A few days before Chase Winovich was traded to the Browns in March, he had a dream.
Winovich, a Patriots linebacker who was well-known from his long, blond hair he's had since his college days at Michigan, got a haircut in the dream, which happened after he fell asleep while meditating. He took the dream as a sign the next morning that he needed one in real life.
Winovich traveled to a barber shop near where he was training in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, but the barber initially told him they weren't available for walk-ins for the next few days.
He started to walk out the door, and then the barber stopped him and asked if he was Chase Winovich, the football player.
"I was just like, 'Yeah,'" he said with a smile. "She said, 'I'm free in about 20 minutes.'"
When Winovich actually walked out the door, his locks were gone and he felt as though he had a fresh start in life. Three days later, he found out where that fresh start would be.
He received a call into the office of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who let him know he was being traded to Cleveland.
"You guys didn't like the haircut?" he recalled saying to Belichick with a laugh.
The biggest question many asked upon Winovich's arrival to the Browns wasn't how he'd fit in the defense or why he believed Cleveland was a great location for his fresh start in football, but why he cut his hair.
"It was kind of funny how that worked out, timing wise," he said. "I think I had been growing my hair out for nine years."
Winovich's short and now-brown hair dripped in sweat as he answered questions about the cut on a hot, sunny Thursday at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. His new beginning in Cleveland so far has had its ups and downs — he missed the last three weeks of practice due to a hamstring injury, but he returned Wednesday and expects to be ready for Week 1.
Winovich made the 53-man roster despite missing most of the preseason, which showcases the belief the Browns have that he'll be a valuable piece of their defensive end rotation.
"I think there's a huge trust factor," he said. "There's a mutual respect."
Winovich has sat next to Myles Garrett in meetings and has already picked up a ton of advice from the three-time Pro Bowler. Perhaps that'll help him re-discover the level he played at his first two years of his career, when he recorded 5.5 sacks in each of his first two seasons with the Patriots.
Last season, however, was a different story. Winovich didn't record a sack and compiled a career-low 11 tackles. He played in 13 games and missed four with a hamstring injury, and he played in only 35 defensive snaps in the seven games after he returned.
The Browns believe Winovich can rekindle the production he showed earlier in his career as a rotational player. He'll step in whenever Garrett or Jadeveon Clowney need a rest, or when they might look for additional edge help in special packages.
Whatever the role is, Winovich is ready to put his best foot forward.
"I just try to be myself every day," he said. "I'm accountable through my teammates and work as hard as I can."
And he'll do so sporting a new look that exemplifies the start of a new chapter.