Reporting Daryl Ruiter
BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Browns enter Sunday’s game with Kansas City 4-8 and on the outside looking in when it comes to any hope of playing into January.
Walking around the Browns locker room the last few week’s you’d never know that they were trying to avoid the franchise’s 11th double digit loss season in 14 years.
That’s what youth has given this franchise – hope.
“We’re 4-8 and guys are still coming to work enthusiastic,” quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “Guys are excited about the opportunity. Obviously, we’re on an uphill climb because we put ourselves in the situation. We’re playing these last 4 games for the last 4 games. I think attitudes have been great. That’s all you can ask, especially this late in the year. Some guys will hit a wall, but I don’t see it.
“We’re hungry and it makes it more fun to come to work every day.”
It also helps that the Browns have won 4 of their last 7 games following an 0-5 start to the season.
They’ll try to make it 5 of 8 Sunday with a victory over the Chiefs.
Returner Josh Cribbs, who is in his 8th season with the Browns, has been bothered by the perpetual losing for years but admitted Thursday that he understood the slow start this year.
“We had a lot of rookies and a lot of first timers,” Cribbs said. “They were trying to see what this whole NFL thing was about and [had] very few veterans to lead them. But it’s all turning the corner right now.
“You’re seeing us string along a few wins. They’re seeing it and believe in it and are like, ‘Oh, we can actually win games.’”
Running back Trent Richardson, who is second among rookies with 1,166 total yards from scrimmage this season, feels the tide turning and isn’t ready to let up with 4 games remaining.
“For the younger guys that haven’t started winning yet in the NFL, we’re just getting our confidence up in the league,” Richardson said. “For the vets, they are just like, ‘We’ve got to keep going. We can’t get satisfied with it.’ That’s one thing we’re trying to learn as a rookie group, that we can’t get satisfied with it. For us, we’ve just got to keep on trucking.”
Aside from featuring a roster that includes 17 rookies, 10 of which have started a game this season, the Browns were snake bit and shorthanded during the first half of the season – especially on defense.
Defensive tackle Phil Taylor missed the first 8 games with a torn pectoral muscle. Fellow defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin sat out 3 games with a calf injury, cornerback Joe Haden was suspended for 4 games and missed a 5th due to an oblique injury and cornerback Dimitri Patterson continues to work his way back from a bad ankle sprain.
But they are healthy now.
All 53 players on the active roster have practiced both days this week.
Defensive end Frostee Rucker is glad to see them return to full strength but feels it’s also a sign of their hard work paying off.
“One of the things that needs recognized is how hard we worked in the offseason,” Rucker said. “As the season has gone on we’re getting stronger. We’re just continuing to fight and we know that as long as we didn’t allow any doubt to get into our minds and knew sooner or later it was going to turn around.
“All of those close losses are becoming victories of late and we’re just trying to fight and scrap to get another one.”
The Browns have lost 5 games by less than a touchdown this season but they appear to be turning that around as well.
3 of their 4 wins in 2012 are by less than 7.
“It’s always nice to talk about victories no matter what,” Richardson said. “If it’s an ugly win or a bad win, no matter it’s always good to talk about victories. We’ve still got a lot to conquer and stuff like that. We’ve still got a lot of goals to reach. We’re still going and we’re still trying to get to where we want to be. We haven’t gotten there yet, we’ve still got a lot to put together, but we know we’re on the right page.”
The Browns will try to win their 3rd straight Sunday when they host the Chiefs – it would mark the team’s longest winning streak since they ended the 2009 season with 4 straight wins.
Some fans dismiss the run and compare it to 2009 which happened to help save Eric Mangini’s job at the time.
But you can’t.
Not when the turnaround begins in week 6 in 2012 as opposed to week 13 in 2009.
“It’s a more talented team [this year],” Cribbs said. “We have more versatile players. We have more weapons. It’s a big [difference].”
They have 4 games to show just how big of a difference it really is.