CLEVELAND - For many NFL teams, December is a time for playoff runs and securing first-round byes in the postseason.
For the Browns, the month is known more for moral victories and uncertainty about the future.
It has to be old for a veteran like offensive tackle Joe Thomas, who will be part of his sixth losing season in seven years. Thomas is playing for his fourth head coach, second owner and third general manger since arriving as a first-round draft choice in 2007.
As frustrating as it has been, Thomas somehow still walks around the locker room with a smile on his face. He believes that the feeling is different this season despite the 4-9 record the Browns will take into Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears.
"We're going to have some continuity this offseason," Thomas said. "I don't expect any changes. The last few years in the organization there were quite a few changes from the coaching staff. Then we got new ownership; new general managers.
"All those things are difficult because it takes away from the foundation. The foundation we're building right now is a solid one that's going to be here for a while. It's exciting for me because some of the faces may change and we might draft a few guys and sign a few guys and some people may leave, but I think the core is being built right now."
Thomas' positive attitude seems to have spread throughout the locker room. Players appear to genuinely believe that a productive offseason might be all that's missing from turning a perennial loser into a playoff-caliber team.
A big reason for the optimism is the presence of first-year coach Rob Chudzinski. Although the results haven't been what anyone in the organization wanted, the fact that there have been no indications that Chudzinski is in over his head - as former coach Pat Shurmur was in 2011 - bodes well for the future.
The players appear to like Chudzinski, not just because he's player-friendly but because he's competent.
"Chud has done a great job and all of us are following the direction he wants us to go," linebacker Paul Kruger said. "We've been in every game, and we've been in positions to win a lot of games. I feel like we're doing the rights things. It's up to us as players to make plays in the end to win."
Moral victories are hated in most cities for obvious reasons. If the Browns had held on to defeat the New England Patriots last Sunday, it wouldn't have improved their playoff hopes. Those were dashed a few weeks ago.
That doesn't mean coaches and players can't build off a strong finish. There is still a belief that winning late in the season can have a carryover effect into the next season.
"Offseason is a term we use to do the workouts, but it really never stops," Kruger said. "We're here all the time working out. Same faces; same guys. Building that unity is important for us. Having that success and those fights together means a lot."
Chudzinski couldn't agree more with Kruger's assessment.
"There are aspects and elements that can carry over," Chudzinski said. "What you do at the end of the season doesn't guarantee what you're going to do at the start of the next season. We've developed a mindset with this team. It continues to evolve."
For one more year, at least, there should be harmony with the Browns.