The Cleveland Browns welcomed 11 new players through the 2012 NFL Draft and several others in free agency during the offseason.
As the team continues to acclimate the new players to its 4-3 defensive front and West Coast offense, the veterans have made it a point to help their teammates make the adjustment to professional football. One of those veterans, defensive back
“You have to make up your mind early and I think it’s important to be a professional,” Brown said. “You can’t be one of the guys and be cool, this and that and make it in this league. This is your livelihood. This is how you support your family and friends and it’s very important that you’re held accountable to your teammates. When you have a veteran that’s been there and done that and can tell you what to expect, it puts you ahead of the eight-ball.”
On Sunday afternoons in the fall, the attention of the sports world will be on several green fields 120 yards long by 53 yards wide. However, before players get to play on game days, they spend many hours working on film study, weight-training as well as conditioning and practice honing their skills.
Currently, the Browns are in the middle of their offseason program and started organized team activities (OTAs) on Tuesday in Berea. They will have 10 OTAs overall and a three-day minicamp in early June before getting into training camp at the end of July.
“Sundays are the fun part of it,” Brown said. “These are the times where it’s tough and you’re in the offseason program. Who’s going to be held accountable? How hard are you going to work? You find out the true person, the true individual. You find out their background and values. This is what it’s about; this is where championships are made. Everybody sees Sunday and they just see kids out there playing football, but they don’t know what it takes to get to Sunday. That’s a lot of hard work, dedication and sacrifice.”
Last summer, no NFL team was able to hold OTAs or minicamps because of a work-stoppage and ongoing negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL Players Association and league owners.
Brown said that with an offseason to install systems, “there will be no excuses” for mistakes made on the practice field and game day.
“We’ve been able to go out and work with one another, go through run-fits, go through pass plays where you talk to one another and work things out,” Brown said. “It should be one of those things when training camp gets here, you don’t have to work on some of the minute things. You can focus on the bigger and better picture.”
He added, “One heartbeat, that’s your goal. When things hit the fan, you’re all in that foxhole together and you come out swinging. That’s what these times are about, when you don’t want to get up and come to work in the morning and do things like that. You want to do things that are fun in the offseason, but you have guys sacrificing and committing to one another and you see the guys care because everybody’s here.”
LEARNING TO BE A PRO
When he was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft, Brown walked into a defensive backs room run by veteran cornerback Troy Vincent and safety Brian Dawkins. Dawkins announced his retirement from the NFL last month after a 16-year career.
“(I learned) how to take care of your body, how to approach week-in and week-out, game situations,” Brown said of Dawkins’ advice. “He’d give you values about life and things that you go through with family, all of the above. I can honestly say my career wouldn’t be where it has come today without a guy like that in that locker room.”
STUDENT NOW THE MENTOR
After spending 10 years in the NFL, Brown now finds himself in a similar role that Dawkins and Vincent once held, that of mentor.
Brown has the most playing experience of the Browns’ 10 defensive backs and is one of the most-tenured defensive players currently on the roster. The average age of the nine other defensive backs in the Browns’ locker room is 24.7 years old. The same nine players average less than 2.5 years of service in the NFL.
As a rookie two years ago,
“It’s exciting,” Brown said of working with the younger players. “You can tell they love the game and that’s what it’s about. They’re studying. They’re willing to meet at this time in the offseason when a lot of young guys want to be out partying and doing other things. They want to get better; they want this team, this organization to get better. To me, that speaks volumes, more than anything or a play you can make on the field.”