CLEVELAND - It sure seemed like a normal day in the Browns' locker room Thursday.
Towels were stacked neatly instead of being thrown in to symbolize another forgotten season.
The trade that sent running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts was being discussed only because players were being asked about it. Players often talk about football being a business, which is why they treated the biggest trade since Paul Warfield was dealt to the Miami Dolphins in 1970 as business as usual.
"I've been around here a long time," linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. "I've seen a lot of things happen, and that's one of those deals where it's out of your hands. It's not saying he's not a good player, but he'll be a good player for another organization. The powers that be felt it was the best move for the team, and we have to move forward."
The Browns will receive the Colts' first-round choice in the 2014 draft. They now have seven picks in the first four rounds (two each in the first, third and fourth) and 10 total choices.
To most of the fan base, the deal might look good for the long term - assuming the draft choices aren't wasted - but in the short term it doesn't sell well. With losses in each of the first two games, it sure seems as if management has given up on this season.
None of the players who appeared in the locker room Thursday agreed with that assessment. They contend that the objective each week will be the same as it was three weeks ago when the promise of a new season beckoned.
"Not for one minute do the players in this locker room think that we're not trying to win right now," Jackson said. "We have some things we all can improve on. We have to get that first win to create some winning around here."
That may sound all well and good, but the fact remains that management never entertained thoughts of qualifying for the playoffs. You don't trade away the third overall pick of a year earlier if you had January football on your mind.
Jackson is one of the few players in the locker room who was on one of the two winning seasons since the expansion year of 1999 - the 2007 season. The Browns traded quarterback Charlie Frye after a terrible performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the opener, paving the way for Derek Anderson to step in and lead the way to 11 wins in the final 15 games.
Jackson, one of the team leaders, signed a five-year, $42.5 million contract last February to secure his future in Cleveland for perhaps the remainder of his career. He could be looking at another rebuilding project next year that might include drafting a quarterback and a running back.
"I'm not focusing on it," Jackson said. "It's still early in the season. That's far out of my parameter. I'm not even thinking about it. You have to keep your hard hat on and keep moving. There have been changes here in the last two years. A lot of guys should be familiar with it."
The trade suddenly made the job of offensive coordinator Norv Turner more challenging. The running backs Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings could be Chris Ogbonnaya and Bobby Rainey. Willis McGahee passed a physical Thursday, but he might not be available on such short notice.
"I have a lot of faith in our leadership and the people that are making the decisions for what they want to get done and where they want to go," Turner said. "I think in the long run it's going to end up being a positive deal."
For disgruntled fans, things can't improve soon enough.