Every player on the Cleveland Browns walks past a sign each day right outside the cafeteria. It's a landmark in the facility you can't miss.
In big, bold letter, it reads: Play Like A Brown.
But as we gear up for training camp and the start of the season, the focus now shifts to the words underneath that Play Like A Brown sign: accountable, relentless, productive, passionate, tough and competitive.
These words will shape the franchise for years to come.
Definition: Subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; responsible; answerable.
Losing NFL franchises, including some Browns teams of the past, all share a common problem: finger-pointing. Often, players are hesitant in the film room to own up to their mistakes on the field. It's human nature. It's also a habit that can unravel a football team from the seams.
Pettine is in charge of flipping that mental attitude upside down, which so far is already evident. He doesn't want players to be afraid of making mistakes in games or especially practices. But he does want them to know what they did wrong, when they committed the mistake, how the mistake affected teammates and how to make sure the miscue doesn't happen again. The speed in fixing those mistakes, and holding players accountable who are repeat offenders, is how the Cleveland Browns will improve on Sunday's.
So while he lets his coordinators control most of tempo and play calls during practice, Pettine himself has grabbed the reigns of the Browns' culture.
"The mental toughness is what every player has control over," said Pettine. "We're all going to get knocked down. We're all going to get our nose bloody. How do we respond to that? How quickly do we get up? How quickly are we right back into attack mode? And that's critical. When you have a culture of losing that's been here, you have to adapt your way of thinking. I faced it in New York, the same old Jets. It was in Buffalo, the same old Bills. Losing as a mentality is a habit. Just like winning is a habit."
Accountability, like all six words on this list, will mean different things for different players.
Donte Whitner is not only accountable for himself as a safety, but the entire defense. That's the way he wants it. Sure, Whitner wanted to play for the Browns because Cleveland is home. But further, Whitner wants a defense he can call his own. Although he was a Pro Bowler, Whitner wasn't regarded as the face of the vaunted 49ers defenses. Patrick Willis was. Aldon Smith was. With an increase in his leadership expectations, more of the blame and praise will fall on Whitner's shoulders.
Terrance West is holding himself accountable. Even as a rookie running back behind the proven Ben Tate, West has said several times he wants to be the starter, something Pettine and his staff like hearing. The Browns want all of their players to push players in their respective position groups. Some rookies might go into a season just hoping to fit in and grab a few carries here and there. West practiced his tail off during minicamp and is training each day in Baltimore, justifying his own accountability in wanting to see the field.
Players like Royce Adams and Edwin Baker are holding themselves accountable. Both have been seen in the team facility working out during their vacation. Adams and Baker know they will be fighting tooth and nail during training camp. Their extra effort will without a doubt be noticed by coaches and even the players they are competing with for playing time.
Accountability is real here Cleveland. Those that aren't making sure they approaching the mental part of the game that way will be lagging behind.