By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
June and July are nervous months in the NFL. While the league takes its only vacation, leaving players separated from the structured team environment, off-the-field misbehavior takes over the sport’s news. Many questions in this week’s column concerned the bad news of the NFL.
Hey Tony: Please help me figure out why I should still be a Browns fan. I'm sick and tired of our players getting DUI's, suspended for Adderall and Codeine cough syrup (but probably smoking pot which I am okay with as long as you don’t take us for a fool and lie that you are taking prescribed drugs), busted for murder, getting in motorcycle accidents at 100 mph (twice), an absentee owner for 10 years, a new owner that is being investigated for fraud. And to top all this off, we have sucked for more than a decade. It's hard for me to put any of my hard earned money towards this product, but it seems like every year I am drinking the Kool Aid. So this brings me to my point, which is I feel really positive about Lombardi/Chud/Banner and the direction they are taking our team. How do you think Haslam's business issues will affect our ability to spend money this year to lock up important players, overall business progress of our team and what if he did know about the "Ponzi Scheme" and he ends up getting 86'ed from being our owner. Would Lerner then be back since he owns 30% still? I just see a sloppy mess coming out of this, and here we are, the tried and true Browns fans getting left in the dust with nothing but our "junk" in our hands.
-- Brian, Fremont, CA
Hey Brian: I’ve heard and read Jimmy Haslam say that the federal investigation of Pilot Flying J will have no effect on the Browns. I’ve heard Joe Banner say it, too. I would suggest that that will be true during the investigation. The question is what happens after the results of the investigation are known. That’s what I’m concerned about. I don’t think anyone knows what the outcome will be. As far as the Lerner family’s 30 percent interest in the team, I’ve been told by someone who knows that there is absolutely no chance whatsoever of Lerner returning as the controlling owner. He doesn’t want it and the family doesn’t want it. I don’t know how the whole thing turns out. Let’s hope for the best.
Hey Tony: Have you observed or been told of any tangible effects on the Browns organization resulting from the FBI/IRS investigation of Jimmy Haslam? In other words, has the investigation influenced personnel decisions, expected changes to the game day experience or other matters?
-- Sean, Magnolia, TX
Hey Sean: I have not seen any visible effects of the investigation. The massive renovation of the second floor of the team’s headquarters is ongoing and expected to be completed some time next month, as scheduled. There is also renovation going on in some quarters of FirstEnergy Stadium. Changes in the game-day experience are being planned, but have yet to be announced. Major renovations such as a new scoreboard and possible field replacement were not scheduled to be done this year. Also, the organization has refurbished several departments with new hires. On the surface, nobody would ever know Haslam’s family company was the target of a serious investigation by just observing the Browns’ operations.
|Barkevious Mingo Photo/AP|
Hey Tony: just hate this time of year when there are so many stories about pro athletes (and wannabes) getting into legal trouble. So thank you for the piece about Barkevious Mingo. A brief ray of sunshine at an otherwise dismal time.
I'm ready for some football!
-- D A, Centreville, VA
Hey D A: Yes, the Mingo article was intended for the reason you mention. Within hours of its posting, however, came the news that Ausar Walcott, a linebacker from Virginia signed by the Browns as an undrafted free agent, was arrested in New Jersey for attempted murder. The Browns released Walcott shortly thereafter. Indeed, historically this is the worst time of year for coaches and GMs. It just seems like the off-the-field incidents are worse than ever.
Hey Tony: NFL players, and unfortunately as we know in Cleveland, owners as well have been on the wrong side of severe police and federal government investigations lately and compounded with constant DUI, drug, and battery arrests the NFL has been in a PR nightmare for what seems to be the last couple of years. I am shocked 1.) that prestigious college institutions don't mind enabling their athletes or donors who might be so inclined to harm others physically or financially, and 2.) that the NFL has not pushed back hard at the NCAA for enabling criminal behavior so that it might curtail this wild west atmosphere the NFL is currently dealing with. My question is, to your knowledge, do you think this problem has even been discussed between the NFL and the NCAA? I just don't know how a multi-billion dollar industry can have such problems with crime, major crimes. I don't think rookie symposiums are the answer.
