By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
Survey says: Everyone knows changes are coming to the Browns as new owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner settle in. Big changes and little changes. Where does a uniform change fit in?
Look at it this way: The two most visible aspects of an NFL team are the way it plays and the way it’s dressed. Haslam and Banner vow to change the way the Browns play. We know that will take time. But they can change the way they dress starting in 2013.
Over the last few weeks, I have polled the Browns locker room. I queried 13 players, just about 25 percent of the roster. It was a representative sampling of old (six) and young (seven), offense (six) and defense (seven), black (nine) and white (four). I can tell you the vast majority favor a uniform change. It was almost unanimous.
They are respectful of the Browns’ venerable tradition and Cleveland’s fight in 1996 to keep the Browns’ name and colors. To a man, they are fine with the orange and brown colors and plain orange helmets, though two players (Ray Ventrone and Josh Gordon) would not be opposed to a logo on the helmet.
Only one player positively adored the all-white look (Josh Cooper), though he also gave a thumbs-up to the brown pants last used in 2009.
No player suggested that changing uniforms would change the team’s fortunes on the field. But the general sentiment was that change is good and the drab sameness of the Browns’ uniforms is somewhat deflating. They want a few more options than all-white or brown-on-white. And they agree that a change in uniforms would aptly signify the change in direction – the jolt of energy -- brought by Haslam.
“I think it’s a new generation of football,” said safety T.J. Ward. “Especially with us being one of the youngest teams, I think the consensus is we kind of all want something fresh, a new look. There’s nothing wrong with keeping the same look, but maybe an alternate or a change-up. But we still have to play football.”
Roll call: We’ll start with Phil Dawson, the only player who has been with the Browns every year since their rebirth in 1999. Dawson has a greater sense of Browns history than any player in the locker room and even he sees the merit in tweaking the uniform scheme.
Dawson: “I look at a lot of pictures of Browns history and I see all kinds of different uniforms. So why is it now the actual ones we’re wearing we can’t change? I don’t get it. I’ve seen brown on orange. I’ve seen white on orange. The one constant is the helmet, but way, way back they wore white. There have been changes to the uniform throughout Browns history.
“You can probably make a pretty good argument that this city fought so hard to keep its colors when the team left and came back, that some of that (tradition) sentiment is a product of that. So obviously it’s going to be a delicate situation. And I’m certainly not going to be upset if no change is made. (But) guys grumble a little bit. The years we wore throwbacks, there was very little change (to what we wear now).”
John Hughes: “Change is always good. I guess the Browns have been very traditional since they’ve been here. But it would be cool to have new jerseys. It would be a change.”
L.J. Fort: “I’ve seen some of those NIKE (mock-ups). Those were pretty neat. I don’t have a particular preference. I wouldn’t be against it. It would be cool. But at the same time, it’s Cleveland, and they like tradition and the old-school.”
Ben Watson: “I play football. If they told us to go out there in purple and green, then I’d go out there in purple and green. That’s not my concern. I’ve been on some teams where new clothes were bad and they never wore them again because you lost wearing them, and I’ve been on teams where new clothes were good and they kept wearing them. Clothes don’t make the team.”
Joe Haden: “I’m all for it. I’m a fashion dude, so anything that could bring another spark would be really sweet. Whatever Haslam wants to do, I’m gonna ride with it. I just think it would be sweet to have new jerseys. Just something different because I think we’re growing something new here. We have a lot of young players, lot of new faces. It would be something. It would be nice.
“You look good, you feel good, you play good. So I think new jerseys would be so sweet. Everybody’s definitely down for it. Because we talk about it all the time. The Seahawks jerseys are so ‘sick.’ The 49ers jerseys. That would be ‘sick’ if we had something else.”
Ward: “I’m all for it. I don’t think we should change it completely, but I think a few alterations would be cool. You’ve got to change some things up. I know a lot of people are big on tradition here and keeping it the same. But I think maybe a new look would freshen a lot of things up.”
Cooper: “I like the plain look. I like the all-white. I’d like to wear the brown pants. That would be sweet. I’ve seen them.”
Ventrone: “Sometimes I like the traditional look, but there are other times I think you almost need to change … change an identity. Times have changed. Look at all these college teams. Young guys are into that kind of stuff. I think guys actually like our uniforms even though they might not be (the jazziest). But at the same time, there’s a lot of young guys on our team and I feel a lot of people – fans, etc. – they want to see new stuff.”
Gordon: “As much as you can do with brown and orange, I’m sure you can always use a little upgrade. You definitely do (feel energy from new uniforms). That’s how colleges recruit. They get a lot of young guys because of their uniforms.
“If they did (change), I’d be all for it. The all whites get a little dirty, a little dingy. I think it’s the best combo that we have. If we did get a new design, I’d be happy to vote for it. You look good, you feel good, you play good. That would be another attraction to come watch the game.”
Joe Thomas: “I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it. I don’t know what they’d change it to. It’s been brown forever. I’d be open to seeing what it looks like. It’s hard to say what my opinion is without seeing what they’d change it to.”
Josh Cribbs: “Oh, definitely. I say that from the rooftop. I hate the same old things. It’s no fun at all. It’s tradition, of what? We’re a different team. We should have different uniforms, or at least different variety. It would spark us, make us feel more amped. Marketing. Makes people buy the jerseys and want to root for your team. I’ll believe it when it happens. Any change is good for this program.”
Alex Smith: “I wouldn’t be opposed to it. I’m definitely a fan of change and trying something different. Of course, it’s tradition-driven uniform … but last year was miserable just doing that all-white. But to have different options. You can always bring (all-white) back as throwbacks.”
Eric Hagg: “I like the uniforms. I like brown better than white, just in general. It would be cool (to change). Any good change is good. I don’t really believe you have to do a certain thing every time.”
|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 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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