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Cleveland Browns have plenty to play for

Posted Dec 21, 2013

Despite being out of the playoff race, the Cleveland Browns have plenty to play for over the season’s final two weeks.

A chance at the AFC North Division Championship was spoiled with consecutive losses at the Cincinnati Bengals and home against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the end of November after a pre-bye week victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 4.

A potential playoff berth has been placed out of reach with a five-game losing streak to start the second half of the season, but in the eyes of the Cleveland Browns, there is still plenty to play for in the final two weeks of the regular season, starting with Sunday’s game at the New York Jets.

“Well, going into the offseason with a feeling of ending the season the right way, I think most importantly, you went to try and end things right,” quarterback Jason Campbell said. “The other part of it is, we’ve been stuck on four (wins) for a while now. We’ve been really close. Three of the last five games were right there for us with an opportunity to win.

“We could have been a 7-7 team right now still fighting for the playoff hunt, but we’ve just got to keep fighting and understand that we’re building something and there were teams that had four wins last year or five wins last year and a year later they’re fighting for the playoffs, so when you’re in these situations, it can tell a lot about your character, your attitude and your team. Some guys (have) been part of teams before where some guys try to pack it up and move and go home and we’re not in that situation. We’re still trying to fight and move forward and improve as a group. What you do know can pay dividends later.”

Veteran tight end Gary Barnidge said that while it is difficult to play the remaining games without the hope of a postseason appearance, the Browns have taken the mindset of playing the end of the season the right way.

“It’s always tough when you’re not playing for the playoffs, but that’s one aspect that we harp on as players and coaches,” Barnidge said. “We can’t let it be that way. It’s a privilege to be doing what we’re doing. We all enjoy it and we love it and we’re not going to let that stop us. We’re going to go out there, put out everything we can and hopefully, get a win.”

Six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas added, “I think it’s really important for us to finish the season strong because what we do now is going to be what we remember in the offseason. There’s going to be a lot of guys on this team that are going to be fighting for positions on this team and on other teams, so there’s an urgency around here for everybody to win these last two games. We need to put our best foot forward going into the offseason for the Browns, but also for the guys that won’t be with the Browns next year. They want to put their best foot forward so that there’s somebody out there that wants them in free agency or if they get released.”

It is this time of year, when the playoffs are no longer a possibility, that Thomas said he believes players learn the most about themselves and their teammates.

“You learn a lot about the type of player somebody is during the last couple games, especially when the playoffs aren’t on the line,” Thomas said. “People want to say, ‘Nothing’s on the line,’ but you’re going to find out how much they love this game and what type of commitment they’re going to have, if they’re going to spend the extra time, even if it’s not going to mean going to the playoffs.”