By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has silently stewed as his star receiver and flamboyant rookie quarterback each had multiple skirmishes off the field in the offseason.
On the first day of training camp, Haslam commented on quarterback Johnny Manziel and receiver Josh Gordon and didn’t mince words.
The day before, Manziel admitted he made “rookie mistakes” during his vacation, which was marked by images of partying and hanging out with celebrities in night clubs and private rooms.
“I think Johnny said it well, he made some rookie mistakes,” Haslam said. “I think the really great athletes make their news on the field, not off the field. And hopefully Johnny can look at guys like LeBron (James), (Tom) Brady, Peyton (Manning) and (Derek) Jeter and pattern himself after those guys who make their news on the field.”
Does Haslam think the message delivered by the Browns has sunk in?
“We’ll see,” he said sternly.
Asked if he was personally disappointed in Johnny Football’s antics prior to arriving in training camp, Haslam said, “Yeah, listen, I don’t want to wear this subject out. Johnny said it himself – he made some mistakes. We expect better from him. I’m sure he’ll perform. Now we’re anxious to see what he can do on the field, which is what really counts.”
Gordon continues to practice – and stand out – while awaiting an appeal hearing Aug. 1 of a reported indefinite suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy. Gordon’s offseason worsened when he was arrested for DUI in Raleigh, NC, on July 4 and reportedly checked himself into a substance abuse clinic for a two-week stay prior to camp.
“I’ll say this,” Haslam said, “First and foremost, we care about our players. We want our players to take care of themselves and make good decisions and we’re going to do everything we can to support them. At the same time, the players have to understand the players are accountable to themselves, to their teammates, to the front office and to our fans. People have to understand that and I’ll leave it at that.”
In response to a question, Haslam said releasing Gordon was never an option.
On other issues:
* Pilot Flying J agreed to pay a $92 million settlement over two years to the federal government in the 18-month-old investigation of rebate fraud. The agreement does not immune any company employees from federal prosecution. Ten company employees have pled to reduced charges in exchange for cooperation with the investigation.
“On April 16 (of 2013), we said clearly it looks like some people made some mistakes in our company and it cost all of us dearly,” Haslam said.
He reiterated the company has cooperated fully with the government investigation, implemented systems in the company to assure it never happens again and compensated affected customers wholly.
“So we’re glad to get this chapter behind us and move on,” he said, declining further questions on the matter.
* Haslam stood by his statement of last year that his expectations this season are merely to improve over the course of the 2014 season.
“This is a long process,” he said. “This is a team that has not been very good for a long time. Despite what a lot of people think, we’re actually patient and we think we have the right group in place and we’re going to get better over time.
“I think Ray (Farmer) and Pet (Mike Pettine) and Bill Kuharich did a nice job in the offseason. We probably need another year or two like that to have the kind of roster we need. But in my terminology, we’re directionally correct.”
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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