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Transcript from introductory news conference with new Browns players Dansby, Whitner, Trufant

By Nate Ulrich Published: March 12, 2014

The Browns introduced three free-agent signees today at their headquarters: inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, strong safety Donte Whitner and cornerback Isaiah Trufant. Here is a transcript from the news conference:

Opening statement:

GM Ray Farmer:“We’d definitely like to stay on course with what our plans are in free agency, of adding the right kind of guys to this team to demonstrate the type of toughness, leadership and consistency in play that we’re looking for. There are three guys standing off to my right in Donte Whitner, one of Ohio’s own; Karlos Dansby, coming to us from the Arizona Cardinals; and Isaiah Trufant coming to us from the Jets.

“Now, I’m going to excuse myself because there is more work to be done.”

On how special it is returning to Cleveland:

Whitner: “It’s a very special moment. It’s not often that you get to play high school, college and the National Football League in the same state, and now I have this opportunity. I know the history of this city; I know the history of this football team. I know it recently hasn’t been good, but I know with a lot of hard work, a lot of good leadership and a lot of good football, physical football, we can change this thing around. My No. 1 thing was to come back home to really help the city, but another thing is I have two small children – a 6-year old and a 7-year old. Being on the West Coast, I couldn’t spend a lot of time with them. Now, I get an opportunity to spend a lot more time with them, and I get an opportunity to be home around my family. I’m looking forward to it.”

On how to excel playing inside linebacker, with the experience playing both inside and outside linebacker:

Dansby:  “Just try to raise the play of the guys around me. That’s what I’ve been able to do everywhere I’ve been over my career. That’s what I am known for, is just trying to raise the play of the guys around me. If I’m able to do that, then I have a lot of success as well.”

On if last year was his best in the NFL:

Dansby: “Last year was definitely my best year in the NFL by far. I was able to, like I said, raise the play of the guys around me. It gave me the opportunity to play at the level that I needed to play at. Here, I feel like it is going to be the same type of situation. The Browns have got a strong front, [defensive] line; we’ve got the hard hitter in the back end (pointing to Whitner), just to ensure everything over the top. Like I said, we keep adding pieces and pieces. I think we’re going to do something really special this season. I didn’t have any choice; I had to come.”

On trying to replace former Browns LB D’Qwell Jackson:

Dansby:“He’s got a strong reputation around here. The guy had a stellar career here. I’m just coming in trying to do my part. It’s a new era. It’s a new day. Like I said, I was chosen. I’m coming on a mission, and that’s to win. That’s all I know how to do is win.”

On what he can bring to Cleveland with his winning experience, including three NFC Championship game appearances:

Whitner: “First and foremost, leadership within the locker room. Whenever you come from a winning organization and you come to a team that hasn’t really had that winning success as of late, you really have to change the culture, you have to change the mindset and you have to change the feel within the locker room. I believe with us three, along with some other guys who have already been here – you have (DB) Joe Haden and you have a bunch of different guys who have played football here and are top-notch guys in the National Football League – we can get this thing turned around. On the defensive side of the football – all three of us play defense – it starts with being sound fundamentally, first and foremost, understanding the game from a mental aspect. Then, it starts with being physical. Are you a defense that is feared by offenses around the National Football League? That comes with being physical each and every play. That starts with the defensive line getting after the quarterback; it starts with the ‘backers fitting and hitting guys and getting guys on the ground; and then it starts with the safeties and the corners by really adding that dimension that guys don’t want to see. They don’t want to come across the middle when you have guys like that. It’s going to start with that, being a physical football team.”

On if he came close to signing with Cleveland earlier in his career:

Whitner: “No, I haven’t really. Before this time, I haven’t really heard anything from the Cleveland Browns. Everything happens for a reason. The last time I was on the market, it was three years ago; it was the lockout and it was really a buyer’s market. I had an opportunity to take a short-term deal, go to San Francisco and really, really learn how to win football games. Now, I’m back home. Everything happens for a reason. I’m glad that I’m here now.”

