Reporting Daryl Ruiter
BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Just a mere 90 minutes after introducing a new CEO, the Browns welcomed a few other VIPs to the training complex in Berea Wednesday afternoon.
Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman were among the dignitaries to stop by to watch a portion of practice.
The 10 car political caravan was in the neighborhood following a campaign stop at Baldwin Wallace University Wednesday morning.
“That visit was purely coincidental with the news of today,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “[They are] very impressive people and I think our team enjoyed it.”
Owner Jimmy Haslam, who was approved Tuesday in Chicago by the NFL, new CEO Joe Banner, retiring team president Mike Holmgren, and general manager Tom Heckert joined them on the field.
Banner was introduced earlier in the day and will take over as CEO of the team on Oct. 25 with Holmgren set to retire at the end of the season.
Ryan and Rice addressed the team separately during practice and the VP hopeful had a case of mistaken identity.
While praising quarterback Brandon Weeden, he directed his comments at Colt McCoy. After realizing he was talking to the wrong guy, Ryan joked about the players always wearing helmets and how hard it is to tell them a part.
“He saw the red [practice] jerseys and got us mixed up,” Weeden said. “He’s got a lot more important things on his mind than me and Colt.”
It made for a good laugh in the locker room following practice – especially considering that earlier this year at a campaign stop Ryan called him “Brendan Wheaton.”
There’s no confusion as to who’s who on the team with the former Secretary of State who is a die hard Browns fan.
She took time to visit with a couple of her favorite players – returner Josh Cribbs and rookie running back Trent Richardson.
“She’s a big Browns fan and supports us every weekend, and she wears my jersey proudly and I have nothing but respect for her,” Cribbs said. “She came to give us a pep talk to root us on for our next win.
“We appreciate her coming and taking time to talk to us and tell us how much of a supporter of us she is.”
Rice posed for an NFL publicity photo earlier this year sporting Cribbs’ No. 16 jersey. She joked with the players about walking around the White House wearing Browns gear and the hard time she received from fellow cabinet members.
“She’s a huge Browns fan and let the team know that,” Shurmur said. “She talked about how her father was a high school coach and how she became a Browns fan because of watching the Browns on TV.
“She’s an extremely impressive lady.”
Rice hails from Birmingham, Ala. and she is very familiar with Richardson, who led the Crimson Tide to a national championship last year.
He was honored that she asked to pose for a picture.
“Just her saying stuff to me, it’s an honor,” Richardson said. “She mentioned my name when she was talking to the team and I was trying not to smile but I did. She’s a big Alabama fan, a Browns fan and a big fan of mine and wanted to take a picture with me.
“I felt good about myself.”
Ryan took a moment and visited with pro bowl left tackle Joe Thomas who is also a Wisconsin native.
“I had to get through the secret Wisconsin handshake with him and Joe Thomas,” Shurmur joked. “They were exchanging handshakes and winks and talking about fishing holes and stuff.”
Cornerback Joe Haden didn’t know what to make of the unexpected visit.
“It was crazy, man,” Haden said with a laugh. “I was nervous. All these Secret Service coming out to practice, I didn’t know what was going on. I stepped off the field, got out of the way. I was legit scared. I didn’t want to get too close to people with earpieces looking at me.”
Haslam is no stranger to politics. His younger brother Bill is the governor of Tennessee.
Between the dignitaries, their entourage, traveling press corps and secret service, the suits actually out numbered the players on the field.