BEREA, Ohio—According to some of the Browns key veteran players, there is a bright side to this year’s season.
Several of the Browns veterans spoke up as the season ended on a five game losing streak talking about the future.
“It’s very frustrating, but progress was made,” Donte Whitner said. “I’ve been assured that we are going to bring guys in and get guys off this bus that don’t really want to be here and do what they are supposed to do.”
In the midst of Josh Gordon being suspended for the last game and Justin Gilbert being inactive for being late to a team meeting and Johnny Manziel missing a scheduled treatment, Whitner said he’s confident the organization will figure it out.
“I don’t know what is missing, but we are gong to get a few more guys that really want to win and want to do things right,” Whitner said. “We’re going to get some guys out of here that don’t want to do it.”
Joe Thomas said he thinks the organization will finally get it right.
“It’s part of the NFL,” Thomas said. “Everyone has bad apples. I’m looking forward to this time next year when we’re talking about the playoffs and all the (positive) things.”
Andrew Hawkins agreed.
“Obviously, it didn’t end the way we wanted it to end,” Hawkins said. “We got off to a hot start. I think we have a great core of guys. It’s something to build on, and we’ll go into the offseason to get better.”
Hawkins led the Browns with 63 receptions for 824 yards (13.1 avg.), including two touchdowns.
Paul Kruger had the best year of his career with 11 sacks and he feels the team is headed in the right direction.
“We’ve overcome a lot of difficulty,” Kruger said. “We showed ourselves that we have to be a consistent team each week or else you’re going to have an average record. That’s what we’re working on, to become a great team, and that takes a lot of effort form a lot of individuals. That’s where we are headed.”
Coordinators to return: Pettine was asked if he expected to make any changes to his coaching staff. It sounds as though he intends to retain offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil.
“At this point, I anticipate the vast majority of the staff back,” he said. “There might be a change or two, but I’m going to get away and talk to the coordinators as they do an evaluation of their own and compare notes and see if we need to make any changes.”
Cameron Unsure: TE Jordan Cameron will be a free agent and he’s unsure if he’ll be back with the Browns.
“We’ll see,” Cameron said. “There are a lot of things that have to go into it. It’s not just me wanting to come back. There are a lot of situations that have to go in my favor. I really haven’t given it a lot of thought. It’s really up in the air.”
Cameron had three receptions for 41 yards, including a long of 30 yards. He finished the season with just 24 receptions for 424 yards (17.7 avg.) with two touchdowns after his Pro Bowl season in 2013 when he had 80 catches for 917 yards and seven touchdowns.
Cameron missed six games on the season, one with a shoulder injury and five due to a concussion.
Disappointing Finish: The Browns finished 7-9, which is the tied for the third-best record since the team returned to the NFL in 1999. It is the best record the team has had since 2007 when they finished 10-6.
However, finishing on a five-game losing streak hurts.
“This one stings like they all have,” Pettine said. “I think some people preseason would have said a seven win season is heading in the right direction. But as competitors, as I’ve said a bunch of times, it’s a ‘what have you done lately’ business and lately, we haven’t been very good.”
Joe Haden just finished his fifth-straight losing season.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Haden said. “This year, I’m excited that we were 7-4, but I think we ended on a positive note. We have players that really love the game and trying to win. I’m ready to be on a winning team.
“I’m ready for us to turn this thing around and get it going.”
OL Joe Thomas, who also hasn’t had a winning record since his rookie season, thinks things will be better next year.
Kruger Finishes Strong: LB Paul Kruger had his best season in the NFL and finished with 53 tackles and 11 sacks.
Against his former team, Kruger had five tackles, including the sack and a forced fumble. Kruger sacked QB Joe Flacco to take the Ravens out of field range near the end of the first half. Flacco fumbled the ball but the Ravens recovered after a 22-yard loss.
“I’m happy with the success that I had, but I think there are a lot of things I can do to get better and overcome some of my shortcomings,” Kruger said. “I want to build on my pass rush and just have to get better overall.”
Kruger had 4.5 sacks in his first season with the Browns in 2013 after having nine sacks with the Ravens in 2012.