-- Eliot, Cape Coral, FL
Hey Eliot: I’m not sure I would say the NCAA has enabled the criminal behavior that athletes commit after they are gone from college. Crimes are committed by people in all professions. We just don’t follow, say, dentists as we do professional athletes. If a dentist is involved in a crime, we don’t blame the college from which he graduated for enabling him. That said, it is outrageous that young men with enough guaranteed money to provide a wonderful life for their children and even future grandchildren can not avoid misbehavior. I can’t begin to understand why that happens. As for the NFL Rookie Symposium, while it can’t stop future millionaire athletes from running afoul of the law, you have to commend the NFL for at least trying to educate these young men on the challenges that await them as professionals.
|Vonta Leach Photo/VontaLeach.com|
Hey Tony: Other than the fact that Vonta Leach is 31, what other reasons would the Browns have for not having interest in signing a pro bowl FB, that is in your division. We don’t have a capable FB with his skill set. Not to mention, would he not be helpful to our game plan in week 2? We play the RAVENS!!! And, we have money to spend!!! Am I missing something?
-- Ed, Benton, TN
Hey Ed: I’m going to answer this question not as an excuse for not signing Leach but as a probable explanation of the team’s thinking. Could Leach help the Browns? Absolutely, for all the reasons you state. Would the addition of Leach alone accelerate the team to being a contender? No. The theory is that by the time the rest of the team matures into true “contender” status, Leach will be declining rapidly and the team will be left with a hefty salary cap charge for cutting him. Everything is timing, and the time is not right for a player of Leach’s age and salary range to be acquired. He is a true fit for a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations this year and also a need at his position. Some day the timing of players at Leach’s age and experience will match the Browns’ stage of growth. The only way this is going to happen is if the Browns stop rebooting their football operations department every two years and a continuity of philosophy is established.
Hey Tony: Do you think Browns management will assign ‘round the clock "help" to Josh Gordon and keep him away from South Beach and the wrong crowd? The Cowboys did that for Dez Bryant, I believe. Also, maybe Gordon is an addict? Has he been evaluated re that?
-- D. B., Palm Coast, FL
Hey D.B.: Gordon is an asset, and the Browns should do all they can to protect that asset. If it takes ‘round the clock help, that should be provided. As for your questions about being an addict, Gordon’s history at Baylor and Utah is well-known by the club. His recent violation of the NFL substance abuse policy subjects him to up to 10 random tests per calendar year. In addition, the program requires him to be evaluated by the NFL medical director on various occasions.
|Joe Haden Photo/Getty|
Hey Tony: I was completely caught off guard when you said in your Hey Tony! Column that in order for a player to be suspended for failing a drug test, they had to have failed a previous one. So, not only did Josh Gordon fail two tests but, so did Joe Haden? No one seemed to pick up on that when he was suspended last year. Both of these guys seem like good kids which makes it even more difficult for me to understand the choices they make; blowing an opportunity to play in the NFL, disappointing family, coaches, teammates, the city and fans. Exactly what is it that determines if they get a 2 game or 4 game suspension? Thoroughly enjoy reading your columns and listening to your podcasts. Keep up the good work!
-- Michael, Portland, OR
Hey Michael: The distinction between Haden’s positive test for Adderall last year and Gordon’s positive test for codeine (according to his statement) this year is this: Adderall is classified as a stimulant and falls under the NFL policy on anabolic steroids and related substances. Under that policy, a first-time positive test results in a four-game suspension. (A second positive test would result in an eight-game suspension). Codeine is classified under the NFL policy on substance abuse. Under that policy, a first positive test results in entrance into Stage One of the league’s substance abuse program and a second positive test results in a suspension. According to the policy, a suspension can be reduced (from the standard four games) if the player’s second positive test is for a substance different from the positive test which entered him into Stage One. That would explain Gordon’s suspension for only two games, though he was fined four game checks. In other words, the NFL is more tolerant with recreational drugs than with performance-enhancing drugs.
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