Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The hype train is steaming down the tracks for the Cleveland Browns at a feverish pace.
Case in point, NFL Network sent a crew to Barley House in downtown Cleveland for live look-ins during the release of the 2019 schedule.
Fans filled the bar and it didn’t take long for “Here we go Brownies,” “Super Bowl” and “Pittsburgh sucks” chants to break out while Andrew Siciliano interviewed Browns tight end David Njoku live during NFL Network’s schedule release show.
We also caught up with Njoku to get his reaction to the challenge that now lies before them – living up to the hype that a strong finish to last season and a blockbuster trade this offseason has now created.
“I believe we have unfinished business to take care of,” Njoku told 92.3 The Fan Wednesday night. “We’re going to work really hard and we’re really excited.”
Njoku echoed the sentiments expressed by general manager John Dorsey and head coach Freddie Kitchens about the success they had in 2018 that saw them win five of their final seven to finish 7-8-1 and the expectations that have been placed upon them following another busy offseason with Dorsey shocking the football world by landing Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon from the New York Giants.
“It’s all a bunch of noise,” Njoku said. “At the end of the day, it’s us versus them and that’s all it’s about.
“We’re not really focused on doing all that talking, we’re more focused on preparing to play.”
Njoku was in Los Angeles taking a shower when his younger brother broke the news to him that the Browns traded for Beckham. Even he couldn’t believe it at first and he jumped out of the shower to check twice that it was real.
“It was pure excitement,” Njoku said.
That trade has put all eyes on the Browns, and it helped them get two Monday Night Football games – week two at the Jets and week five at San Francisco, a Sunday Night Football game Sept. 22 versus the Rams at home and a Thursday night triple cast on Fox, NFL Network and Amazon Prime Nov. 14 against the Steelers at home.
After playing five primetime games in 2008 – three on Monday Night Football and one on Thursday and Sunday night, the Browns weren’t invited back for NBC’s showcase game until this year and a brutal 2015 loss against the Ravens on a blocked field goal turned into a return for a touchdown as time expired was the last time ESPN televised a regular season game.
Now the bright lights will be shining, and the challenge for Njoku and the Browns will be to shine, not wither under them.
“Zero pressure,” Njoku said. “Obviously we were chosen to do this job so [it’s just] with more cameras just like Hard Knocks so were ready to go.”
The Browns kicked off their offseason training program on April 1 and with the schedule out, Kitchens’ message to the team was succinct according to Njoku.
“He said one phrase, ‘Buckle your chin strap,’” Njoku said. “Buckle your chin strap and be ready to go.”
While fans have already circled their favorite games on the schedule and the pundits have already begun breaking down the matchups, Njoku declined to play favorites with any particular game or games when asked if he was looking forward to any one in particular.
“Honestly all of them,” Njoku said. “This is a great opportunity for me, and the whole team, to show what we’re really about. Obviously, there’s a lot of noise outside saying we’re this or that, but we decide who we are, and we’re excited about that.”
The Browns haven’t won a division in 30 years – 1989 to be exact – or made the playoffs in 16, which is the longest drought in the NFL, and 16 months ago they couldn’t win a game.
Now, not only are making the playoffs and winning the division legitimately possible, if not expected this year, fans are starting to dream of the ultimate unfathomable dream for the team – the Super Bowl.
“That’s a great word, it has a great ring to it,” Njoku said. “Obviously everyone’s dream is to go to the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl, but with that in mind, we’re just focused on one game at a time.”