On being reunited with Head Coach Mike Pettine:

Trufant: “At the Jets, I was typically a backup guy and a special-teams guy. We’d get tossed in here and there in some packages and whatnot. The scheme, I feel, will benefit what I do, and that’s with my speed and quickness and things of that nature. Pettine, he’s a great coach, and I’m excited to play for him.”

On the durability to stay healthy the past four years after sustaining injuries early in his career:

Whitner: “Over my career, I’ve only missed 12 games in [eight] years so I don’t know if that’s a durability issue or not. One time, I fell on my shoulder and it popped out. I don’t think it’s durability. I think sometimes it’s the luck of the draw. Sometimes you hit somebody wrong or somebody hits you and you get an injury, but I’ve never had any – knock on wood – major injuries and had to have any surgery or anything; just small things. Twelve games in [eight] years, I’ll take that.”

On how quickly the Browns can turn things around:

Whitner: “It depends on when we all get together. It all comes down to learning and understanding the defense, first and foremost. Then, you want to understand what offenses like to do against our scheme. Once you figure out what offenses like to do against our scheme, it’s easy to go in there, study and work as a unit. I believe we can get it turned around immediately. When I came to San Francisco three years ago and arrived there, we didn’t have a good defense. We had good pieces on the defense, but until they brought Vic Fangio along as defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Ed Donatell and you start putting it together, that’s when you start to build it. Once we get everybody together and really understand what we have to do and what teams want to do, then we can build and win immediately.”

On if he can bring the same intensity he played with in Arizona last season:

Dansby:“I think I might double my output here, just by the positioning of myself in this scheme. I think it’s one of the better schemes in the NFL, if you ask me. Like I said, I’m on a mission. I’m on a mission to try to be the best player I can be. That’s the mission I was on last season and I came close; I came real close. Playing at the toughest position in the NFL, and you get a chance to dominate at that position, it says a lot about you as a person, as character, and as a player. In the process of doing that, you’re raising the play of guys around you. It says that you’re a special person. You’re a special player. Like I said, I’m trying to double my output here, make the guys around me better, and try to win a lot of ball games, and try to be one of the best teams in the NFL.”

On whether they feel collectively like this can be a dominant defense in 2014:

Whitner:“That’s what we believe. That’s why we came here. That’s why we teamed up together. Hopefully we get a few more pieces. Then it comes down to knowledge and technique, and going out there and playing physical on each and every snap. I believe we can do it. We have the right pieces. Now we have to come together and put a lot of hard work in.”

On Whitner’s reaction from friends and family to his homecoming:

Whitner:“It’s been pretty crazy. Every body’s pretty much excited. I probably have about 115 text messages that I haven’t answered yet. I haven’t really seen anybody from my family since I got in here. I got in late last night, had dinner with a lot of the guys, and then bright and early we had to be here (for physicals). Once I leave here today, I’ll probably see a lot more of my family members, some of my family members, and they’re very excited.”

On Whitner’s Twitter account:

Whitner: “It’s still blowing up. I think my phone is going dead because of it. But I get a lot of people from San Francisco saying congratulations, some that don’t like me anymore, and then you get a lot of Browns fans making their pictures, photo cropping the new Browns jersey, a lot of fun things. So, yeah, Twitter is still going crazy right now.”

On leaving San Francisco:

Whitner:“It was difficult. When you build a relationship with so many people and you have a lot of fun winning football games, put so much hard work, sweat and tears into it, it was bittersweet. But now you have to move on. This is a business, and it’s all about wins in the National Football League. Nobody over there in San Francisco is going to feel sorry for me if I give up a touchdown, or if we play them and they beat us, so I can’t feel sorry for them. I’m ready to embark on this new journey and I’m ready to win some football games in Cleveland. I know the fans here are top-notch fans, and they deserve a winning season, they deserve to get to the playoffs and they deserve winning football. And that’s what we’re here for.”

