The Browns, who are to a disappointing 1-2 start, created national buzz when they made a flurry of offseason moves, including trading for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Cleveland was the betting favorite to capture the division.
All of that talk wore thin on the Ravens, according to safety Earl Thomas.
“The media was talking about OBJ and that tandem and Baker Mayfield, the next savior,” Thomas said. “Then, to add onto that, Coach [Harbaugh] talked about it a couple of times in meetings. So, guys kind of got tired about it.”
What was Harbaugh’s message?
“He was just talking about what it looked like on paper,” Thomas said. “And guys heard that, and basically, like, it sounds good, but we’ll see.”
At this year’s NFL owners meetings in March, Harbaugh called the Browns “the most talented team in the division” — a sentiment he said Wednesday was based on the preseason only.
“To me, that was an offseason question. I think at the time, they did have the most talent in the division,” Harbaugh said during a conference call. “It was meant to be a compliment to the Browns organization and everything and the job they have done.
“… Now we are playing the season and all of that stuff gets determined during the season. It is part of it now, but it is not really a time to rank that. I had not thought about it in those kind of terms. You are just trying to put a game plan together and do the best we can on Sunday.”
The Browns have struggled so far this season, losing both of their home games. Cleveland is one game back of the division-leading Baltimore (2-1). The teams split their two games last season.
“You have to play football at the end of the day,” Ravens running back Mark Ingram said. “You can have as many players as you want to on paper, but if guys don’t mesh and don’t communicate well and play well together, it really doesn’t mean anything. We’re going to have to play them twice. That’s why you line up and play football — to settle the score.”
Many believed this year’s Browns team would end the 29-year drought of not winning a division title. The Browns have been one of the most active teams this offseason. In addition to trading for Beckham, Cleveland added defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and defensive end Olivier Vernon.
“That’s just what it is — it’s hype,” defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. “You can’t really buy into it. You don’t really know what a team is until you see them on Sunday. When somebody gets hit in the mouth, what’s the plan then?”