ClevelandBrowns.com: Jim, you’ve know Mike Pettine for years now. This is his first time as a head coach in the NFL. Is there a difference in Mike Pettine the head coach? What have you noticed?
ClevelandBrowns.com: You mention Pettine’s personality. We saw the orange practice jersey’s for winning competitions. We saw assistant coaches fielding punts to shake things up. Pettine has added that Rex Ryan element here in Cleveland to keep things loose, hasn’t he?
Jim Leonhard: He is big into the fact that football is a game for kids and we’re very fortunate to still be playing it. So you might as well have fun. If you’re not having fun, you are really missing out on the whole point. Not to say it’s laidback here – it’s very competitive at this level, especially during training camp. Like you said, the orange jersey’s made it more competitive. He gets the juices flowing a little bit more and building that brotherhood in having each other’s backs. Trying to build a family and something special, that’s what coaching is all about to Mike Pettine.
ClevelandBrowns.com: You’ve played with Pettine in New York and Buffalo for numerous years. Why is this defensive system so effective?
Jim Leonhard: First of all, we’ve always had a lot of talent within the system, which is a testament to the coaches getting the right guys in there. The system is very multiple. In the NFL you have to give the offense a lot of different looks. If they know what coverages you are in and you’re very vanilla, then you’re going to get picked apart. It’s fun for us because all 11 guys on the field know if they do their job right, there will be opportunities to make plays. Guys don’t have to go out of structure and try and be more than they are. They can trust in this system, go out and play hard and the plays and success are going to come.
ClevelandBrowns.com: Who first called you to come and join the Cleveland Browns?
Jim Leonhard: I had some correspondence with Jim O’Neil, so I knew I was on the radar. Once it got close with another team, my agent and I called the Browns, and they jumped into the party and made an offer. I have a lot of faith in coach Pettine and coach O’Neil. To try and help implement this system in year one, it means a lot to me.
ClevelandBrowns.com: The Browns are a young football team. You and
Jim Leonhard: This is my sixth year in the defense. I know how they call games. I know how they approach the play calling and the playbook in general. Now it’s just trying to take it from training camp mode, where you are looking at the whole playbook, to now looking at how things are going to go during the regular season. I’ll also tell the young guys how offenses will try and attack this defense. I really pass that knowledge along. I’ve never really been a guy who cared about my role. I’ve started and I’ve been a backup. I have no ego with that. I really don’t care what my role is going to be as long as I have one.