Haslams Conduct Cleveland Browns Training Camp Press Conference

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Jimmy and Dee Haslam
Source: Scott Piker

Cleveland Browns training camp is now four days in. It’s a perfect time to hear from owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam about the state of franchise. Here is what they discussed following Sunday’s training camp practice.

Opening statement:

Dee Haslam: “It is great seeing everybody. We are glad you are here. We are really excited for our fans. The atmosphere out here at Berea is just fantastic. We are grateful for all of our fans here. We’re excited to see our players and coaches on the field. We feel like we are off to a great start.”

Jimmy Haslam: “I will just echo what Dee said. We have obviously been blessed with great weather. The turnout both in terms of numbers and the enthusiasm of the fans has shown makes it more fun for the players as they grind through these workouts.”

On if the Browns are finally in the position they foresaw when acquiring the franchise:

Jimmy Haslam: “I think (General Manager) John (Dorsey) and (Head Coach) Freddie (Kitchens) have done a great job of talking about expectations. Clearly, it looks like we have put together a good team, but right now, everybody is focused on getting better today. We try to get better Sunday. We try to get better Monday, Tuesday is an off day and we try to get better again Wednesday.”

On if they cringe when hearing about Super Bowl expectations, as well as in reference to Kitchens and players saying they aren’t afraid to talk about it:

Dee Haslam: “I think the expectation is to win [games]. I think that is everybody’s expectation.”

Jimmy Haslam: “At the same time, it is six weeks until the first game. It is a long season and a long grind. We still have a very young team. We integrated some new players. They have to be assimilated into a team. We have a lot of work to do.”

On the quick turnaround to being considered a contender after winning one game over two seasons:

Jimmy Haslam: “John has a track record of putting together good teams, but as John will quickly say, we haven’t done anything yet. We have to prove it on the field.”

On if the realness of the WR Odell Beckham Jr. trade has sunk in:

Jimmy Haslam: “I think it has now that he is here. He is here and he is part of our team. He is practicing every day. His family is here. We have a lot of chances to interact with him. Yeah, it has sunk in. Obviously, we are excited to have another really good player on our team.”

On if the Browns’ long-term search for a QB is over with QB Baker Mayfield on the team:

Jimmy Haslam: “Yeah, I think so. We have not only a really good quarterback; he is also a really good leader who loves the football. We were fortunate to have the first pick that year, and John and his team made a great pick in Baker. Obviously, he is going to be a part of our franchise for a long time to come.”

On viewing Mayfield as a potential young MVP candidate after seeing the success of Eagles QB Carson Wentz and Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes:

Jimmy Haslam: “I think Baker is working hard to get better every day. Like I said, he is going to be our quarterback for a long time. We are delighted to have him as our quarterback. If you look at his track record, he has won everywhere he has been.”

On realistic expectations for the Browns this season:

Jimmy Haslam: “That is probably a better question for Freddie and John to be honest. Right now, we still have six weeks before the first game, and guys are just working hard every day to try to get better. I think that is what we need to try to do.”

On what Beckham has done for the Browns’ brand and national profile:

Dee Haslam: “There is just a lot of excitement around all of our team. Obviously, he has brought a lot of excitement here. The fans are really excited about him and it is national exposure, but I think in general, our fans are really excited about the whole team.”

On excitement for the opportunity to create new uniforms in 2020:

Dee Haslam: “We talk all the time about that Cleveland has a certain way about them. I think the uniform that we are in development will fit our team really well – just our look and our feel of who we are.”

On if the Browns helmet will change with the new uniforms:

Dee Haslam: “No. No. Never (laughter). Absolutely never.”

On if the new uniforms have been completely finalized:

Dee Haslam: “No, I think there are still some things to be done. It takes a little while. Obviously, you have to really work hard to get every detail right. I still think they are working on the development part of it, but it is coming together.”

On the Browns request to the NFL to wear the Color Rush jerseys more this season:

Dee Haslam: “We are really excited. Hopefully, that will work out. It is a pretty good uniform. I think the players would exited to wear it if it works out.”

On the Browns’ talent level increasing:

Jimmy Haslam: “It is fun. Dee and I were talking about this last night. We are excited for the organization, the players, the coaches, the personnel, ourselves and everybody who puts in the time and hard work but we are most excited – you know the area as well or better than we do – for the fans because these are the greatest sports fans I have ever been around. They deserve to have a really good football team.”

On the difference heading into this year’s training camp compared to previous years:

Jimmy Haslam: “It kind of cuts both ways, right (laughter)?”

Dee Haslam: “Yes.”

Jimmy Haslam: “But you would much rather be in this position.”

On if their ownership style has changed at all in the past year:

Jimmy Haslam: “I think we have said this a lot: I think we have learned a lot as we have gone along. It has been painful, but I think we have really good people in our organization that we feel really comfortable with.”

On the most important lesson learned during their ownership:

Jimmy Haslam: “Get the right people in the right place – and to get a quarterback (laughter).”

