Scott Petrak, Browns beat writer for The Chronicle-Telegram, sat down with free safety Damarious Randall for 30 minutes near the end of the preseason. Actually, Randall sat in a golf cart and Petrak stood next to it.
They covered a wide variety of topics, including Randall’s huge expectations for the season, returning to college to get his degree, the welcome change at defensive coordinator, the real Odell Beckham Jr. and the genius of GM John Dorsey.
SP: What are realistic expectations for this team?
DR: Super Bowl.
I mean, the realist they’re going to get. And at the end of the day, anything less than that is obviously a disappointment. Period.
Let’s say if we go to the AFC championship game and don’t win, obviously that’s a step in the right direction. But at the end of the day, we’ve got one goal and that’s to win the Super Bowl. And we’ve got the pieces up in here to do it, so why not?
SP: Is there something you need to see out of this team to convince you it’s ready to win the Super Bowl?
DR: We just need the football gods and hopefully people can stay healthy for the most part. We know football is a dangerous sport, we understand that there’s going to be injuries, we understand that this team is prepared to be without guys, this team is prepared to win those tough games, the 14-12 type games, 10-9 type games. This team is also built to win the 48-45 type games. So whenever you’ve got that versatility to where you are really never out of any game. I’m sure we might go into probably 90 percent of our games favored. I don’t know the last time when that ever happened around here.
This year, I don’t care what Vegas says, there’s going to be a lot of games that might not be as close as a lot of people might expect them to be. It’s going to be an interesting year.
SP: No matter how good the roster is, isn’t the league built to have a bunch of close games?
DR: It is.
DR: This league also is not built for GMs to trade away once-in-a-generation talent all to one team. You get an All-Pro Olivier Vernon, an All-Pro Sheldon Richardson, an All-Pro Odell Beckham to go with close-to-All-Pro Denzel Ward, close-to-All-Pro Myles Garrett, Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Joel Bitonio. You can keep naming, Larry Ogunjobi, myself, Kirko (Christian Kirksey), Joe Schobert, Pro Bowler.
I don’t even want to really quote none and put it all out to the media, but we might not have as much prime-time games as people think because people would like to see close games. No, seriously. Our games just might not be as competitive as a lot of people think. We do play the teams like the Rams and the Patriots, which is going to be marquee matchups, but for the most part I would say 50 percent of our schedule, as long as we don’t go out there and beat ourselves, I don’t think the game is going to be close going into the fourth quarter. But that’s just me, though, and my wishful thinking.
SP: Is there any danger in being overconfident?
DR: No. Because the thing about it is you don’t listen to the outside people regardless of whether they’re talking good, bad or not. Because at the end of the day, only you know you and only we know what we’ve been through as a team and only we know what we’re capable of. Because I know a lot of people want to put this team at 8-8, 9-7, 10-6 and they’re trying to shoot out all these records. But who’s to say we can’t go 16-0? Who’s to say we can’t be the second team in NFL history to ever go undefeated. That’s the type of talent this team has. Each week is played by itself, so people are going to be in trouble. And this is going to be fun because I’m a part of it and I hope I continue to be a part of it.
SP: That leads right into this, you want to be here, right? You’re entering the last year of your contract.
DR: Of course. Definitely. I love it here, man. I love the culture here. (Defensive coordinator) Steve Wilks, me and him had a bond before he even got here. So the fact that when he did get here, he knows me, I know him, we understand how to push each other, we understand what to expect. Whenever you’ve got guys like that, like a DC that isn’t stubborn, like a DC that will listen, is open to change for your players, that’s when you know that you’ve got a chance in this league. And Steve Wilks definitely understands that.
SP: So how bad was it under Gregg Williams, the defensive coordinator last year?
DR: This is the NFL, it is not a dictatorship. Just like it was said, he only let Myles do one, maybe two pass rush moves, and we’re talking about a No. 1 overall pick. That’s in the past and we are glad that we got Steve Wilks and we’re glad the direction this organization wanted to go and just kinda looking forward to seeing it thrive in the years to come.
SP: What was the worst part of playing for Williams, lining up 25 yards off the line of scrimmage or being forced to play cornerback?
DR: I never had a problem with playing corner, it’s the fact that they waited until Friday to tell me I was playing corner when they probably knew on Tuesday, Wednesday that it was a chance of me playing corner.
SP: The Tampa Bay game?
DR: Yeah. For one, I ain’t watched no real film on Mike Evans and I’m matching the No. 1 receiver in the league one-on-one. Then we were a zone team going into the game and we played 75-80 percent press man. I was more disappointed in the fact that I actually tweaked my hip that game. So not only was I playing out of position, I was also a little banged up and that made me a little more banged up for the next couple weeks back playing safety. It’s like I’m running out there on one leg.
SP: Why did you go back to Arizona State in the offseason and get your bachelor’s degree?
