In each of his first two NFL seasons, Cleveland Browns outside linebacker
When the team switched to a 3-4 front from the 4-3 in which Sheard played during those two seasons, the 6-foot-2, 255-pound defender made the transition to outside linebacker with one thing in mind: winning.
“I’m all about winning this year,” Sheard said after Tuesday’s practice. “That’s the attitude around here, and I’m just here to help that. I always did what I could to help the team win. I tried to do my job, but, if I was tired on third down, I probably wouldn’t come out the game. This year, I’m in it to win it. If I need to come out of the game, I’m going to come out of the game and get somebody else in there. Whatever it takes to win, that’s been the attitude in the locker room. Everybody’s excited.
“Everywhere I’ve been, from high school to college, we always started off with a losing record, and within two years, three years, everybody gets that same type of spirit and feeling and it’s more like a family and guys are winning.”
Sheard knew the transition would take time, and if he ever forgot, he would quickly hearken back to the criticism and second-guessing that came his way once the defensive switch was announced.
“It was something I knew I could do,” Sheard said. “I just wasn’t expecting people not to think I could do it. When I came out of college, that’s something I was being looked at as doing. Having the opportunity to do it, it’s fun. It’s been a challenge, but what’s work without a challenge?!
“You might create a mismatch. I might, sometimes, get put on a running back. Just in the scheme, if I get put on a running back, it’s over. There’s times I may end up free, or somebody inside might end up free and we’ll get sacks. Just like that, we’ll be off the field.”
Sheard began making the transition back in April when the Browns reported for the start of the 10-week offseason program. Since that first team meeting, Sheard has been working with defensive coordinator Ray Horton and outside linebackers coach Brian Baker to learn the system.
“They’re humble coaches,” Sheard said. “They’re just really here to coach you, make you better and if we have any mishaps or things are not clicking, we’ll throw it out. It’s in a language we can all understand. Coach Baker is doing a great job of breaking it down and helping us understand it even better.”
In addition to learning from his coaches, Sheard has developed a bond with his fellow defenders, something he feels is critical to the success of the team.
“We work together up front,” Sheard said. “I know if I miss my assignment or a guy flashes by me, I know Craig (Robertson’s) a quick, athletic guy that’s going to help me out, pick up that coverage and we’ll just switch it off.
“That’s defense, period. It’s a team thing. We’ve all got to depend on each other. Up front, even when the secondary’s back there, we’ve got to depend on their coverage. They’ve got to depend on us to get the quarterback or stop the run. There’s always somebody depending on somebody.”