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Next step of Johnny Manziel's aftercare expected to be supervised in NFL intervention program

Apr 17, 2015 -- 1:10pm

By Tony Grossi |



As Johnny Manziel gradually turns his focus to rehabbing his football career, the care and treatment he received for an undisclosed substance dependency won’t end.

Citing confidentiality, an NFL spokesman would not say whether Manziel now is enrolled in the league’s Intervention Program. But you would certainly think that is the case.

And if he is, Manziel could be subjected to up to 10 random drug tests a month – depending on the stage of the program at which he is evaluated.

“We do not comment on any player’s status in the substance abuse program. The only time it becomes public is if we suspend a player,” Greg Aiello, NFL senior VP of communications, responded in an email.

Manziel recently completed a 73-day stay in a heretofore undisclosed rehabilitation facility. In a statement Manziel released on Friday, he referred to “my stay at Caron.”

Caron Treatment Centers, per its Website, provides alcohol and drug addiction treatment at facilities in Wernersville, PA, Princeton, TX, and Boca Raton, FL.

There is always aftercare required following the release from such an in-patient treatment center, which may include enrollment in a 12-step intervention program. In addition, Manziel’s aftercare most likely includes admittance to the NFL’s Intervention Program.

According to the NFL Website, players enter Stage One of the Intervention Program by one of three methods – positive test result, behavior or self-referral.

Behavior can include – but is not limited to – “an arrest or conduct related to an alleged misuse of Substances of Abuse … which, in the judgment of the Medical Director, exhibits physical, behavioral, or psychological signs or symptoms of misuse of Substances of Abuse.”

In Stage One, the player is subjected to testing “as often as is required to evaluate the Player adequately.”

If a player in Stage One is determined under the NFL program to require further treatment, he is advanced to Stage Two.

In Stage Two, players are subjected to up to 10 random tests per month. The tests could involve not only drugs but also alcohol, per disrection of the NFL Medical Director.

A player in Stage Two then faces discipline for positive tests. The discipline depends on the substance for which he tests positive.

The Browns have repeatedly said that they are concerned first and foremost with Manziel’s rehabilitation as a person. But the fact is that once his football career resumes, he will have to abide by the rules of the NFL intervention program. And one mis-step could result in a suspension.

“I take full responsibility for my actions and it’s my intention to work very hard to regain everyone’s trust and respect,” Manziel said in his statement.

The Browns consulted with and deferred to Manziel in how to handle his re-acclimation to the very public forum that he left behind when he admitted himself to the treatment center on Jan. 28. The written statement was determined to be the best course of action for now.

“I’m going to continue to ask folks to try to respect my privacy as I determine to what degree I am comfortable talking about a subject which I consider very personal,” Manziel said.



Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Tony Grossi's Mock Draft 9.0: Two defensive players match Browns' draft board with top needs

Apr 17, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |



The Morning Kickoff …

Mock draft 9.0: While national prognosticators tab the Browns as the team most likely to overpay in a trade up for quarterback Marcus Mariota, the possibility exists the team can do a double-reverse, triple-lindy shocker.

Two defensive players in the first round?

In this mock draft, it is the most prudent course of action for the Browns.

This draft might not ring up record sales of all those new jerseys on retail racks and the club’s Website, but it would bring the Browns closer to the team coach Mike Pettine wants.

A run-stuffing defensive tackle and an edge pass rusher not only fills two of the top needs of the Browns, they happen to line up in this mock draft as also the best players available at No. 12 and No. 19.

1. Tampa Bay: QB Jameis Winston, Florida State

A new civil lawsuit by an alleged rape victim will test the Bucs’ resolve.

2. Tennessee: QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

As the finish line approaches, he’s closing like a champion.

3. Jacksonville: OLB Vic Beasley, Clemson

Jaguars will have choice of all defensive players.

4. Oakland: DT Leonard Williams, Southern California

Raiders could be willing to trade down.

5. Washington: OLB Dante Fowler, Florida

They would be happy with this mock draft.

6. N.Y. Jets: WR Amari Cooper, Alabama

New GM Mike Maccagnan goes with best player available.

7. Chicago: WR Kevin White, West Virginia

Almost everybody expects new coach John Fox to take the receiver.

8. Atlanta: OLB Randy Gregory, Nebraska.

Assistant GM Scott Pioli’s experience with pot-smoker Justin Houston sways call.

9. N.Y. Giants: OT Brandon Scherff, Iowa

It would be hard to resist the draft’s top offensive lineman.

10. St. Louis: OT Andrus Peat, Stanford

Rams could move up or move down. This would be Plan C.

11. Minnesota: RB Todd Gurley, Georgia

What just happened?

12. Cleveland: DT Danny Shelton, Washington

He’s been the choice in five of nine mock drafts.

13. New Orleans: DT Malcom Brown, Texas

Gets nod over the fourth- and fifth-ranked pass rushers.

14. Miami: WR DeVante Paker, Louisville

To compete against Tom Brady, you have to outscore him.

15. San Francisco: CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State

There certainly is a need for draft’s top cornerback.

16. Houston: OT T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh

Coach Bill O’Brien bolsters his offensive line.

17. San Diego: RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

Probably preferred Gurley, but would not hesitate here.

18. Kansas City: WR Breshad Perriman, Central Florida

This would be a great get for the Chiefs.

19. Cleveland: OLB Alvin Dupree, Kentucky

Coach Mike Pettine celebrates an all-defense first round.



Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Browns 2015 draft position preview: Linebacker

Apr 16, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |



Third in a series analyzing the Browns’ draft needs.

Position: Linebacker.