DR: Ever since I’ve been little I’m a guy that loves to finish what I start. And that’s something in the next 10-12 years I can tell my kids, “Hey, I want you to get your degree, that’s something that I did.” Whether or not you’re a professional athlete, whether or not you’re a doctor, whether or not you’re a singer, I am not one of those guys that’s going to be like, oh, I played football, so my son has to play football. No, because everybody’s talent is completely different and that’s just the way I was raised and that’s the way I’m going to continue to raise my kids, whenever I do have some.
SP: What was the best part of getting your degree?
DR: I would just say the relief of just knowing what I started in 2012 finally got completed. And I’m actually about to start on my master’s. It’s funny because, it’s kinda like what Jarvis (Landry) said, it gets contagious. Whenever you finish one degree, it’s like, that wasn’t too, too bad, maybe I can finish another one. I’m still young, I’m still learning every day and I’m still smart. So why not continue on my education. Nobody said that you had to stop getting your degrees just ’cause you’ve got millions of dollars.
SP: What are you thinking about for the master’s?
SP: What was your bachelor’s?
DR: BIS. Business and integrated science.
SP: What was your hardest class?
DR: It was probably my French class. It was pretty difficult.
SP: When you say you want to stay, do you feel optimistic something can get done? Is there progress being made in contract talks?
DR: I’m not sure. I’m not really able to speak on those terms as much. From the standpoint of obviously wanting to be here, obviously wanting to get a deal done. I think both sides want to get a deal done, both sides want me to be here. I just think it’s more of maybe numbers. I’m not sure. Or it could just be time. I don’t know. I’m just trying to do what I can to just start the season off hot and hopefully the team can start hot, too, and we can go ahead and get the ball rolling and people can stop anticipating what the Browns are going to be and they can start witnessing greatness.
SP: How was GM John Dorsey able to build big-time rosters with the Chiefs and Browns?
DR: It starts with his personality. He’s a football guy. Most GMs aren’t football guys. Most GMs I can’t go and have a football conversation with. From the standpoint of played on the field. He understands the athletes. He understands the guys who make mistakes and he understands taking risks. That’s just something he’s been doing. He takes risks on guys, and that pays off up in this league, especially when you’ve got good football players. Because good football players want to play football.
And then it starts with your draft picks. The draft class he had, Baker and Denzel, people criticized both of the picks. You shoulda went Sam Darnold, he was the typical quarterback. You should’ve went Bradley Chubb and put him next to Myles and this and that. I heard it all. I saw it when they picked Denzel, the Browns are picking like the Browns again. I didn’t have a problem with either pick.
I asked them about who we were going to take with the first pick and they didn’t tell me nothing. But then they asked me about quarterbacks. I’m like Baker’s got the best arm. Baker’s got the most talent. But then you knew the similarities between Baker and Johnny. I don’t think people understand that us human beings are different people. Just because a story may have similarities, that doesn’t mean the outcome is going to be the same.
The fact that they took that risk and then the Denzel risk, the first 5-10 corner that only weighs 180 pounds to ever get drafted that high. Those are cornerstones of your team, picks that you’ve got to hit on, and I feel we hit on both of them. Then we hit on Nick Chubb and then when you start bringing those talents together and then you start winning, then that brings other free agents like Sheldon. And not to mention the OBJ and Olivier Vernon. OBJ could’ve easily tweeted out, “Oh, f— that, I’m not going to Cleveland, send me somewhere else.” But the fact that we had what we had established and the fact that we’re going towards that direction to where people want to go. The ultimate success would be for OBJ to hoist up a trophy and look at the Giants. “See what you could’ve had.” Or OV lift up the trophy and look at the Giants. Or Jarvis look at the Dolphins. I can look at the Packers. Dorsey’s got so many guys that are so hungry to win that other organizations maybe didn’t want or couldn’t afford or disrespected. So when you’ve got so many guys fighting to prove people wrong. And when you’ve got grown men wanting to prove people wrong, it’s going to probably get done. Period.
I know a lot of people say we’ve got a lot of personalities. Of course, we do, every team’s got personalities. We’ve just got a lot of famous personalities that people know about. I don’t think that’s going to be much of a difference between another 53-man team with 53 personalities. Every person has a personality, and the only difference is we’ve got famous people on our team with famous personalities.
I don’t know why people are, OBJ’s there so the chemistry’s f—– up. Or Baker is gonna blurt out some crazy s—. We are A-OK with that. We understand who Baker is, we know how Odell is. We know who Jarvis is. People know who I am. People know the road ain’t about to be straight-line smooth. We know we might be in the first quarter down 14-0 and come back to win 48-14. We may have games like that. At the end of the day, the roster that we’ve got together is going to be fun. There’s no way around it.
The Cleveland Browns are back. There’s no other way to put it.
SP: You know Odell, have worked out with him in the offseason. What’s something people don’t know about him that they should?
