Browns' Austin Hooper: Apparent Criticism of Raiders' Jason Witten Was Sarcasm

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2020

FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2019, file photo, Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper (81) runs against the Tennessee Titans during the first half of an NFL football game in Atlanta. The Browns are working toward a deal with two-time Pro Bowl free agent tight end Austin Hooper, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. Hooper was one of the main free agency targets for Cleveland, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because teams can’t officially announce deals until Wednesday, Marcg 18, 2020.(AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
John Bazemore/Associated Press

Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper recently delivered a sarcastic jab to Las Vegas Raiders counterpart Jason Witten while discussing the AFC North team's depth at the position ahead of the 2020 NFL season.

Hooper signed a four-year, $42 million contract with the Browns in March. He's one of six tight ends on the roster heading into training camp, joining David Njoku, Harrison Bryant, Pharaoh Brown, Stephen Carlson and Nate Wieting.

The two-time Pro Bowl selection said Wednesday he doesn't expect a heated, cutthroat competition, telling reporters:

"My style, I've never really been a rah-rah guy at all. I just kind of like to lead by example, and if people have questions, I will answer them. I'm an open book. I don't try to hoard information. I don't like doing the whole Jason Witten deal where it's me versus everyone else in the tight end room. David, Harrison, Stephen, Pharaoh, Nate, we are all in this together."

Hooper, potentially sensing the incoming backlash based on the comment about Witten, quickly attempted to make his intention clear in a Twitter post.

"Clearly being sarcastic if people watch the interview instead of simply reading the clickbait headline but I'll take my whoopin' online," he wrote.

Witten rarely received public criticism across his 16 years with the Dallas Cowboys before signing with the Raiders in March. The exception was a brief remark by former teammate Martellus Bennett during a 2016 interview with ESPN's Mina Kimes.

"I hated Jason Witten. I appreciated his game, but I always hated him," Bennett said without providing any further information.

Hooper is coming off a strong 2019 season with the Atlanta Falcons that saw him post career-high totals in receptions (75), receiving yards (787) and touchdowns (six).

He'll receive most of the team's snaps at tight end when the Browns open the regular season Sept. 13 with a road game against the AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens.