stated Monday as gamers cleaned out their lockers. “I’m getting older, and you don’t know how many years you have left playing. I’m not in Year 2 or 3 where it’s like, hey, I’ve got a lot of time left.
“So it’s one of those things where I want to win. Everybody wants to win, but you put in the work, you play this game, obviously we’re paid a lot of money. It’s a dream to play this game, to just even have the opportunity to play it. But at the end of the day, we all want to win a Super Bowl, and you feel like a little bit of your career’s empty if you don’t have that opportunity. So you run out of time eventually.”
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Bitonio turned 31 in October and was a second-round choose (No. 35 total) in 2014, so it’s a protected wager he’s on the again 9 of his profession. His efficiency hasn’t slowed, as evidenced by the back-to-back All-Pros and 5 straight Pro Bowls, however he is aware of the realities of soccer and life.
He additionally watched good buddy and left sort out Joe Thomas play at a Hall of Fame degree — he’s a finalist for Canton in his first 12 months of eligibility — with out having fun with group success. Thomas went to 10 straight Pro Bowls however had just one successful season and by no means performed within the postseason.
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“I’ve talked to Joe a bunch,” Bitonio stated. “I think that’s his biggest realization. He did everything in his power, and it wasn’t enough and that frustrated him towards the end of his career, and obviously the end of his career was really rebuilding for us as a franchise. So that was definitely a frustrating point.
“I think we’re hopefully going to get to the point where at the end of my career we’re going to be competing for things, so hopefully we have some time. But he’s definitely been frustrated by that throughout his career.”
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Thomas’ profession resulted in 2017 when his triceps tore. He performed seven video games and the Browns went 0-16, after going 1-15 in 2016. His lone successful document, 10-6, got here in 2007, his rookie season.
Bitonio’s first 12 months featured a quick begin, because the Browns had been 6-3 and in first place within the AFC North. The wheels rapidly fell off, with Johnny Manziel inserted into the lineup and 5 straight losses to complete.
Bitonio missed six and 11 video games with accidents the following two seasons, then returned for the bottoming out in 2017. Bitonio hasn’t missed a regular-season snap for the reason that begin of that season — he was sidelined for the wild card recreation in 2020 on the COVID-19 listing — and has ridden the curler coaster of enchancment, 11-5 and a playoff win, then unrealized potential and unmet expectations the final two years.
Not sustaining the transient success has been troublesome to deal with.
“It was frustrating,” Bitonio stated. “It’s never easy in the NFL, but I thought that was going to take us to that level of we’re a playoff team every year, we’re going to try and compete for the AFC North every year and see where we’re at, and it didn’t happen the last two years. But I do have faith that we have the right core players, the right coach to take us to that level.”
The Browns had quite a bit happening this 12 months, most importantly the 11-game suspension of quarterback Deshaun Watson and his return for the ultimate six video games. That affected all the things, however Bitonio believes they nonetheless might’ve made the playoffs if that they had closed video games extra successfully. They went 1-4 in video games determined by three factors or fewer and had a late probability towards the Saints.
“It sounds like an excuse, but the NFL is such a close-game business. Every game’s meant to be close,” he stated. “If you look back on the season, there’s four games, five games that you’re like, even if we flip two or three of those, it’s like we’re sitting at 10 wins and you’re in the playoffs, and that’s something I think back on.
“But you have to figure out why you aren’t executing in those moments. It’s like you just have to figure out a way to do it. I think once you start doing it, it just happens, and then you’re going to turn into a consistent winner.”
Bitonio is the longest-tenured member of the group. Since his arrival, the Browns are 51-96-1, together with 1-1 within the playoffs.
“I really take it one year at a time,” he stated. “That’s my overall record. And you look back on it, there’s been a lot less successful seasons than successful seasons. But for me, I’ll look at the big picture for myself, what I want to do to get better, how I want to take that next step in my game because I think there’s always room to improve. And then big-picture thing, what can we do for this team next year?
“I don’t really look back on 2016 or ’17, that’s really not going to affect us this year. So it’s tough. You’d rather win games than lose games. And I want to win. Finishing my career out with some winning records would be great.”