Don't tell Danny Shelton that Thursday's preseason opener against the Washington Redskins doesn't count for anything.
Shelton's enthusiasm has been infectious ever since he arrived in Berea. The first-round pick has carried it into training camp and has performed well enough to land plenty of snaps with the first-team defense. He's expected to see a good dose of work in the middle of Cleveland's defensive line against a tough Washington offensive line and Alfred Morris-led running attack.
ClevelandBrowns.com caught up with Shelton earlier in the week to take the temperature on his mood and pick his brain heading into the first on-field action of his NFL career.
ClevelandBrowns.com: What's been the biggest surprise for you since you came to Cleveland?
Shelton: The fans definitely drive me. I wasn't expecting to see so many people. Just the fact that you have so much free time compared to college. You have a lot of downtime because there are so many different periods going on with special teams and individuals. It's a lot to prepare for so you have to keep your body ready for team period and your body ready for one-on-ones. That was a little different for me.
CB.com: What's been the biggest difference off the field from college?
Shelton: Everybody's in tune in meetings. You don't really worry about people not knowing their assignments. There's more confidence and more of a comfort level in the meeting room even when you get onto the field. You start playing and doing your job, you can count on the guy next to you to do his job.
CB.com: How's it like in the Browns' D-line room?
Shelton: It's been great. Vets, they have the rookies bringing in snacks. We're having good times laughing and stuff but when we need to be serious and concentrate, it's exactly that. Everybody's being professional and everybody's in tune. We don't have any problems.
CB.com: Who's been working close with you?
Shelton: I have a lot of them. Billy Winn, Phil (Taylor), Randy Starks, they've all contributed to me understanding the play calls and understanding what my assignment is.
CB.com: What have they told you the key to breaking into the league as a rookie?
Shelton: Really just taking care of your body. The league is so long but your career can be short. Just being prepared for the 16 weeks. I got to make sure I'm taking care of my body off and on the field.
CB.com: Why are you always the first guy out to the practice field?
Shelton: I just go to meetings halfway dressed and it's quicker for me to get dressed than the other guys because they still got to get everything on. I don't really want to wait in there and let my energy die down so I just go out here and kind of soak everything in and focus down and start warming up.
CB.com: What's it been like going against Pro Bowl-caliber players like Alex Mack and Joel Bitonio in practice?
Shelton: They're great just to work with because there's days where they win and there's days where I get them. It's just promising to me. I know that I'm getting better being here and going against our guys. They're one of the best I've gone against.
CB.com: How much confidence have you gained that you can be a three-down player in the NFL?
Shelton: I felt way confident just coming in the first day and realizing there's so much down time. It doesn't take as much energy out of you compared to college because in college they had us running everywhere and making sure we're up to shape because of the no-huddle teams. You don't really have to worry about that in the league.
CB.com: You ran across the field to hit Marlon Moore during last week's Orange and Brown scrimmage. What's going through your mind when you make a play like that?
Shelton: It's just something you have to have. Playing football, you have to have passion. You have to have the love for the game. You have to be able to do the plays you're not expected to do. It's always four-to-six seconds. Within those four-to-six seconds, you have to try as hard as you can to make a play.
CB.com: What's your mindset going into your first preseason game?
Shelton: Really just doing my job. A lot of people go into these games and want to be super heroes and want to do extra. That's the most important thing now. The other thing is just playing my game. Not getting ahead of the game or not changing up my style of play. I'm really going to concentrate on doing my job and just playing the way I've always been playing.
CB.com: If this line stays healthy, how good can it be?
Shelton: I think we're great. I think we have great depth and great guys around us. It's just a matter of time before our team becomes great.