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Training Camp

Cleveland Browns veterans see roster, talent ready for playoff push

One of Mike Pettine's top leaders feels the same way about the perceived lack of national love for the Browns heading into 2015.

Considering veteran safety Donte Whitner is one of the best at providing the pulse of Cleveland's locker room, it's a safe bet that feeling is close to unanimous among the Browns' 90 players entering training camp.

"I don't think we've earned anybody's respect yet. We don't expect them to give us anything. It's going to be earned," Whitner said Wednesday shortly before the team's conditioning test. "It's going to be the team that comes out here on the practice field that puts in the work on and off the field, goes out there on Sunday and performs and that team's going to earn the respect for 2015.

"We understand that and we have a bunch of guys that are willing to put that work in. That's what we're going to do. We're going to work, work, work tirelessly and let the chips fall where they may."

It was the response to point-blank questions that brought out the clearest sense of the Browns veterans' confidence heading into a 2015 season many outside the training facility expect to end in similar fashion as last year, with Cleveland looking up at the rest of the AFC North.

Can the Browns be a legitimate playoff contender in 2015?

"Yes. Yes we do. We showed that last year but we didn't show the maturity and ability to close football games," Whitner said. "We have to understand that we have to go out there and earn it. We have a bunch of grown men now. There are no excuses to why we can't go out there and get it done. The talent is here. The knowledge is here. The scheme is here. The staff is here. There is no big reason why we can't go out there and get it done. If we don't get it done it means we didn't put the work in and that is not going to happen."

Is this roster, which has undergone a major overhaul since Ray Farmer was promoted to general manager in February 2014, talented enough to compete in the AFC North, which produced three playoff teams last season?

"There is plenty. The talent pool is there," quarterback Josh McCown said. "There is depth at every position and there is going to be a lot of competition and that is a good thing. There is plenty of talent on this squad to get everything accomplished that we want to get accomplished and all the goals we have."

Taking a look at the setup here in Berea for training camp.

There are few Browns on the roster with more playoff experience than cornerback Tramon Williams, who was a regular in the postseason with the Green Bay Packers over nine seasons and owns a Super Bowl ring.

As he mulled multiple offers during his free agency, Williams took a close look at the potential rosters he'd be joining. It was more than just a secondary that hopes to be one of the NFL's best that attracted Williams to Cleveland.

It was the "potential," which he saw on display throughout OTAs and mini-camp.

"It is a new challenge. The challenge is getting us there," Williams said. "When I signed here I knew the potential that this team had and it is intriguing for me because the players that I see we definitely are capable of making it to that point. We just have to believe it."

That belief, in line with Browns coach Mike Pettine's "actions into words" motto, will become more tangible starting Thursday.

"We feel that we have an offense right now that complements our defense and understands that this football team is going to win with defense," Whitner said. "It is going to be built with defense. We are going to stop the run and we are going to play really well in the secondary.

"With that being said, we expect to go out here and win a lot of football games."

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