It's hard to find anyone that embodies Cleveland's positive mindset amid an 0-5 start more than veteran Andrew Hawkins.
The shifty wide receiver explains why in this conversation with ClevelandBrowns.com.
CB.com: How would you sum up the mood of the team heading into Sunday's game at Tennessee?
Hawkins: We're trying to get this first win. I think that's on everyone's mind. We're not going to be negative or worry about things that didn't go right weeks ago. We're focused on this week. We've got to taste victory. I think that's what's keeping everyone up and everyone kind of striving toward that goal.
CB.com: What's kept those spirits up?
Hawkins: Just the guys in the locker room. You have a bunch of fighters in this room. The record doesn't indicate where this team really is at, even judging from last year. I would take this team 10 times out of 10 over last year. The coaches are doing an incredible job, the players are working. We have young guys and it's not an excuse. As experience comes, guys get more comfortable. That's just what we're waiting on. Every week is an opportunity and we're just chasing that first victory.
CB.com: Is your role as one of the team's veterans different than it might have been in years past?
Hawkins: It's a little different. We have so many young guys, new guys, first and second year in the league. My job is I've been on other teams, I've been on playoff teams, I've been on past Browns teams. It's easy to get frustrated when you don't have any wins. Just like I'm telling you, I tell them. I say look, this is a good football team, this is a talented football team. When it comes, the wins are going to come in droves. We've just got to keep the course and do as coach asks. It's not a matter of if, it's when.
CB.com: What's it meant for you personally to come back after suffering two concussions last season?
Hawkins: Anytime you get to put the helmet on, it's a blessing, win, lose or draw. I'm just kind of soaking it all in. I don't have a lot of time left on the football field. It's a blessing, man. I'm just trying to enjoy the teammates, enjoy the locker room, enjoy the few chances I get to go out there and compete because it's going to be over sooner than you know it.
CB.com: Have you always had that self-awareness about your playing days in the NFL?
Hawkins: I actually have. From playing college football to playing in the pros, I kind of always went to every game like it was my last one. In the situation I was in, you never knew if it was going to be and it hasn't changed. Every game is a blessing. I fought so hard to get here so I don't take it for granted. I tried to make sure I respect the football game when I play and how I play. It's worth it, it's meant so much to me in my life.
CB.com: How do you impart that on all of the young wide receivers on this team?
Hawkins: I just try to tell them I've been where football wasn't an option. I didn't have the opportunity to go practice, the opportunity to go play, the opportunity to be on a football team. That is a lonely feeling. That's a terrible feeling to want something so bad that you have no control over getting. Me trying to tell them that, they kind of look at my story and they respect me and the way I go about things. They have so much more talent than I had at their age. If they go about it that way, the sky is really the limit for them.
CB.com: What have you seen from the rookies?
Hawkins: Corey (Coleman's) had an injury. He's working to get back. I can't say enough about (Rashard) Higgins and Ricardo (Louis) over the last couple of weeks, the steps they've taken, the way they work. Every rep matters to them, every play matters to them. It's something that if they continue to do in their career, they're going to be big names in this league and big names for the Cleveland Browns.
CB.com: How has your role changed with Coleman out of the lineup?
Hawkins: Obviously I'm asked to do a little more. You draft a first-rounder to come in and play right away and injuries happen that you can't control, so it's kind of thrust me into more of a playing role than probably was the plan. That's football. I've got to prepare for it. I can't complain about it. You've got to do what you got to do. Do your job and do what you're asked to the best of your abilities. If I do that, I'm not crying over what happened.
CB.com: What have you thought of what Terrelle Pryor has been able to do this season
Hawkins: I don't know if I've ever played with a player that cares about football more than Terrelle cares about football. Sometimes you've almost got to dial him back to kind of keep life in perspective because he cares about it so much. He does so much, he's in the facility so long. It's just a testament to what type of person he is, a testament to how resilient he is. He also has a story of football being taken away from him and not knowing if he'd get it back. I think he's had kind of a newfound look on going about the game. I can't say enough about the steps he's making. He's going to be a big-time receiver in this league and he kind of already is.
CB.com: What's your favorite memory from the 2014 comeback win at Tennessee?
Hawkins: I think that team mirrors this team a lot in the way that they fight. We went down and guys didn't blink an eye. Take it a play at a time, a series at a time, a quarter at a time and slowly fought our way back. That's something this team has done all year. We haven't had an opportunity to end on the winning side of things but that spirit is still with this football team. If we can have that fight from the start, the sky is the limit for what we can do.