Seven miserable years of losing, four of those with the Browns, prompted Denver Broncos safety Mike Adams to make an outrageous vow.
After the New England Patriots fell in the AFC Championship Game, Adams, a 10-year veteran, said he would walk from MetLife Stadium to his hometown of Paterson, N.J., in full uniform if the Broncos win the Super Bowl. They take on the Seattle Seahawks tonight in East Rutherford, N.J.
"It would probably take 2 1/2 hours," Adams said Thursday. "It's 9.2 miles, if I'm not mistaken. I did the math, so I'm still like, 'If."'
It's not hard to see why Adams, 32, would get carried away in his euphoria. In the five years he played for the Browns, he won 28 games. In two years with the Broncos, he has won 28 games, although he's still stung by the double-overtime divisional playoff loss last season to the Baltimore Ravens.
But in a telephone interview 10 days ago, Adams insisted that the Broncos' chemistry is no different than the bonds forged with the Browns from 2007-11.
"I couldn't say the locker room's different," Adams said. "The only thing different is that we're winning here. That locker room we had in Cleveland, we were tight. There was no animosity with the offense; you can call any of those guys up. We fought together, we scratched, we fought the whole game. I'd do anything for those guys."
Adams made it in the NFL as an undrafted rookie out of Division I-AA Delaware, sticking with the San Francisco 49ers for three seasons before signing with the Browns. As fulfilling as that was -- especially after a coach at the University of Wyoming told him before the draft he had no chance in the league -- Adams had only one winning season before joining the Broncos. The 49ers went 13-35 as he played for two coaches. The Browns compiled an 18-52 record under three coaches as Adams started at cornerback and safety and was a key contributor on special teams. Tiebreakers kept them out of the playoffs after a 10-6 season in 2007.
Adams remains close with his former Browns teammates, especially Josh Cribbs, Joe Haden, T.J. Ward and D'Qwell Jackson. He said last week that he once joked with Jackson, 'Watch, I'll end up going to the Super Bowl when it's in Jersey."'
Adams even vacationed with some of his Browns buddies.
"Since I've been here, my season's been a little longer, so I couldn't go on vacay with them," Adams said.
"We had a bond there," Adams said of the Browns. "The struggles we've been through, we would have loved to win, but we didn't. But we became so much tighter. I love those dudes. I still call them. We support each other."
Adams congratulated Haden and Ward for making the Pro Bowl and said Thursday that he still watches them from afar.
"I do feel bad for them because they deserve -- and not just them, the city -- deserves to win," Adams said. "It's just like change after change, and rebuilding and rebuilding. I think I was getting too old to be rebuilding. That's just the nature of the beast, I guess."
The locker room ties might not be different between the Browns and Broncos, but Adams said the energy in team headquarters is.
"When I was in Cleveland, nothing against the organization, I love the organization because they gave me my shot, but going in after every game, when you lose by one point, by two points, by three ..." Adams said Thursday. "When you're winning, you're going to work probably an hour earlier because you're happy. You're ready to go for the next week.
"It's a different vibe in the locker room, it's a different vibe with the coaching staff."
When injuries hit the Broncos' defense this season, Adams started seven games and played in all 16 for the fifth time in his 10 seasons. Only in his rookie year in 2004 did he not see action in at least 14 games. Adams has also tried to be a model of professionalism for the younger Broncos.
"Mike Adams is a true leader and a guy I look up to," cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, 27, said Wednesday. "He's not going to let you slip up on the back end. He and I almost got into fights on the field many times because he's always yelling at me. It took me awhile to understand that's him. He wants everybody on the same page, to do it right. I always thought he was yelling just to be yelling."
That yelling might be rooted in Cleveland, where Adams saw what happened when players freelanced and didn't take care of their responsibilities.
The Broncos might find leadership from someone else next season. Adams' contract is up March 11, days before he turns 33. He doesn't know what the future holds, so he's savoring every moment of his first trip to the Super Bowl. He said he often wondered if he would ever make it, especially when he looked at Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, who waited 15 years.
"We've got the time clock, we all do," Adams said. "I've got to cherish this and soak it all in. It definitely makes it much sweeter because of the struggle you went through. I don't regret any of it because it made me who I am and make me hungrier."
Adams said he relished standing on the podium during the AFC Championship trophy presentation.
"It felt great, all the confetti falling on your head, that's what we play for," Adams said. "That's the thing we all dream about as little kids."
But Adams didn't celebrate extravagantly, instead cooking out at home with 25 friends and family members.
Where he ends up Sunday night will depend on how the game goes and whether Adams can find a nice pair of walking shoes to replace his cleats, Adams said Thursday.
"I haven't found a back-road route, but if I decide to go, hopefully people will give me a ride or something," he said.
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