Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby received a scheduled day of rest Tuesday, Day 5 of training camp. Shrugging his shoulders, the 33-year-old wasn't exactly thrilled he wouldn't be roaming his territory in the middle of the practice field.
"Karlos would play football for free," defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil said. "That's how much he loves the game."
Dansby is what Cleveland's coaching staff calls a Ball Guy, meaning his every waking thought is about football, and about making this Browns defense the best it can be.
Dansby recruited towering defensive lineman Randy Starks to town. Dansby is giving lay-it-all-on-the-line, passionate pregame speeches on Sunday's. Dansby helped change the eating habits of a few teammates and coaches by introducing them to the Sari Mellman diet and inspired several others to use the hot tub instead of the cold tub after practice.
Dansby does this, Dansby said that.
"We call it the Dansby Way," Christian Kirksey said, Dansby's protégé at linebacker. "He's got all kinds of tips."
That's what it's become in Cleveland. His magnetic allure around NFL circles may lean toward the quieter side. But in Berea? What Dansby does, what Dansby says is treated like gold.
On scale of 1-10, how important is Dansby to this defense?
"I think he is a 10," Browns inside linebackers coach Chuck Driesbach said. "I think as the quarterback goes on offense, your middle linebacker is the same on defense. He is in front of the huddle. He is making the calls."
A year ago in a one-on-one tackling drill, an undrafted rookie challenged Dansby by driving his shoulder into the veteran. Dansby was caught off guard and stumbled a bit. I'm going to teach this kid a lesson, Dansby muttered under his breath.
"When they went again, it was not pretty," Driesbach said with a laugh. "Karlos is humble and a very kind person, but don't get him mad.
When an established player like Dansby is already regarded among the best on your roster, what's next? How does a player with a strapping reputation improve?
Keep piling on with the little things -- The Dansby Way.
After the 2014 season ended, O'Neil and the defensive coaches watched every play from the year and made exclusive notes for every player on alignments, assignments, tackling and scheme. The Browns pinpointed which defensive plays were successful, which should be removed and how to communicate better.
Those specific graduate-level details have been apparent from Dansby and Co. thus far in training camp. To improve the run defense, this year's training camp was designed to be more physical. Inside running drills have dictated the morning schedule for the Browns. The crunching of pads has allowed the Browns to properly simulate their adjustments, even if their bodies are a little sorer the next day.
"We want to be the toughest team in the NFL," Dansby said. "Practice is how you become consistent in this league. Consistency is how you make plays. And making plays means success. That's what we're trying to be about."
"If you want to know how to play, how to act, how to study, how to take care of your body, how to stay in the league as long as possible – watch Karlos Dansby," O'Neil said. "And he's willing to help anyone that wants to be helped."
Dansby's obsession over his craft stems from the feeling winning gives him. It's exhilarating. The thing is, the veteran hasn't been to the playoffs since 2009, when his then-Arizona Cardinals lost to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional round.
The time, the sweat, the tears, spending hours at a time in a hyperbaric chamber to relax his muscles, carefully crafting messages to younger players for motivational purposes – every tactic is calculated toward the same thing for Dansby: winning football games.
"Wanting to win is contagious," Dansby said. "I know the role I can help play in that. It's spreading around the locker room, and it's looking good. Real good."