On it appearing publicly that they have ‘taken a step back’ as owners:

Jimmy Haslam: “I will just say that we feel really good about the people we have in place.”

On Kitchens and his laid-back style with players, particularly given the number of high-profile players on the team now:

Jimmy Haslam: “If you were close on the field, you would not think he was laid back. If you heard him today, he is not laid back. Freddie has a lot of strengths, but he is very comfortable in who Freddie Kitchens is. We have all been around people who are ‘comfortable in their own skin.’ That is a tremendous strength of his, and it shows through to everybody he deals with, I would suppose from you all to the players. I think that is what will make him a really good head coach.”

On why Kitchens may not have had a head coaching opportunity sooner in his career and what the Browns liked about his potential during the interview process:

Jimmy Haslam: “There is a lot of luck in life, right? Right person, right place. Sometimes, people are exposed early. Sometimes, you are an offensive coordinator and you have a great quarterback, and that gets you a job. There is right time and right place. Just what I just said [is what stood out about Freddie during the head coaching search]. He is very comfortable with who Freddie Kitchens is.

He doesn’t try to be something he is not. We think he will relate well to all kinds of different people but most importantly, our players. Freddie can talk to guys who cut the grass. (Kitchens_ can talk to the scouts, he can talk to players. He can talk to Dee and I. He is very comfortable [with who he is]. I am repeating myself, but the doesn’t try to be something he is not.”

On RB Kareem Hunt’s development, their involvement with him and the situation outside of a bar this offseason:

Dee Haslam: “We know that Kareem has work to do, and he is in counseling working really hard. It is up to him. It truly is up to him. We have high expectations for our players.”

On if there were any qualms to signing Hunt, particularly from a woman’s perspective:

Dee Haslam: “I think you have to take the situation very, very, very seriously. We spent a lot of time and John spent a lot of time with Kareem and felt like he has potential as a person, which is obviously as important as a player. He needs to continue to work really hard to be part of our organization.”

Jimmy Haslam: “Kareem understands what he has to do to continue to be a part of the Cleveland Browns.”

On status of the Browns request to the NFL and NFLPA for Hunt to remain with the team in some capacity during his suspension:

Jimmy Haslam: “Those talks are still ongoing. Obviously, the league has the final call, but those talks are still ongoing.”

On the nature of the NFL in hindsight that this time last year Chargers QB Tyrod Taylor was the Browns’ starting QB and Kitchens was the running backs/associate head coach, given it seems some of the happenings were ‘accidental almost’:

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Jimmy Haslam: “If you look at any organization – I will relate back to the organization I have spent most of my life with, Pilot Flying J; my dad were laughing about this the other day – there are good decisions that are made; there are some bad ones; and there is luck. I will just leave it at that. I think you can point to any… (Patriots QB) Tom Brady gets picked in the sixth round. There is luck involved, too, absolutely.”

On the future of the Browns facility in Berea, given a pending extension with the City of Berea:

Jimmy Haslam: “I think it is very public – (Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer) Dave Jenkins said it – we are committed to this facility and to (the City of) Berea. They have been great partners to work with. We are continuing to look to do two things with this building: make it better for our players and make it better for our fans. The turnouts we have had [for training camp] have been very impressive.”

On the 2021 NFL Draft coming to Cleveland and what that means for the Browns:

Jimmy Haslam: “The draft is really more about the city. You all know and appreciate the sports fans in this area, and you also know what a big deal the draft is. We are very excited for the City of Cleveland and really all of Northeast Ohio because this is an event you can drive to. You can drive four or five hours and there are a lot of pro football fans – I forget how many franchises are within 300-400 miles of here. We think we will have a great turnout, and we think it will be great for the fans of Northeast Ohio.”

Dee Haslam: “It is a great opportunity to showcase Cleveland, what a great place it is and all of Northeast Ohio. We are really, really excited about the draft.”

On status for development by the stadium and lakefront, as well as connect the lakefront to Downtown Cleveland:

Dee Haslam: “We are working on it. There has been some progress made, but there are a lot of people involved in the process. We are primarily focused on the south and making that connection to the stadium because the parking is downtown and you want to be able to access the waterfront and access our stadium. We are putting a lot of focus on that. I think we are making progress. It is not fast, but we are doing it as fast as we can. We are excited about it. We are just going to have to keep working at it.”

On ingress as an obstacle for Browns games, particularly with gate entry:

Dee Haslam: “We are doing everything we can by expanding the gates so we have a bigger footprint there. It is critical that our fans get there early this year. We are sold out. We are going to have a lot of people. If we can get the fans there earlier, it is great for our players who see the fans there in the stadium early; and just getting into the stadium will be much easier if they come early. We would really appreciate it.”

Jimmy Haslam: “It is really important the fans come early for their convenience, and it helps. We need 68,000 people there at 1 p.m., not at 1:20 p.m.”

