CLEVELAND —** As time ticked away in the Browns' preseason finale, head coach Hue Jackson huddled left tackle Joe Thomas and cornerback Joe Haden next to him and offered a simple message.
"It's time," Jackson told the pair of veterans. "It's time."
After a 21-7 loss to the Bears on Thursday night, Jackson and Cleveland are turning the page to the regular season and doing so quickly. Just nine days separate the Browns and their season opener at the Eagles next week.
"The real guys, the grind starts now, what it's truly all about starts next Sunday in Philadelphia, and I wanted them to understand it's going to take work and it's going to take their leadership and their ability to rally their teammates to do what we need to do," Jackson said.
"We're going to Philadelphia and we expect to win a game."
After a preseason of highs and lows, the Browns are encouraged by what they've seen over the past month, from offensive fireworks to promising rookies such as Carl Nassib and Emmanuel Ogbah, who continued their strong play against Chicago. They must also address shortcomings in the coming week and size up an 0-4 record over the past month.
Jackson, though, isn't discouraged by any means.
"I think you guys all understand, when you are playing so many different guys you don't get some kind of rhythm with each other. I feel good about where we are," he said.
The Browns take on the Bears in the last game of the preseason.
"I wish it would have been better – I don't like being 0-4 – I think you guys kind of know me a little bit, so that part I'll take and file away. Outside of that, now it's every week getting ready to play the game for wins and losses. It'a not anything else. It's not evaluation period. It's game plan, it's making sure we cross the T's, dot the I's and get ready to play. I think our guys will be ready to play."
Quarterback Robert Griffin III, whom Jackson lauded for his growth and development over the past month, offered a similar sentiment.
"The (first-team is) going to play and we're not going to stop. That's just the bottom line, so if a switch did need to be flipped I think the guys understand that now – especially after our break in the huddle with what coach told us," he said.
"It's real. It's about wins and losses, and we're here to win. He's here to win, and we have to go out there and make coach look good."
Before any of that happens, of course, the Browns will trim their roster to 53 members by Saturday afternoon.
Not long after, they'll start gearing up for the first of five road trips in seven weeks. That dynamic, of course, could present a challenge for a young football team, but Jackson and Co. have embraced it.
"We're not blinking," Jackson said with a wide smile.
"We're excited about going to Philadelphia next week and we've got to finish, put the finishing touches on this team over the weekend, and then we'll get ourselves ready."