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How Orson Charles quietly emerged as a Browns leader by being as loud and physical as he possibly can

Even when he's on the sidelines, Joel Bitonio keeps his head on a swivel at all times. There's no telling when he's about to be smacked in the mouth.

You never quite know when Orson Charles has you in his sights.

"I have to make sure my mouthpiece is in at all times because he's going to head butt you to get you going and I'm not ready for those at sometimes," Bitonio said. "He's constantly getting everybody juiced up.

"I don't know if it's caffeine or what but he's constantly yelling."

Ask Browns players and coaches about Charles, and a smile instantly flashes across their face. Everyone seemingly has an Orson story. He's been with the Browns for just a few months, a late roster addition at the start of training camp, but the journeyman's impact on one of the NFL's youngest rosters has been invaluable.

And it goes well beyond the 168 snaps he's logged thus far as Cleveland's starting fullback.

"He is like a fire plug, but I will tell you what, if Orson hits me in the chest again with his hands, we are going to have a big problem," offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens said. "Unique guys like Orson that there is never a dull moment with him around whether it is bad or good, he is getting people up, getting them going and you know he is always going to be up and he is always going to be going 100 miles per hour."

Charles doesn't know any other way. It's how he's always been, no matter the role he holds on the many teams he's represented.

He was like this at Tampa's Plant High School, where he starred as one of the nation's top wide receiver prospects. He was like this at the University of Georgia, where he starred as one of the SEC's best tight ends. And he's been like this throughout a seven-year NFL journey that's taken him to six different teams and bounced him between two different positions.

The energy, excitability, craziness -- whatever you want to call it -- comes naturally, and there's no way he can just bottle it up inside of himself.

"I like getting my guys pumped up," Charles said. "You name some of the best leaders like Michael Jordan and LeBron. They're great players but they make everybody else great, and that's why they won so many championships.

"It'd be selfish of me if I just have all this energy and just pump myself up. No, I need to pump 11 guys up."

It's why Charles is a constant presence in the Browns huddle, even when he's not supposed to be.

"Sometimes I think he's coming off the sidelines and I think, 'Oh, we've got our fullback in,'" Bitonio said. "I'm like 'what formation are we in?' and he'll tell me, and I'll say, 'That's a four-wide formation, what are you doing out here?' He goes, 'I'm just getting everyone going.'

"I think he runs more on and off the field to pump people up than actually when he plays in a game."

Head butts, chest bumps and yells. Charles has a full arsenal. It's been happening since Week 1 but went a little mainstream after Cleveland's Week 10 victory over the Falcons.

In an NFL Films video released a few days after the game, Charles is spotted hyping up rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield in customary fashion: screams, yells, chest bumps, head butts, the whole nine. A laughing Mayfield then walks over toward a huddle of players down the sidelines and calls Charles "a psycho."

Charles, who promptly received a link to the video by numerous people when it hit the Internet, took it as a term of endearment. Mayfield considered it one, too.

"If you follow him along, you can see how infectious his personality is and how physical he is on the field. It affects everybody else and you just kind of want to follow him," Mayfield said. "That's great to have out of a guy that normally doesn't get a lot of recognition but takes pride in it, doesn't care what it is. He just wants to win really badly."

That desire has only grown with every stop. His passion for the game has followed suit.

As Charles describes it, the game was taken away from him in 2016 when he was waived by the Lions in early October. He never found his way back to the sidelines for the rest of the season. Living in Atlanta at the time, Charles interned for construction companies as he plotted out his life after football. Charles had full-time job offers but he turned them down, instead sticking to a strict workout regimen that would make him NFL-ready whenever the call came.

"That's when that desire kept growing and growing and growing," Charles said. "I told myself the next opportunity I get, leave nothing for question and leave everything on the table."

It came nine months later, when Charles was signed by the Chiefs in June 2017. He bounced between the practice squad and active roster throughout the season -- a process he was all too familiar with in his previous stops in Cincinnati, Tennessee, New Orleans and Detroit. He was a free agent for a few months before the Browns gave him a call shortly after the start of training camp.

Perhaps a long shot to make the roster as a tight end, where the Browns had plenty of depth, Charles seized the opportunity when an opening presented itself at fullback. Cleveland's 2017 starter, Danny Vitale, went down with a calf injury one week into camp, and Charles was the only member of the roster with experience at the position.

Charles played well enough to assure the Browns they didn't need to look outside the organization for Vitale's replacement.

"Him making the team was incredible," Bitonio said. "I think that's why it's taken him a little while to take that role of leadership. He's been around the league for a while."

In his post-game press conference last week, Browns coach Gregg Williams rattled off a list of players who showed leadership on the sidelines while the team faced a major deficit on the road in Houston. He started with Mayfield and hit on two of the defense's top performers, Myles Garrett and Joe Schobert. He then mentioned Charles, "who was the same way."

Charles considers himself "blessed" and "grateful" to have earned that kind of respect from his teammates and coaches.

"That's why I came here," Charles said. "I just want to win and I think we have a great group of guys that's hungry enough to win. That's what gets me excited.

"That's why everybody asks, 'why is he so crazy on Sundays?' I know my boys are going to ride with me. That just gets me pumping."