Karl Joseph found out about the ferocity of the Dawg Pound from one of his best friends who is a familiar name among Browns fans.
It was T.J. Ward, a former Browns defensive back who played with Cleveland from 2010-2013. Joseph, who's been with Oakland Raiders since 2016, asked Ward about the fan atmosphere he remembered on a Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
For Joseph, the answer from Ward was perfect.
"It's loyal, blue-collar and very tough," Ward told Joseph, who spoke with the Cleveland Browns on a video call from his Orlando, Florida, home. "That got me excited."
Joseph signed up for a change of scenery from Oakland after corralling 49 tackles and an interception last season. He loved game days at the Oakland Coliseum because of the rowdiness of the "Black Hole," the group of fans who sit closely behind one of the end zones.
He knew he wanted a new team as he entered the offseason, but he wanted the same home-field experience. Once Joseph heard about the Dawg Pound, though, he knew his wish would be granted.
"It's not going to be much different," he said. "I'm coming from the black team to the orange team. I'm excited for that."
Check out photos of safety Karl Joseph
The Dawg Pound is just one of the reasons why Joseph can't wait to put on a Browns jersey. Cleveland had to rebuild its safety room after top starters Damarious Randall, Eric Murray and Juston Burris departed in free agency and veteran Morgan Burnett was released. That left the Browns with only J.T. Hassell and Sheldrick Redwine, who have played a combined 16 games, at the safety position. Browns Executive Vice President and General Manager Andrew Berry wanted to add depth — and, of course, a veteran presence — to the group.
That's where Joseph fits like a glove. He's in line to carry the safety load alongside Andrew Sendejo, a 10-year veteran from the Minnesota Vikings, and rookie second-round pick Grant Delpit, one of the top safeties from the 2020 draft and the 2019 Jim Thorpe Award Winner.
Joseph's role with the Browns couldn't be more clear. He's needed, and that's why Cleveland is just as good a fit for him, too.
"I just thought it was the perfect fit for me, with the new regime, coach (Kevin Stefanski) and (Berry)," Joseph said. "When I talked with Mr. Berry, he sounded excited for me to be a part of the team. That was big for me. I wanted to go somewhere where I felt wanted and where I felt like I was going to be appreciated."
Joseph has spent most of his time during the COVID-19 pandemic training in the Florida heat to prepare for the sweltering days of training camp, but he knows he'll have a smooth transition to the field when players are permitted to return to the practice fields.
He hasn't met Stefanski in person yet, either, but a new coach is nothing new for Joseph. He transitioned from Jack Del Rio to Jon Gruden with the Raiders in 2018 and adapted to the hard-nosed, intense coaching styles of Gruden.
So, Joseph doesn't foresee any obstacles as he adapts to another new coach. He appreciates how Stefanski, 38, is young and can relate to players a bit more.
"He's funny, man," Joseph said. "I can tell he's going to be a players' coach and he'll be fun to be around, just from the virtual meetings and videos."
Joseph also spoke highly of defensive coordinator Joe Woods, who was hired shortly after he was with the San Francisco 49ers as a defensive backs coach in Super Bowl LIV. In the last five years, Woods has coached Richard Sherman, Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib and Darian Stewart — all Pro Bowl players.
Woods knows how to make the most of a defensive backs room, and Joseph is hopeful that he'll be the next safety to benefit from his high pedigree.
"I think I'm coming into the right situation, the right coaching staff," Joseph said. "I love the defense, and coach Woods is a (defensive backs) kind of guy. I think that's big whenever you have a defensive coordinator that's a DB guy. That's big for the secondary."
Joseph's contract with the Browns was a one-year deal. He's not viewing Cleveland, however, as a small stepping stone in his football career. He hopes to be with the Browns long term. The assemblage of talent around him is too appealing.
He's confident that he'll be at his best when the Browns defense is on the field, and he's eager for that first third down, when the Dawg Pound is barking behind him for that big stop.
That, too, is why Joseph wants to be a Brown.
"I think I'm coming into the right situation," he said. "Every Sunday I get to be on that field, I'm going to leave it all out there for my teammates and the fans. All I care about is winning. That's pretty much all Cleveland fans need to know, and that's what they'll see on the field."