DR: I guess people say he’s a guy that has temper tantrums, attitude, this and that, but at the end of the day he just wants to win. He’s about winning. And I’ve seen a lot of people say if he’s not getting his targets he’s going to have a fit. If he’s not getting his targets and we’re 6-0, I promise you you won’t hear a word from OBJ. Nick Chubb maybe have a thousand yards after the first six games because people are trying to double-team OBJ. When you’ve got a generational talent like that who’s paid already, I don’t think he’s worried about not getting the ball. He is a guy that could go for 200 and we lose and he’d be upset trying to figure out what he could have done better to help us win the game. He’s definitely got the winning culture and he’s looking to win games. Most of the stuff you’ve seen with the Giants is probably because they were losing. Who wants to lose, period? Just imagine (Michael) Jordan in 1993 losing The Finals. Do you know what his temper tantrum would’ve looked like? Because when you’re looked upon as one of the best in the league or one of the best in the world at what you do, you want to win. Winning cures everything, period.
SP: What was your reaction when you got traded here?
DR: I was trying to make sure it was real. I was trying to make sure it was actually going through. And then I kept hearing that we traded a safety and I didn’t know whether it was me. So first I was, let me call up Dorsey to make sure I wasn’t involved. Like these are the rumors I’m hearing as I’m tweeting it out before it got announced.
SP: I meant you getting traded here. But you thought for a minute you might get traded to the Giants for Beckham?
DR: ’Cause at the time I was hearing rumors that they traded a safety and a draft pick, and this was before it actually broke. So my thing is, shiii-, there’s only two safeties they can trade. So I’m just sitting there like, shit, that’d be sad for me to leave The Land. You never know nowadays.
But when I got traded?
Probably a lot of relief. Because the first thing when I talked to Dorsey, he was crazy happy that they even pulled it off. And then the next thing, he was like that basically I’m going to be playing safety. And he wanted me to be myself. He knows I have a big personality, he knows that I’m going to talk trash. And where I was at, the Packers weren’t OK with that. They didn’t like me talking trash to the other team. They didn’t like how confident I’d be in the media. Let’s say we were playing a certain team, I guess they would want me to compliment the other team. But if I don’t got nothing to compliment, I am not the guy that’s going to sit here and just shoot you some bullsh–, like this matchup ought to be pretty intense. If I feel like we’re about to go out there and handle business and do what we’ve got to do, I’m going to show that in the interview. The game is played on the field. I’m not with all that trying to sugarcoat stuff in the paper so teams don’t have to play with an edge. I feel like I’m better than your edge, so I want you to play with your edge.
SP: I know you’re a trash talker. Do you have a go-to line?
DR: Nah. Everything’s more feel. Just more in the moment. Just more natural. I don’t think I’ve got exact words or exact sayings, it’s just whatever comes to my mind at that time.
SP: Is Baker your favorite target out here?
DR: My favorite target? I mean, he’s a quarterback so that would make him one of mine, especially during camp, like a guy that I’m watching a lot, trying to pick his brain as much as possible just to see how he’s thinking. Just to see where he’s at mentally. Let’s say there’s a throw that he doesn’t make, does he harp on that or does he just move on to the next play, or does he stare down his next receiver to make sure he throws a more accurate pass. I just watch a lot of things like that. Iron sharpens iron as much as possible.
SP: I would think that feedback would be really helpful to him. Does he tell you that?
DR: Definitely. We haven’t had our end-of-camp discussion where we kind of evaluate each other. We say, well, you’ve been doing this a little bit too much. Or maybe you need to not look off as much because you might be doing it a little bit overly. It’s a lot of things where we can help each other from the standpoint of he could tell me, hey, maybe I need to show a little deeper in certain coverages, or maybe I’m vulnerable whenever I show this. Every time I show this, we’re always doing something. It can go hand in hand with each other.
SP: I can see the blue hair peeking out of your hoodie after you lost a bet when the Golden State Warriors lost in the NBA Finals. Do the guys give you grief for that?
DR: They were. But now people are like, OK, we know he’s going to color it a different color every week. So now they just ask me what color are you going to be this week?
SP: I couldn’t dye my hair. You have no issue walking around with funky hair?
DR: I just look at hair as hair. I’m not really big on color. If you really think about it, whoever said our hair had to be black? Or whoever said our hair had to be blond or gray? I honestly never really thought it’s something big. It’ll be days where I wake up and I forgot my hair was even blue. I don’t even really think about it as much as people might think.
SP: What’s your favorite thing to do in Cleveland?
DR: Definitely go to either a Cavs or Indians game, for sure. I’m a sports junkie. After football, and this is some crazy stuff, too. After football, I’m going to tell you some of the things I wouldn’t mind doing as a living.
I wouldn’t mind being an NBA head coach, a TV analyst, NFL coach or NFL GM. And the last one would be nothing. Just absolutely doing nothing.
The only thing about it is by the time I get done, let’s say if I do play as long as I want to play, that’ll probably be another 10-12 years, I’ll be 37, 38, I’m still young. Eliot (Wolf, assistant GM) and (VP of player personnel Alonzo) Highsmith want me to be a scout. I am pretty good at picking out guys.