BEREA, Ohio -- Make no mistake about it, the newest members of the Cleveland Browns -- safety Donte Whitner, inside linebacker Karlos Dansby and cornerback Isaiah Trufant -- have one mission and one mission only: to win.
And that is why they decided to sign with the Browns in the first few hours of free agency, in order to help turn around a team that has suffered double-digit loss seasons in each of the past six years.
"I'm ready to embark on this new journey, and I'm ready to win some football games in Cleveland," said Whitner, a Cleveland native. "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.
"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, technique and going out there and playing physical 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."
A first-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in the 2006 NFL Draft, Whitner spent the last three seasons in San Francisco, where he anchored a 49ers secondary that led the team to three straight NFC Championship Games.
He comes to Cleveland looking to build a reputation for the Browns' defense based on physical toughness.
"First and foremost, (I bring) leadership in the locker room," Whitner said. "Whenever you come from a winning organization and you come to a team that hasn't had winning success as of late, you really have to change the culture. You have to change the mindset. You have to change the feel within the locker room.
"It starts with being sound fundamentally, understanding the game from a mental aspect, and then, it starts with being physical. Are you a defense that's feared by offenses around the National Football League? That comes with being physical each and every play and that starts with the defensive line getting after the quarterback, the 'backers hitting guys and getting them on the ground, and the safeties and corners adding that dimension that guys don't want to see. It's going to start with that."
In his previous eight NFL seasons, Whitner has registered 669 total tackles, including 492 solo stops and 177 assists. He has defended 45 passes and intercepted 10 others, two of which he returned for scores.
Whitner brings a hard-hitting attitude to Cleveland, one that has resulted in eight career forced fumbles.
"From my point of view, wherever that ball is, and I know these guys feel the same way, somebody's going to get hit and you're going to have a feared defensive unit out there," Whitner said. "If you have a feared defensive unit, guys that don't give up the big play, tackle well, get off the field on third down, get after the quarterback, you always have a chance to win a football game."
Dansby is entering his 11th NFL season after spending last year with the Arizona Cardinals.
Originally a second-round pick of the Cardinals in 2004, Dansby spent the first six years of his career in Arizona before going to Miami from 2010 to 2012. During his career, Dansby has made 1,007 total tackles, 821 solo stops and 186 assists. He has registered 38 sacks, defended 61 passes, intercepted 15 others -- including four he returned for touchdowns -- and forced 16 fumbles.
In 2013, Dansby registered 122 total tackles in 16 starts with the Cardinals. He had career highs with 114 solo stops, 19 passes defended, and four interceptions, matched another with two interception returns for touchdowns, and had 6.5 sacks, the second-highest single-season total of his career.
"I'm a Brown now," Dansby said. "I'm embarking on this mission and am trying to chase our destiny. I think there's something special about this city. I don't know what it is. I've been 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 and I really believe there's something special going on here. That's the reason I'm here. I'm going to make the most of this opportunity and I'm going to maximize it."