Karlos Dansby, Ben Tate and Donte Whitner are thrilled to join the Browns
An NFL free agent with a new contract saying nice things about his new employer is, well, nothing new.
By nature, the announcement of the signing is supposed to be a mutual celebration of sorts. And why wouldn't the recipient of what typically is the largest amount of guaranteed money he has ever seen be heaping praise on the source of those riches?
But there was something different about the public comments the first five players the Cleveland Browns have added since the NFL's free-agency shopping period began on March 11.
Each seemed genuinely thrilled to be joining the Browns. Each sounded sincere in expressing his intention to do everything possible to help turn the team around.
Linebacker Karlos Dansby, who had been with the Arizona Cardinals, spoke of being on a "mission" and that there was "something special going on here."
Strong safety Donte Whitner, returning to his hometown from the San Francisco 49ers, talked about his desire to make a difference with inner-city kids, because he was "one of those kids."
Running back Ben Tate, formerly of the Houston Texans, did a whole lot of talking with eager Browns fans via Twitter in the couple of days he spent in Cleveland before his signing on Saturday. He shared photos and videos of himself, including one video of him doing his best "Dawg Pound" bark.
Dansby, Whitner, Tate, and fellow free-agent newcomers, cornerback Isaiah Trufant and tight end Jim Dray, show a high level of competitiveness, making it clear that they arrive in Cleveland with something to prove – that they have what it takes to bring an end to the Browns' perpetual struggles.
When general manager Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine talk about what it means to "play like a Brown," this is what they have in mind – players who are fully engaged with being a part of what the club's new decision-makers are building rather than merely collecting a big paycheck.
Their hope is that the exuberance of the free-agent signees will be contagious among their teammates, especially the many newcomers who will join the team in May's NFL Draft.
Provided their performance matches their enthusiasm, it is easy to see some, if not all, of them emerging as leaders and developing a strong connection with the fan base.
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