On whether Whitner will try to convince the Browns to sign former Ohio State teammate Ted Ginn Jr.:

Whitner:“Truth. I’ll have to tell the truth about that, I sent the guys over here a text message the other day and told them to look at him. I know he’s still a speed guy. He can take the top off the defense. He has a chip on his shoulder also. Plus, he’s a Cleveland guy. And he feels the same way I feel about this city, the Cleveland Browns winning, and I know for a fact that he would like to be a Cleveland Brown. If everything goes well, hopefully he’s here.”

On Dansby’s reaction last night when new teammates Jabaal Sheard, Josh Gordon and Joe Haden picked him up and flew with him to Cleveland:

Dansby:“It was a sweet moment. It was surreal. I’m a Brown now. Like I said, I’m embarking on this mission, trying to chase our destiny. I think there’s something special about this city. I don’t know what it is yet. I’ve been out on the West Coast, I’ve been down South; I was born down South. I’ve never been in this kind of weather, this kind of element before, so it’s brand new to me. I’m taking a leap of faith. I really believe there’s something special going on here. That’s the reason I’m here and I’m going to make the most of this opportunity. I’m going to maximize.”

On whether Trufant thought about signing a free-agent contract like this while working hard to make the NFL:

Trufant:“Well, on the journey I’ve taken, you always want to shoot for the stars. Starting out on my journey, I wasn’t highly sought after, through high school to have only one scholarship offer, which was a partial scholarship to Eastern Washington. And I feel I made the most of that. No NFL offers right out of college, so I did the Arena2 League, the AFL (Arena Football League), the UFL (United Football League), and finally got into the NFL in 2010 with the Jets. So, it’s been a ride, I’m enjoying it, and I’m excited to be a Brown now.”

On what Whitner’s homecoming means to the Cleveland-area kids and community:

Whitner:“Now I have an opportunity to go back and give them an opportunity to touch me. They can see on TV, ‘Oh, he came from Glenville (High School); he’s from Cleveland.’ But when you’re playing in the same city, and you know about the inner-city kids, and you come from being one of those kids, it’s just a 20-, 30-minute ride to get to them and speak to them and talk to them, and let them really see you, and you give them your time, it really means a lot. The City of Cleveland is not doing too well right now. There are a lot of inner-city things that are going on, and I feel like I can be an influence on some of these kids, a lot of these kids, actually.”

On whether Dansby will reach out to other players and recruit them to the Browns:

Dansby:“I don’t know, if Coach (Pettine) feels like there are some guys out there that I know. Like I said, guys may hit me up and say, ‘I want to go on this journey with you.’ They know what kind of guy I am, what kind of player I am, and what I put into this game. The way I approach this game is different. It’s totally different, and I think it’s special. I’ve been touched. I’ve got a gift, and they know I’m going to put everything I got into it.”

On whether Dansby talked to any other teams before signing with Cleveland:

Dansby:“No, not at all. That’s the crazy part about it. Like I said, I had to take a leap of faith. I believe something’s going on here. Coach Pettine has come in here and, like I said, it’s been a two-year process between me and him, to be honest. In Buffalo, he wanted me in Buffalo (in 2013). Once I got the call, I was like, ‘I’m on my way.’ Things happen for a reason. I don’t know why, but I’m here and I’m going to show out. I’m having fun. I’m loving it.”

On whether they feel any trepidation about signing with a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2002, and year after year feel the same:

Whitner:“Yeah, it probably feels like the same, but us three, we weren’t here. The mindset that we’re going to bring to this football team, the toughness, the physical nature that we’ll bring, I don’t believe that was here. I know T.J. Ward was here; he’s a very, very physical guy, so it’s going to be big shoes to fill. But, from my point of view, wherever that ball is, and I know these guys feel the same way, somebody’s going to get hit. You’re going to have a feared defensive unit out there. And if you have a feared defensive unit, guys that don’t give up the big play, that tackle well, get off the field on third down, get after the quarterback, you always have a chance to win the football game. That’s all we can control. And maybe a little bit of special teams but that’s all we can control, and you have an opportunity to win.”

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