Signed as an unrestricted free agent last year, Anthony Walker started 12 of 13 games for the Cleveland Browns last season, making more than 700 defensive snaps in the process. It’s fair to say the sixth-year linebacker spent a lot of time with his teammates during that time.
Now entering his second year at Cleveland after spending his first four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, however, he feels a very different locker room, one that he believes is more attributable to building a winning culture that, obviously at least from his point of view, they were missing in 2021.
“Last year was a bit remote and it’s professional football, so I understand,” he recently told reporters, via Cleveland.com. “But to be a great team you have to have that camaraderie, you have to have that team spirit because when you go through the dark days you can sometimes lose or the dog days of camp, the dog days of this grind and minicamp and stuff like that, you need that team brotherhood, that team bond to keep you coming together, and I’m glad we’re building that.”
He said they had that culture while he was with the Colts, although they only posted two winning records in his four years there, and now he’s starting to see action being taken that will bring that culture to Cleveland.
“When I came here it was a bit different,” he said, contrasting his experience with the different dressing rooms. “I’m starting to feel what I felt in Indy when I was there. Just the brotherhood we had, all the guys coming together, the team camaraderie”.
There were, of course, contentious issues, like the one between wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and quarterback Baker Mayfield — and the one between Mayfield and the team, apparently, that remains ongoing. Nobody was surprised when Mayfield was excused from attending the mandatory minicamp, I imagine.
Walker said he thought COVID-19 and the restrictions involved contributed to his roster sense last year, and to be fair, the Browns’ roster relied more on new draft picks, free agents and trade acquisitions, so there’s less accumulated time with the players together than he had in Indianapolis. He himself was one of these recruits.
This year, everyone – except Mayfield – seems to be on the same page, even when it comes to their new franchise quarterback, Deshaun Watson, about whom only positive things have been said even as he does facing more than two dozen (and counting) lawsuits. But will it stay like this? Winning would help keep that atmosphere.