Six months ago, it seemed preposterous to think Dennis Northcutt would be content as a Cleveland Brown.
At the end of last season, Northcutt was practically gleeful at the prospect of leaving the Browns to seek free-agent riches and the chance to become a starting receiver. Asked what it would take to keep him in Cleveland, Northcutt rubbed his thumb and index finger together, as in "cold, hard cash."
But Northcutt's dreams disintegrated when his agent, Jerome Stanley, failed to send the Browns a letter voiding the final three years of the receiver's rookie contract.
Northcutt filed a grievance with the league, which went nowhere. At one point, he vowed never to play for the Browns. But he and the Browns eventually agreed to a three-year extension worth $9 million.
Still, it would be natural to think there'd be some lingering hard feelings. Yet Northcutt has been happy this camp. It's as if the offseason never happened.
"Yeah, that's truly how I feel," the wide receiver said. "I'm in sync with everyone else, trying to build chemistry with Jeff (Garcia) to get this offense on a roll."
Northcutt was Cleveland's most productive receiver last season (62 catches for 728 yards).
Northcutt survived a rough childhood in South Central Los Angeles by always looking forward, so he approached this the same way.
"Things happen for a reason," he said. "I'm the kind of person who believes in, `It is what it is.' That's my motto: It is what it is. I don't try to analyze why things happen. A lot of people think it's strange. But in life, none of us knows the answer to what happens next.
"Things happen in everyone's life. You just try to put yourself in smart situations and not put yourself in (bad) situations. It is what it is. How can I fix the problem?"
Northcutt said that philosophy has served him well in a life that has not always been easy. He once saw his brother get shot. As a football player, the 175-pound Northcutt has had to overcome doubters who believed he was too skinny to take the sport's pounding.
Northcutt was a disappointment his first two seasons after the Browns took him with the first pick of the second round of the 2000 draft. But then Northcutt blossomed in the role of third receiver. His quickness poses matchup problems for linebackers as a slot receiver.
"I came back under these conditions because I was happy with it -- 100 percent content," Northcutt said. "I respect these two guys - Quincy and Andre. They are the two starting receivers. It's not like I feel I'm better than one of them. I felt just wanted an opportunity to show my stuff."
Browns coach Butch Davis said he's not surprised by Northcutt's attitude.
"Over the first three years (here), I really got to know the players well, what makes them tick, and what kind of people they are," Davis said. "Dennis is a golden-hearted kid. He (just) wanted to be treated fairly."