September 23, 2014

Elyria
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Browns at the bye: Smiles, hope and playoff thoughts

Milli Vanilli’s “Blame it on the Rain” boomed from Orpheus Roye’s locker. Players joked with each other and discussed their weekend plans.
Smiles were everywhere in the Browns locker room Wednesday, and not just because they were about to get a few days off for their bye. The Browns are 3-3 and feeling good about themselves as they go back to work today to prepare to face the St. Louis Rams (0-7) on Sunday.
“This is definitely the best team I’ve been a part of since I’ve been here,” said linebacker Andra Davis, a six-year veteran. “We’re way better than the playoff team in ’02.”
That Butch Davis-led squad is the only playoff team since the Browns returned in 1999. In the four years since the first-round loss at Pittsburgh, the postseason has been a foreign concept.
From 2003-06, the Browns went
19-45. There’s not much reason to talk about the playoffs when there’s no hope of making them.
The 2007 Browns have 10 games left in the regular season, and the playoffs are anything but a certainty. But the hope floating through Browns headquarters is obvious.
“It’s fun to come to work. Before, it wasn’t fun to come to work,” receiver Braylon Edwards said. “Guys didn’t really want to be here. ‘Let’s just get practice over with and go home.’
“Now you see guys happy, playing music, cracking jokes. It’s just a whole different atmosphere around the building, especially in this locker room.”
If the season ended today, the Browns would miss the playoffs. The Steelers lead the AFC North, with the Jaguars and Titans among the wild-card leaders with four wins. But the Browns are certainly in the thick of things.
“We can’t let up, can’t let winning get to us, can’t let all the pub or hype get to us,” said running back Jamal Lewis, who won a Super Bowl with the Ravens. “It’s just up to us to play better. The next 10 weeks are going to be huge for this team. We know what we’re capable of and know what we can get better at.
“We know we haven’t played our best football yet as a team. The sky’s the limit for us.”
The offense, behind quarterback Derek Anderson, has carried the team to its three wins. The offense ranked eighth in yardage after six weeks and fourth in scoring. The defense was 30th in scoring, 29th in passing and 30th rushing.
“If we get ourselves straightened out and the offense keeps scoring like it’s been scoring, we’re definitely going to be one of the best teams in the league,” Davis said of the defense.
Those are big ifs, but the comment illustrates the shift in attitude since the season opened with a 34-7 loss to Pittsburgh. But veteran right tackle Ryan Tucker warned about getting carried away too soon.
“It’s just one of those things you don’t even want to start thinking about now,” he said. “This is really the first taste of success for a lot of these guys. We just need to stay humble and keep a fire lit under our (butt).
“We haven’t done anything yet. Three games is nothing. We add about nine more on there, then we can start talking.”
Coach Romeo Crennel almost winces when the playoffs are mentioned, as he continues to guard against overconfidence.
“It’s not a given that because you’re 3-3 at the bye you’re going to make the playoffs,” he said. “You still have to play the games.
“Our goal and objective is to make it to the playoffs and to get better and improve each week. If we do that, then we’ll have a chance to play more than 10 games.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.