He has seen it all over the last nine years. As the lone survivor of that first training camp for the new Browns in 1999, Phil Dawson has witnessed the good, the bad and the very ugly.
Especially the very ugly.
The only placekicker these Browns have ever known has been through the lowest of lows and the highest of highs. Not one member of the 2008 Browns looks forward to the upcoming season more than
The most accurate kicker in Browns history has waited too long not to thoroughly enjoy this season's training camp. He had experienced only one winning season (2002) before the Browns threw a surprise party for the rest of the National Football League last season.
And Dawson, also the fourth-most accurate kicker in NFL history, sees a difference in the club's approach in the
"It's very workmanlike," he said. "We've grown up as a team. We have some success to build on. Hopefully, we capitalize on some momentum. The biggest difference, though, I'd have to say is the unity and continuity. We know our coaches. The coaches know us. We've got guys returning at major positions.
"There's been so much up in the air, it seems like, in years past. Whether it would be a quarterback or a starting tackle. There would always seem to be a lot of questions marks. There seem to be very few question marks this year."
The body language is different. The confidence level has risen to heights not seen in
"I don't necessarily think the team has bought into all this stuff you're reading about high hopes and expectations," said
It's that kind of attitude that has translated into a very smooth camp for coach Romeo Crennel and his staff.
"It's just the workmanlike attitude every day," said
"Now, every day, guys are coming out and working the process. They're using training camp to get ready for something bigger than training camp. In years past, we kind of got lost. We were just out here trying to have a good practice. Now, we know the Dallas Cowboys are coming to town in week one and we're using this to get ready for that."
All of which gives
"Football is a tough business when you don't win," he said. "To have successes like we did last year, key guys have a little more confidence this year. The expectation of playing well is the thing I enjoy most."
As one of the team leaders,
Over the years, the Browns have become almost too reliant on
"This is good pressure," he said. "Pressure isn't new around here. When your team is struggling, there's a negative tone in the Stadium on game day. The first time your team crosses the 50-yard line and you trot out for a 46-yard field goal, there's a lot of pressure on that. And when your team is scoring only 10 points a game, that's a lot of pressure in a negative way.
"Now, we're trying to make positive things happen. There are expectations, there are high hopes, there's confidence. There are good things happening. That's all good pressure. Now, you've got a good chance to win games. You go out on the field and everyone is feeling good about what we're doing. It's much easier to do your job in that environment."
It all started last season,
It took shape,
"Obviously, we had some playmakers at the receiving positions. We just needed to get the ball to them. That's a pretty good combination. A guy who could throw and receivers who could catch. And when our passing game opened up and you hand the ball to 31 (Jamal Lewis) and he starts running down people's throats, that's a pretty good thing.
And with Joshua Cribbs consistently giving the Browns good field position with his stunning returns, scoring became somewhat easier. So did
Next stop the playoffs? "Let's just win the first game," he said.