Reporting Daryl Ruiter
BEREA (92.3 The Fan) - The Cleveland Browns held their most intense and spirited practice of Training camp Friday morning.
It was mere coincidence that the team’s new owner Jimmy Haslam III and his family happened to be in attendance to watch it.
“First impressions are very important,” quarterback Brandon Weeden joked. “I congratulated him, and they said they’re excited to be on board. We knew he was there [during practice], but we just wanted to get better.”
While the players were continuing situational work such as their red zone offense and defense, all of the attention was on the sideline where Haslam stood with his father Jimmy Jr., wife Dee, team president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert.
Haslam completed a purchase agreement to buy the team from Randy Lerner on Thursday for $1 billion.
Cornerback Joe Haden was on fire in the secondary coming up with a couple of interceptions in 1-on-1 and 11-on-11 work.
“You’ve got to impress the boss,” Haden said. “I got my first pick finally, so I thought that was a pretty good thing. But everybody’s just trying to grind. And we know that everybody’s just on that same page trying to get better every day.”
The Haslam’s are big boosters of the University of Tennessee.
Running back Montario Hardesty, who is finally healthy and having an outstanding camp, has gotten teased by his teammates with the Haslam’s taking over and the fact that he’s a former Volunteer.
“I think as soon as they heard the news, ‘Oh, Montario, how do you like that news, you’re going to be good!,’” Hardesty said. “So I think the guys are already making jokes about it, but Rocky Top, that’s all. It’s all good.”
While Hardesty didn’t get to meet or spend much time with Haslam in college, he’s well aware of the family history.
“The field’s named after him – Neyland Stadium, Jim Haslam field,” Hardesty said. “Everybody knew about him. I met him when we did the groundbreaking for a new football sports facility. He donated a lot of money to it, so he was definitely a guy everybody knew around campus.”
Kicker Phil Dawson is Mr. Cleveland Brown. The lone remaining player for the 1999 expansion club has seen a lot of change and a lot of losses in his 13 years.
“It was nice to see him out here and his family,” Dawson said. “It’s definitely a new beginning and anytime you have that there’s a breath of fresh air and that kind of thing. But honestly, guys were just out here this morning going to work. Trying to go through another training camp practice and we’ll kind of take it as it goes.”
With Haslam taking over, new life is breathed into a listless franchise.
While the change is exciting, left tackle Joe Thomas admitted that part of him is disappointed to see Lerner go.
“I was sad to hear that he wanted to sell the team,” Thomas said. “Obviously he was the owner here when I got drafted six years ago. I had a pretty good relationship with him. He’s a really good man. I was sad to see him sell the team, but I think everybody is excited about meeting the new owner and seeing what he has to say.
“Hopefully we’ll have a lot of great years under him.”