Larry Ogunjobi's focus is centered on the present, but he can't help but be excited by the future of the Browns defense.
The Browns defensive line is a shell of what it was at the start of the season, but the unit has continued to deliver enough pressure to keep opposing offenses honest. That kind of performance, coupled with the return of some of those missing players, has Ogunjobi excited for what's in store in 2020 and beyond.
First things first: The Browns have a game to play in Arizona, and the team's playoff hopes remain alive. ClevelandBrowns.com caught up with Ogunjobi shortly before he boarded the team plane to Phoenix.
CB.com: You guys have been inside all week to prepare for the dome in Arizona. How will that help get you accustomed to the surroundings Sunday?
Ogunjobi: It just takes timing. We're leaving a day early to try to get acclimated to the weather and the time difference. You just have to get used to the dome field, playing inside. There will be air conditioning and all that good stuff but I think the heat will rise pretty quickly with the fans and everybody cheering. It's been good. I feel like we had a good week of preparation. Guys are locked in. Still things to clean up, but that's normal.
CB.com: Good place to go in the winter when you play for the Cleveland Browns?
Ogunjobi: Oh yeah, most definitely. It's really cold outside. I'm actually coming down with something. The weather change has been kind of weird. Some weeks are warmer, this week it was super cold. My body's feeling it a little bit.
CB.com: How have you seen the defensive line respond to all of the new faces coming in and out of the lineup?
Check out photos as the team travels to Arizona to play the Cardinals by team photographer Matt Starkey
Ogunjobi: I think they've blossomed really well. We've got guys who are really excited to just play. You get out there, they're hungry to make the most of their opportunity. I think that's what we're doing. You've got guys that weren't supposed to be here – Porter Gustin, Bryan Cox, Brandin Bryant, Eli Ankou. They're guys stepping in and playing a really good role for the football team and making splash plays when we need them.
CB.com: Has this situation made you a veteran in a hurry?
Ogunjobi: Yeah. Even when I came in as a rookie, my mindset was, even though I'm a rookie, think like a veteran. I always try to be a sponge around the older guys and kind of soak up the knowledge and understand the game from their perspective. They're helping me a lot in the room. I think right now, I'm the longest tenured Brown in the room. Obviously, I've seen a lot of different faces, but at the same time I know that's the nature of the business. The guys that are stepping in have done a really good job. I can tell there's a desire to learn. There's not too many egos in the room as far as guys trying to get theirs. It's more of just wanting to find ways to help the team win. I feel like that's really important, especially with all the change and everything.
CB.com: How important has Sheldon Richardson been to this group?
Ogunjobi: Really good, especially that week I was gone and Myles (Garrett) was gone even though I came back the following week. He has leadership and an ability to keep the room light and even-headed. Just the experience he has, and experience is something that can't be bought. You have to go through things, and he's seen a lot of football and understands the game extremely well. It brings a different level of player, almost a player-coach. He can tell you things that you need to look for, things you can see, things that can help you in your game.
CB.com: What do you think of him as a defensive end out there?
Ogunjobi: It's cool. It just shows his versatility. We talked about it before. I think after his first year they kind of had him playing everywhere with the Jets. He's been a player that just plays football. Wherever you line him up, he's going to find a way to make plays.
CB.com: Do you feel like that's something you could do in a pinch?
Ogunjobi: Oh yeah. I think my rookie year, it was just in practice, they let me play D-end, which was fun. I'm always down to try it out. I know it's a lot more open out there than it is at nose guard. At nose guard, you've got a lot of bodies around you but at the end you've got a lot more space to work with.
CB.com: Your team in college, Charlotte, was building a program when you started there. They just went through their first winning season. When you look at that from afar, how do you see that kind of steady building apply to what you're trying to do here?
Ogunjobi: I understand it's a process. A lot of people get frustrated and want this to happen now, but we've done things this season that no other Browns team has done. I don't think we've ever beaten the Ravens, Bengals and Steelers in the same season. People get really frustrated and things like that, but it's a process. Nothing happens overnight. I know we've been waiting for so long, but a little longer might not hurt, especially if you want to get things done the right way. Just know the guys who are in the building right now, the 53 men on this roster, they all have the desire to win and be the best they can be. Nobody wants to go out there and put on a bad performance. At the same time, this is the league and every team gets paid to go out there and try to win. The biggest thing is continuing to put it together, stack these wins and continue to build.
CB.com: What aspect about this defense has you excited about the future?
Ogunjobi: Once again, I really like our defensive line. I like the guys we've brought in. They have the hunger and desire to go out and compete. It feels like we've got really good guys in the linebacker room and on the back end. For a defense, we have all the right pieces. Once you know who's in, you continue to build that chemistry and you get that drive and swagger that develops through experience. I always look at how Seattle was with the Legion of Boom. It didn't just happen overnight. They went through some things, they experienced some things and then they got to the point where it's like, "This is how we play, this is the standard we set and nobody's going to stop us." I feel like we have the players to do that, but we just have to continue to build that each and every day.