For the first time in nearly four months, nine of the Browns' veterans wore their Sunday best Tuesday when they donned the team's new uniforms.
Based on the comments they made shortly before the ceremony, it pained them a little to take them off and stow them away for another four months.
"I think I speak for everybody: We're ready to go, we're ready to get back to work," linebacker Barkevious Mingo said. "The season didn't end how we wanted it to. Great start, but we've got to take that great start and carry it over to the whole season and win games in the later part of the year."
The unofficial start to 2015 starts Monday when the Browns report for their offseason workout program in Berea. The team will log five, four-day sessions before they join forces for the first OTA on May 26. Sandwiched in between is rookie mini-camp (May 8-10), where the players acquired with the Browns' 10 picks in the 2015 draft and rookie free agents come together for their first practices in the NFL.
The 2015 offseason workouts will be the first official interaction between the returning players and those who signed with the team since the season came to a close last December at Baltimore. The turnover on both sides of the ball hasn't been on the level of previous years, but there'll be plenty of handshakes and introductions at the first team meeting.
"It's awesome. Having the opportunity to work with new guys, whether it's coaches and players, again, you kind of feel the buzz that's in Cleveland and in Ohio," said wide receiver Brian Hartline, a Canton native who signed with the Browns after six seasons with the Miami Dolphins. "To add some players to this team, to go after this division championship is pretty exciting. The uniforms just add to it, and I know the players are pretty pumped."
Hartline is one of nine players who has been added to the roster via free agency since the 2014 season ended, joining quarterbacks Josh McCown and Thaddeus Lewis, defensive backs Micah Pellerin, Varmah Sonie and Tramon Williams, defensive lineman Randy Starks, tight end Rob Housler and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. Gone are tight end Jordan Cameron (Miami Dolphins), linebacker Jabaal Sheard (New England Patriots), defensive back Buster Skrine (New York Jets), quarterback Brian Hoyer (Houston Texans), wide receiver Miles Austin (Philadelphia Eagles), defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin (Seattle Seahawks) and offensive lineman Paul McQuistan (released).
Players who came on strong throughout and late in the 2014 season such as linebacker Scott Solomon, wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, defensive back K'Waun Williams and more will enter the building with much more confidence and comfort.
"Confidence is high. We understand we picked up some guys on offense, picked up a corner in Tramon Williams," veteran safety Donte Whitner said. "Got some young guys coming back from last year that are going to develop into some really good football players for us. We just want to go out there and put the work in now, start really early, understand that we implemented the system last year and now we should have a step on everybody and don't have a new coaching staff and we should be that much better."
The additions of Hartline and Bowe to a receiving corps that dealt with absences and injuries throughout the season had Gabriel particularly excited. With added depth, experience and an injection of diverse skill sets, Gabriel sees a system that will allow him to thrive even more than he did as an undrafted rookie.
"It's always exciting," Gabriel said. "Just to learn from those guys, I'm ready to try to pick their brain every day."
The look and feel of the team will change significantly in two weeks, when the Browns get their draft started with the 12th and 19th picks in the first round. Veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby had a simple word to describe what the Browns have been doing and continue to do since the 2014 season ended in disappointing fashion.
"We're getting ready for this draft and I know we'll do some exciting things in this draft and add some more pieces and make this run," Dansby said. " It's about our time.
"We can be great. We just have to put the work in. That's what it's going to take. If we're willing to put the work in and make sacrifices, we can be great."