Though he may not have anticipated it when he signed with the Browns in March, Sheldon Richardson has been the one constant on the defensive line.
As such, the veteran defensive tackle has emerged as one of the group's top leaders. That's been necessary for a group that lost its best pass rusher (Myles Garrett), saw its other veteran end (Olivier Vernon) sidelined for nearly a month with a knee injury and has welcomed five new additions since the start of the season.
ClevelandBrowns.com caught up with Richardson as he wrapped up preparations for Sunday's game against the Bengals.
CB.com: It was a tough loss in Pittsburgh, but it looks like the team has regrouped nicely. How have you seen the guys respond?
Richardson: Everyone is refocused, re-energized up and ready to get after it this week.
CB.com: You've been in a lot of situations like this throughout your career. Some seasons where you're headed toward the playoffs, some not. What's the key to focusing at this point of the season?
Richardson: Any given Sunday. It's the NFL. It might look like we're out of it right now but you never know in two weeks.
CB.com: How much of a carrot on the end of the stick is it that the team still has a shot at the playoffs?
Richardson: You gotta play until you're out of it, until you're mathematically out of it. We're not eliminated so we've got to keep playing like we're in it.
CB.com: There has been so many new faces on the defensive line. How have you seen all of them get up to speed?
Richardson: Kudos to Coach (Tosh) Lupoi when it comes to that. He comes in, gets the guy mentally ready. Physically, they've got to bring their own juice. Other than that, as far as them executing the game plan, he does a pretty good job on that.
Check out photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Bengals Sunday by team photographer Matt Starkey
CB.com: You've never been in that kind of a situation before where you join a team midseason. What have you seen as the key for someone to get right into the swing of things.
Richardson: Just coming in and putting your best foot forward in practice so we can get some kind of basis of what you do best. Go from there. I had a little something like that, not midseason, but definitely the beginning of the season when I got traded. I was used to that one.
CB.com: What'd you do to get up to speed after getting traded from the Jets to the Seahawks?
Richardson: Just buckled down in the book. Any little extra niche you can get as far as being productive in the defense, you try to stick with that.
CB.com: Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has praised your leadership during this stretch. Has that been a concerted effort on your part?
Richardson: A little bit. They come to me. Athletes lead. Everybody is a leader but they tend to follow guys they pick to lead, and they chose me. I'm just trying to show them the best I can.
CB.com: Is that different for you now being the oldest guy in the room?
Richardson: A little bit. I'm used to it now. Just got to keep pushing forward.
CB.com: What have you seen from Chad Thomas in his second season?
Richardson: Next man up doing his job. True professional. Just coming in and his athleticism speaks for itself. He can play just about anybody in this league and he's proven it.
CB.com: When you look back at the Pittsburgh game, what's the thing that needs the most attention?
Richardson: Eliminating big plays. It's going to be tough because those guys like to play out in space a lot. And tackling. Got to wrap up.
CB.com: The Bengals have a running back in Joe Mixon who can break those tackles, but he's had a tough time getting going.
Richardson: You can't go off everybody else. You don't want to be the team that gives it up. Just got to go in and work the technique and make the plays that come to you.
CB.com: What have you seen from Baker Mayfield in practice this week while he's dealt with the hand injury?
Richardson: He should be all right. He's been battling. I can't even tell the difference if his hand is hurt or not. I never even thought twice about it.
CB.com: Do the Bengals look like a 1-11 team?
Richardson: Not necessarily. The way they're moving guys out of the hole on double teams, the way they run. I don't know if it's turning into touchdowns because it's broken up into segments for us with how we look at it, but honestly those guys don't look like a 1-11 team to me.
CB.com: How much did it change for them when Andy Dalton returned?
Richardson: He's pocket savvy, he knows the offense. He can get the ball there, so we have to get to them.
CB.com: How much has the confidence inside the locker room changed since Week 1?
Richardson: It's still up there. Every guy is coming in here focused and coming in and putting in work. They know they've got 16 games guaranteed on their schedule, so that's what they're sticking to.