BEREA — Christian Kirksey isn’t backing down now that he’s back from summer vacation.
“I’m a confident guy — confident in my teammates and my brothers,” he said Friday morning. “I don’t regret that tweet at all.”
That tweet was sent June 19 and received a bunch of attention. Fifteen thousand likes, 5.2 retweets and 594 comments as of Friday morning.
“Woke up this morning letting yal know Browns will be in the playoffs this year!” he typed. “Remember this tweet #Cleveland”
Woke up this morning letting yal know Browns will be in the playoffs this year! Remember this tweet #Cleveland
— Christian Kirksey (@Kirko58) June 19, 2018
No one will let him forget it if it doesn’t come true.
Kirksey, the fifth-year linebacker and team captain, picked a long limb to venture out on. The Browns went 0-16 last season and 1-15 the year before. They haven’t had a winning season since 2007 and haven’t made the postseason since 2002.
Kirskey doesn’t care.
“I’m not too much worried about people’s opinions,” he said before the second training camp practice. “I know what this team has and I know how hard we’re working.
“I was very confident in that tweet and I stick to it. I truly believe it.”
The overhauled roster has given fans and many players the belief this season will be vastly different from the recent rest. For Kirksey, it starts with quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
“Tyrod has changed the culture,” he said.
Kirksey’s confidence and optimism are about more than added talent. He sees a greater commitment from the players and improved chemistry between the coaches and front office under new general manager John Dorsey.
“Just seeing the work ethic in these guys,’ he said. “It’s just a different feel. I think the coaching staff, the general manager — everyone is on the same page.”
The tweet hadn’t been sitting in Kirksey’s draft folder. He got up that Tuesday, felt good about his team’s chances and let it rip.
His last guarantee wasn’t as ambitious but it was risky. At 0-9 during the 2016 season, he guaranteed the Browns would win a game. It took until Week 16 — and a blocked field goal — but they did it.
“I was right. I didn’t make this guarantee to match that one, but when I really feel something, I’m going to say it,” he said. “I’m a firm believer in if I put it out there, it begins to exist.
“I know a lot of people will say, ‘You haven’t won a game, this and that.’ If we keep that mindset, then we’re not going to win a game. You have to have that mindset where you’re going to compete, you’re going to win. I really believe we’re destined to win a lot of games.”
He’s not alone. Receiver Jarvis Landry doubled down on his proclamation the Browns have a playoff-caliber roster by saying if everyone lived up to their potential they could win the Super Bowl.
“I think it’s throughout the locker room, I think it’s throughout this building,” Kirksey said of the belief. “It’s not hard to see what we’re building here. Outside looking in, they don’t know. We keep it in-house and I think that everyone has that mentality is winning needs to start now in Cleveland, and we have more and more guys thinking like that, raising the bar, then that’s how you win games.
“Because it all starts mentally. Once you believe it, you see it, you go do it. That’s why I really made that tweet, to show people OK, we’re not stuck in this same losing mentality.”
Coach Hue Jackson knows all about guarantees gone wrong — the jump into Lake Erie after 0-16 — and wants the players’ actions to match their words.
“I support our players wholeheartedly — no question about that — but this is so early in the game for us right now,” he said. “What we need to do is put our head down, just work and just keep getting better as a football team each and every day.
“Hopefully those things become a reality. You have got to believe something first before it ever happens.”