Chase Winovich needed no introduction to Cleveland when he found out he was traded from the Patriots to the Browns last month.
Winovich, a three-year veteran edge rusher, grew up in Jefferson Hills, Pennsylvania, and attended high school about 15 miles south from Pittsburgh. He already knew plenty about the Browns-Steelers rivalry and could easily visualize what football meant to Cleveland, which is why he arrived in the city with excitement when the Browns acquired him at the start of the new league year in March.
"What an amazing football state it is," Winovich said Monday at John R. Buchtel Community Learning Center in Akron, where he represented the Browns during a groundbreaking ceremony for a new turf field provided by the team. "I already knew how passionate (the fans) were about football and the city of Cleveland. They really love Cleveland, and to represent that for the Browns, it's amazing."
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Winovich started getting acclimated with his new team last week, when players were welcomed back to CrossCountry Mortgage Campus for the start of the offseason program, and will be competing in a room that currently doesn't have a solidified starter to line up opposite Pro Bowl DE Myles Garrett. Winovich likely will at least be a part of the edge rotation regardless of whether the Browns add any new players from now until the start of training camp.
The Browns believe Winovich can channel the kind of production from his first two seasons in the league, when he generated 11 combined sacks and 50 tackles. He didn't record a sack in 2021 and was injured for four games, but he's in a fresh setting now — he's 27, putting him in the prime of his career, and has learned a lot since he was drafted in the third round in 2019.
"I knew I could do certain things well coming out of college, but there were a lot of areas in which I could get better," he said. "Some of those included my emotions and just mentally understanding football, understanding the mechanisms of pass rush and understanding myself. Physically, I feel the strongest I've ever been. I think there's a lot to be optimistic about."
Winovich likely will learn even more as he works in the same room as Garrett — and not just about football.
Winovich is intrigued by Garrett's love for paleontology, which has been well-documented since he became the first overall pick in 2017. Winovich studied evolutionary anthropology, the study of the history of human biology, at Michigan and admires how Garrett also has an appreciation for a scientific niche.
"There's something about understanding and appreciating history that I found really fascinating," Winovich said. "He's clearly an amazing football player, and I've already learned a ton from watching him play. I'm looking to learning even more from him."
Winovich has a different look, too.
The blond hair that fell around his shoulders and served as a staple look during his career at Michigan and first years in the NFL is gone. He decided to cut it as a symbol of a new start in his life and career, which made it all the more fitting that he was traded to Cleveland — thus beginning the new start — three days later.
"I just realized how I felt and where my life was at going into the fourth year of my contract," he said. "I was meditating on it, and I realized that this is the time to cut my hair."
His new start comes with an opportunity to carve a big role on a talented defense, one that has talented players at every position and is fresh off a season in which it finished as a top 5 unit in the league.
It's what Winovich needs, and he's eager to continue diving into a place he knows football is embraced.
"I just couldn't be more fired up," he said. "I'm in the perfect situation."