Gary Barnidge's phone rang late last month. The number wasn't familiar, but the name and voice on the other side certainly were.
The Pro Bowl tight end was one of a number of Browns players to receive a phone call from quarterback Robert Griffin III in the days after he signed with his new team. With players spread from coast to coast, Griffin established a quick, important connection in the weeks leading up to Monday's start to offseason workouts.
"Just introducing himself and how excited he was and getting ready to get back and get started, just showing that he is excited about getting his opportunity and showing the leadership aspect of it," Barnidge said. "I think that is huge."
Griffin, the fifth-year quarterback who spent his first four NFL seasons with the Washington Redskins, considers himself to be "somewhat of a football historian." He did his homework before signing with the Browns not just last month, but also in the months leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft because of the rampant rumors of Cleveland trading up to nab him with the No. 2 pick. He talked with former teammate and Cleveland native London Fletcher to get a sense of how he could impact youths and grow in the city.
And then, after he wrapped up a conference call with local reporters, Griffin started dialing up the teammates he's shared the field with throughout the week during the first four days of offseason workouts.
"I wanted to come here. I wanted to be here, and I wanted them to know that," Griffin said. "They call this 'The Land' so we are going to make this ours and really give these fans what they deserve. I really just tried to echo to them that I am excited to be here, I am excited to work with them and it is going to take all of us."
The Browns returned to Berea this week to begin offseason workouts.
Both Barnidge and offensive lineman Joel Bitonio said Griffin and veteran quarterback Josh McCown have stepped up as leaders on the offense during the first week of workouts. McCown, who was one of the team's top leaders in 2015, has welcomed it in a quarterback room that also includes Connor Shaw and Austin Davis.
"We want that room to be strong together," McCown said. "I believe iron sharpens iron, and we can help one another. We've made that clear from the get go, and that's the goal just to come alongside one another and make this team better."
Around a new set of teammates and in a new location for the second time in his NFL career, Griffin acknowledged there's a different level of comfort compared to when he was a highly touted rookie. In short order, he's made that impression on those closest to him inside the Browns locker room.
"I do think I am more experienced and I kind of know how to navigate the waters," Griffin said. "That will help me as a player here. It will help me as a player to lead this team, as well."