BEREA, Ohio (AP)Jacoby Brissett knows his expiration date as a starter in this most unusual season for Cleveland is drawing near.

Soon, he’ll no longer be the Browns starting quarterback, but Deshaun Watson’s backup.

That’s been the plan all along.

And although his role will dramatically change, Brissett has vowed to be himself.

He knew of this eventuality when he signed as a free agent in March with the Browns, and the impending demotion won’t stop him from being a leader – for a team that needs one now more than ever.

”I think that’s what makes me who I am,” Brissett said Thursday. ”My circumstances don’t change who I am. I’m a teammate first. I will continue to be that no matter what the circumstances are and figure out something else to do.”

In typical fashion, Brissett finished that sentence with a smile.

The 29-year-old has been a breath of fresh air since the day he arrived, giving the Browns a respected veteran to bridge the gap created when Watson was suspended 11 games by the NFL for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

”He has been invaluable to me and invaluable to this team,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. ”Just from a leadership standpoint of how he handles himself around the building and the things he does to push his teammates, it’s what great leaders do.”

Brissett has indeed delivered, playing at a level that few expected from the journeyman QB.

It hasn’t always been pretty as Brissett threw three late interceptions in close loses, and committed three turnovers in a blowout loss to New England two weeks ago.

But he bounced back last week against Baltimore, completing 22 of 27 passes for 258 yards in a 23-20 loss. It wasn’t enough, but the performance underscored Brissett’s promise to give everything he’s got and live with the results.

He’s only got four starts left – Watson is eligible to return and play on Dec. 4 – but Brissett said his focus isn’t on what’s left, rather what’s ahead, starting with Monday night’s crucial game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

”I never really thought about the duration of it – more-so just the journey of it,” he said. ”I’ve had a lot of fun. I’m going to continue to have fun and going out there and trying to do my best. That’s all that I’ve been thinking about.”

The Browns (2-5) didn’t expect to be fighting to save their season at this point, but that’s where they’re at. Four losses by a combined nine points have pushed them perilously close to the edge of playoff extinction, which is why this week’s game is so vital.

Through the twists and turns of this ”rollercoaster” season, Brissett has done his best to keep things in perspective.

A season-ending injury to linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., his close friend and teammate in both Indianapolis and Cleveland, inspired Brissett while also reminding him of his own fragility.

”Like I tell him every day when I walk into the building, `I think about you’ because these aren’t promised,” Brissett said. ”The only thing we have is the one (game) right now. I think that’s the mindset that I like to carry because listen, I don’t know when the train is going to stop for me.

”While I’m here, I’m just enjoying it.”

NOTES: TE David Njoku said he’s ”healing pretty fast” from an ankle sprain sustained at Baltimore. Njoku isn’t ruling himself out for Monday’s game and will continue to get round-the-clock treatments. He’s tied for the team lead with 34 catches. … CB Denzel Ward remains in concussion protocol. He’s missed the past two games. … DEs Myles Garrett (shoulder) and Jadeveon Clowney (ankle) were among the most notable players not practicing. … LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (knee) and RG Wyatt Teller (calf) were also out. Teller missed last week’s game. … WR Amari Cooper and LG Joel Bitonio were both given rest days.

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