BEREA, Ohio—Welcome to Cleveland!
Fittingly, the Browns called a press conference in blizzard conditions Wednesday afternoon to officially introduce Karlos Dansby, Donte Whitner and Isaiah Trufant to the media. The trio officially signed their contracts Wednesday.
Dansby, who has spent his entire NFL career in warm climates Arizona and Miami said he took a "leap of faith."
"I've never been in these type of weather conditions," Dansby said.
GM Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine were in the introductions of the newest Browns and Farmer introduced his first three free agent moves since taking over for Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi last month.
"Our goal is to assemble comprehensive units on both sides of the ball that can compete for a championship," Farmer said. "Winning is a shared charge and we want players with a shared mission: Turning this team and this town around. Another pillar in our culture is that every player we identify and acquire will have the ability to compete for a starting role."
Pettine didn't speak at the press conference but released a statement on Dansby and Whitner.
"Both of these guys are a great fit for what we like to do," Pettine said. "Donte grew up right here in Cleveland and he knows what style of football we play in our division. He's an explosive hitter, a tone-setter with a history of production. Karlos is a durable, dependable professional who makes guys around him better. He's a rangy linebacker who can cover and play three downs. He's an intellectual leader, a QB in a defense, and I'm sure he'll know our system inside, outside and backward. We want to be the toughest team on the field and these players both embody that."
Dansby and Whitner were picked up by jet and met by Joe Haden, Josh Gordon and Jabaal Sheard earlier in the day. The pair are expected to immediately have an impact on the Browns defense with their tough, physical style of play.
The road won't be easy to turn the Browns around after a 4-12 season in 2013 with a new coach and GM, but the newest Browns believe they can.
"That's what we believe and why we came together here," Whitner said. "I believe we can do it. We have a lot of the right pieces and now it's about putting it together."
"I'm ready to embark on this journey. These fans in Cleveland deserve winning football."
Dansby said he feels he's on a mission and thinks he can excel in Mike Pettine's defensive scheme.
"I think I might double my output here," Dansby proclaimed. "I think it's one of the best schemes here. I'm on a mission. I want to dominate at this position and in the process it raises the play of the players around you. I'm trying to double my output and make everyone better."
Dansby (6-4, 250) is coming off a career season, that he called his best of his 10-year career. He earned second-team Associated Press All-Pro honors in helping the Cardinals to a 10-6 record. Dansby will wear No. 56 for the Browns.
He led the Cardinals and posted career highs in both tackles (135) and interceptions (four), two of which he returned for touchdowns, and added a career-high 21 passes defensed, 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Dansby became just the fourth NFL player with at least six sacks, four interceptions and two interception-return touchdowns in a season since sacks became an official stat in 1982.
"(I want to) try to raise the level of the guys around me," he said. "That's what I've been known for is to raise the play of the guys around me.
"Last year, was definitely the best year of my career, by far," he said. "Here, it's going to be the same type of situation. We got the hard hitter in the back end (pointing to Whitner) and keep adding pieces. I didn't have any choice, I had to come."
Whitner thinks he and Dansby will be able to add to the leadership of the Browns and help in changing the culture from a losing mindset to a winning attitude. Whitner was asked what he brings to the Browns from his days with the 49ers.
"First and foremost, leadership," he said. "You really have to change the mind set and the culture. I believe with us three and the some other guys, Joe Haden and others. It starts with being sound fundamentally and being physical each and every play. "
Whitner (5-10, 208-pound) is entering his ninth season. The Cleveland native who attended Glenville High School and played at Ohio State said it's a dream come true for him.
"It's a very special moment," he said. "Not too often do you get to play high school, college and professional football in the same state. We can change this thing around. My No. 1 thing is to come home and be around my family and help turn things around"
Whitner was selected to the Pro Bowl each of the past two seasons with San Francisco, helping the 49ers to the league's final four each year.
Whitner, who will wear No. 31, started all 16 games last season. He totaled 103 tackles, 12 passes defensed, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery, garnering All-NFC honors from the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA). Whitner has been durable, only missing 12 games in his career.
"I've only missed 12 games in 9 years," he said. "I don't think it's durability. It's the luck of the draw. Never had any major injuries. 12 games in nine years, I'll take that."
Trufant (5-8, 170 pounds) in his fourth NFL season out of Eastern Washington. Originally signed by the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent, Trufant has appeared in 39 career games, all with the Jets, with one start. A special-teams standout, Trufant has registered 34 special-teams tackles, including 13 last season. He has also added 18 career tackles on defense and two passes defensed.
Trufant, who will wear No. 34, came the hard way to the Browns, playing in the Arena League and UFL before getting a break with the Jets. He was with Pettine for a couple of seasons with the Jets.
"On the journey I've taken, you always want to shoot for the stars," he said. "(I had) no NFL offers (out of college) so I did the Arena league, UFL. It's been a ride. I'm enjoying it and now I'm a Brown now."
Whitner was asked how soon the Browns can compete at a championship level.
"It depends on when we all get together," he said "I believe we can get it turned around immediately. Once we get together and start to build and come together."