Barkevious Mingo underwent successful surgery earlier this offseason to repair an injury that hindered him throughout the 2014 season.
"My shoulder feels so good, man," Mingo said in an interview at the Browns facility. Mike Pettine told ClevelandBrowns.com Mingo is progressing well enough that he might even participate in April's OTAs.
For the entire 2014 season, Mingo said it was like playing football with a sling on his left arm. The outside linebacker couldn't even lift his arm above his head while wearing shoulder pads.
But the second-year pro was adamant he still could be productive on the field and opted to postpone the surgery. In the Browns defense, Mingo took on the role of various odd jobs – taking on two blockers, covering tight ends in space – and he thrived later in the season.
"We don't want to make excuses for a guy," Pettine said. "But this is a guy that could have shut it down. He decided to go ahead and play with the harness. To me, that's a credit to him. There's a level of consistency that he needs to achieve, but I think for the most part that he trended upward as the season went on as he got a little bit more comfortable in the role."
The Dec. 7 matchup against the Colts is a solid indication of how Mingo grew as a player despite the shoulder limitation. Mingo was flying around the field, deflecting passes and generated enough pressure to force quarterback Andrew Luck into an interception.
In two years with the Browns, Mingo has logged 81 total tackles and seven sacks, but again, Pettine and the defensive coaches have put Mingo in a role where they aren't exactly measuring his statistics.
"We like to preach taking two defenders at the point of attack," defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil said in November. "I think there were at least five or six examples against Atlanta where Mingo did that and allowed a linebacker to scrape free over the top and make a play."
The sour taste of a winless December has faded in Mingo's mind. New leadership on defense in Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby weren't just preseason storylines – the veterans steered the Browns to a near-winning record.
"We won seven games – and four the year before that – so, there was obvious progress," Mingo said. "Both of those guys [Whitner and Dansby] have a knowledge where they anticipate plays and gather pre-snap information for us. I mean, from that standpoint, they were huge."
Rest, some travel and family time in Louisiana are the only three things Mingo has on his docket from now until April's OTAs. But with shoulder surgery out of the way, he expects to make even more waves in 2015.
And depending on who the Browns draft or bring in during free agency, there could be more opportunities to rush the passer, too.
"That's the goal," said Mingo. "Keep giving it 100 percent, no matter what."