"So much of it is we try like crazy to make sure we are taking care of our guys and then when [injuries] do happen you hurt for those players but you also understand that it is the next man up mentality, as tough as that is sometimes." -Kevin Stefanski
The Cleveland Browns have said throughout the 2020 season, which has seen a multitude of injuries across the league, that the team is embracing a “next man up” mentality. Against the Colts, that mentality came to life and was defined perfectly by a player no one thought would be a difference-maker on Sunday -- safety Sheldrick Redwine.
Redwine, who is in his second season, has been patiently waiting for his time to arrive and preparing to make the most of it when it did. On Sunday, when opportunity came knocking, Redwine answered enthusiastically.
Safety Ronnie Harrison, filling in for Karl Joseph who is out with a hamstring injury, had just snagged the Browns first pick-six of the season and the first of his career. Not long after that impactful play, Harrison, who embodied the next man up mentality himself, was taken out of the game to be evaluated for a concussion.
That put Redwine on deck to play his first drive of the season.
“I walked onto the field, and I was staring at the ball, pointing at the ball and said, ‘I need you.’ For a feeling to just say that and then see that happen, it is unexplainable,” Redwine said.
Redwine found the ball, getting his first career interception off Colts quarterback Philip Rivers.
Redwine knows that for a team to be successful, every player has to be ready for their moment, even when they haven’t seen a lot of action.
“It is just a process. I am a strong believer in trusting the process. Everything is going to happen the way you want it to happen. It is just a matter of time. It's just that belief in myself. I never got down about it. Just playing my role until my role expanded. They needed me to come in and play defense, and I came in and I just did what I had to do,” Redwine said.
But it wasn’t just Redwine who embraced the next man up mentality. Running backs Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson have demonstrated it well with Nick Chubb on injured reserve. Rashard Higgins produced a touchdown after taking over at WR3 with KhaDarel Hodge out. Chris Hubbard has remained consistent, stepping up to fill in on Sunday for guard Wyatt Teller.
“Yeah, that is kudos to those guys having the next man up mentality," Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said. "Very important for us to be able to plug those guys in and continue to move the ball. We are very happy about those guys. Like you said, the guys stepping in on the defensive side of the ball and making plays like that, that changed the game. We are happy about that.”
Those moments, the next-man-up plays that change the game, are something the Browns discuss and encourage each other to strive for, Redwine said.
“Those types of guys, I walk around and tell them, like D’Ernest, the type of situation D’Ernest is in, our lockers are right next to each other, and I told him, ‘When our time gets called, we have to make the most of it’. Seeing what he did with 95 yards last week versus the Cowboys and he had a crucial first down today and I had the interception—after the interception he came up to me and said, ‘We talked about it.’ Looked me dead in my eyes and said, ‘We talked about this,’” Redwine said. “To see that type of stuff, it makes me real emotional. I like to appreciate everything that comes to us.”
For the first time in years, the Browns are playing like a competent football team. A team with players who are ready to wait their turn, do their part and work hard to achieve the ultimate goal each week—winning.
“We have a lot of guys who are trusting the process. We are always preparing for the next man up. It is a physical game, and you never know when someone could go down. Anything can happen, so you have to be prepared. You have to study like it is your turn already and like it is already your opportunity,” Redwine said.
The next man up mentality is everything the Browns have been missing. A cohesive unit of talented players, unselfishly doing whatever it takes to help the team succeed. And with a 4-1 start for the first time since 1994, it appears it’s working quite well.
“That is a great feeling, being 4-1, bringing winning back to the Browns and being a part of that. That is something that no one can take from you,” Redwine said.
Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.