On firing a coach midseason last year to having high expectations for the team this season:

Jimmy Haslam: “Somebody did mention it earlier, we have faced some bumps in the road. We have had some bad breaks. Hopefully, now we are getting some good breaks. It all starts at the quarterback position, and we look like we have a quarterback who is going to be able to play for us for a long time. He is not only a good quarterback, but he is a really good leader.”

On if not making the playoffs would mean 2019 was a disappointing season:

Jimmy Haslam: “I think that is unfair. I think Freddie and John need to comment on that. We just need to have a good practice tomorrow and see what happens. We still have a lot of work to do, as you all can see.”

On how Mayfield has connected with Browns fans so quickly:

Jimmy Haslam: “When we went to see Baker in Norman – we did the same with all four quarterbacks; we went to see and all four of them are really good people – we went to dinner with Baker and he is talking to seven or eight of us and we watched how he handled that conversation and we watched how he kind of handled the chalk talk.

What really struck is most guys have three or four guys to throw too; Baker had eight, and they were all excited. He walked in and you would have all thought their hero – which probably is true – walked in. They were all excited and all jacked up, and you could just see it. We know people at Oklahoma that talked about how well he connected with people and what a good leader he was, etc. You have all dealt with all kinds of athletes. You can pick up who has that ability to connect with people, and he is very gifted in that way.”

On there were any surprises with how well Mayfield played last season:

Jimmy Haslam: “It is hard to come into the NFL and play quarterback. It is hard to play quarterback period, right? Of course, Baker took no first team snaps; Tyrod took all the snaps. You could start to see in practice as we worked our way through the exhibition games and even in the early games before he started playing… He was playing on the second team, helping get the first team ready because you could start to see him really start to come on. Of course, none of us will forget when he came on against the Jets and hits that 20-yard pass over the middle to (WR) Jarvis (Landry) and we are off, right?”

On if the Browns will take on some of QB Baker Mayfield’s personality and moxie:

Jimmy Haslam: “I hope so. I think he has that. You have all been around. We have a lot of different personalities on the team – nice guys, brash guys, hot-headed, some not so hot-headed. I heard (G) Joe Bitonio talking Baker, and Joel is one of our best players and best leaders and he has been around here. You want your quarterback to be a strong leader.”

On if the front office has questioned decisions at QB to begin last year:

Jimmy Haslam: “It does not do any good, and hopefully, we will not be in that position for a long time. We could have saved a third-round draft pick and started Baker Day 1, but hindsight is always 20/20 so we are not going to worry about it.”

On if last year’s QB plan was a unanimous decision:

Jimmy Haslam: “John makes those calls, and John followed a similar track at Kansas City when he went there and traded for Alex Smith so I think we all thought it made sense. Tyrod is a great guy and a great person, but it did not work out and we wish him well, and like I said, we have the quarterback for the future for us.”

On Mayfield’s comment at the NFL Combine about drafting him and that he could help turn around the Browns and if that caught their attention:

Jimmy Haslam: “I do not even remember if we saw that, but like I said, when we spent time personally with him – all four of the young quarterbacks are all good people and confident – but you could tell Baker had something special about how he is put together. His mom and dad did a great job.”

On what they are most proud of with the organization:

Dee Haslam: “I think the fans’ excitement for the team. We can’t help but be excited for them. It is a big deal. For us, it is just for Cleveland and the excitement of the fans. It is tremendous.”

Jimmy Haslam: “I would say this, the people in this building and that is the whole. We got everybody together – and this was actually Freddie’s, John’s and (Executive Vice President) JW (Johnson)’s idea – on Wednesday morning except the players. Everybody who works for the organization no matter what you did just to update. We started with the business side, and JW did a Q&A with John and Freddie, and Dee and I closed it up. We gave out service awards.

You appreciate how many people who have worked here so long and are really good people and really care about their job and care about the Cleveland Browns and the great job they do for the organization. That is what I am proudest of and I think Dee is. When you combine that with great fan support, it is a good place to be. Now, we have to go out there and win some games. That is what counts, and that is all we care about.”

On if they were surprised Kitchens is not as laid back as head coach:
Jimmy Haslam:
 “You never know how somebody is going to be when they are the head person, but Freddie was the offensive coordinator and we saw him run the offensive side of practice. When you are the running backs coach, you are in a different role than when you are the coordinator versus the head coach so we have seen a little bit of it, but you never know anybody until you put them in that job. He is off to a really good start and think he will be our head coach for a long time.”

On when they realized this season or last season that things were becoming different for the Browns:

Jimmy Haslam: “I will say what I said: We only won seven games last year. Obviously, a lot better than the prior two, we understand that. It looks like we have put together a really good team, but we have to go out and win games and win consistently. If you look at our schedule, it is a tough schedule and our division is tough. Everybody knows that. Our track record against particularly Pittsburgh and Baltimore and even Cincinnati is not very good. Enough talk. We have to go out and win games now.”

Scott Piker is the Cleveland BrownsCleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Indians Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage.com. So follow him on twitter @ScottPikerSport

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