Roster: Armonty Bryant, Tank Carder, Karlos Dansby, Darius Eubanks, Chris Kirksey, Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo, Keith Pough, Craig Robertson, Scott Solomon,

Analysis: Much like their defensive front, the Browns’ linebacker position group didn’t have a difference-maker in 2014. Kruger’s 11 sacks were a career high and represented a nice turnaround from his first season in Cleveland. And new addition Dansby did provide leadership on and off the field, as advertised. But that double-digit sack master to complement Kruger was non-existent. Jabaal Sheard was hardly a factor in the pass rush and since has departed in free agency to defensive end heaven with the New England Patriots. Mingo played virtually one-armed with a torn labrum most of the season and spent most of the year dropping back into pass coverage. Solomon stormed off the practice squad with two solid performances at the end, earning an extended look in this season’s training camp. Bryant, a situational pass rusher in 4-3 alignments prior to a torn ACL, will be tried at outside linebacker; we know now that Sheard couldn’t master that demanding role in the 3-4. Dansby received good complementary play in the middle of the defense from Robertson, who had his best year in three, and Kirksey, a third-round draft pick in 2014.

Needs: The outside linebackers are supposed to provide the pass rush off the edge in the 3-4. A measure of a decent pass rush is 20 or more sacks from the starting outside linebackers. The Browns produced 13 – 11 from Kruger and two from Mingo. So an edge rusher is the top need, one of overall draft priorities. The inside positions appear to be OK, but will need to groom a heir to Dansby, who turns 34 in November in his 12th NFL season.

Top 5 prospects

1. Dante Fowler, Florida.

He is a true play-maker, a long-armed edge rusher who rates as one of the top three defensive players in the draft. But unlike some future sack masters in the NFL, he did not have extraordinary sack numbers in college – 14.5 in 37 career games at Florida.

2. Vic Beasley, Clemson.

He pressed Fowler for the top spot at outside linebacker by out-producing him (a Clemson-record 33 sacks in his last 39 games) and leading all edge rushers at the Combine with a 4.53 40-yard dash.

3. Randy Gregory, Nebraska.

He may be the most explosive of the edge rushers off the snap. After two years at an Arizona community college, he starred in two seasons as the Big Ten’s most prolific pass rusher. Concerns about him include a light frame (235 pounds) and questionable body strength, plus a history of marijuana use. He didn’t help himself by flunking a marijuana test at the Combine despite knowing of the test well in advance.

4. Shane Ray, Missouri.

The Southeastern Conference’s 2014 sack leader (14.5) and defensive MVP is seen by some as a merely a light defensive end (6-2 and 249 pounds) because of questions about his ability to cover in space. Still, his initial quickness and pass rush ability should keep him in the top 10 of the draft.

5. Alvin Dupree, Kentucky.

At 6-4 and 269 pounds, he passes the eye test with an impressive physique and impeccable work ethic and character. He helped his cause by converting from defensive end to outside linebacker in his senior year. He is still a work in progress, though, at that position and may have to break in as a situational rusher.

Under radar

Zack Hodges, Harvard

Harvard’s all-time sack leader (27) and a two-time Ivy League defensive player of the year. He is a relentless competitor and dominated the competition, but may not have the overall athleticism to start at the NFL level. If nothing else, he is a situational rusher and special teams core player.

Last word

This draft is loaded at the top with 3-4 outside linebacker candidates and has several situational rushers in the middle rounds. But the difference-makers should be snapped up in the first 10 picks. If the Browns are turned off by Gregory’s history with pot smoking, they could be forced to choose between the fifth-best pass rusher in the first round or take a flier on one later in the draft.

Browns 2015 draft position preview: Quarterback

Browns 2015 draft position preview: Defensive line



Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Browns two-year uniform makeover returns attention now to the team and quarterback

Apr 15, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |


Photos/Cleveland Browns

The Morning Kickoff …

Covering their bases: The brilliance of the Browns’ uniform makeover – the team’s first in 30 years -- is in the numbers. Not the numerals, but the number of uniform options.

With three jerseys (brown, white and orange) and three pants (brown, white and orange) selections, there are nine uniform combinations available.

“We could be like Oregon of the NFL,” President Alec Scheiner said of the Uniform Capital of Sports, a.k.a. Nike University. “We haven’t had the ability in the past to have nine combinations because you had to have a set third jersey. And now we will. So that will be pretty exciting.”

Brown on white. Brown on brown. Orange on brown. Orange on orange. White on brown. White on white. Brown on orange. Orange on white. White on orange.

Surely, everyone from stuffy traditionalist to radical teenager can find one or more combinations they like.

None of the choices by itself is over-the-top, wow! That’s what I’m talking about! There is no distinctive neon orange or battleship gray as a fourth accent color. And none of the combos is hideous or Buccaneer gawd-awful, either.

But the diversity of nine different combinations makes the uniform makeover eclectic and achieves the desired effect of injecting energy into an organization stagnant and stale for the last 20 years. (More on that later.)

The two-year project overseen by NFL marketing executives and Nike designers followed marching orders given by Browns fans in market research studies, according to Shandin Melvin, NFL creative director.

“One, whatever you do, make sure it’s modernized. Make it younger for this generation of Browns fans, but don’t strip away the iconic history of the uniform. Two, make it tough. And three, don’t mess with the helmets,” Melvin said.

Respect the past, but represent the future.

And tying it all together was the seemingly unbreakable bond between Cleveland and the Browns.

The fans of the Browns brought the team – or, a team – back after Art Modell made his financial end run to Baltimore in 1996. Since the expansion era began in 1999, the fans’ undying passion has been the only thing going for the franchise. It is why Tennessee truck stop-magnate Jimmy Haslam paid $1.005 billion for an organization that has now won 84 games and lost 173 and made one playoff appearance since 1999.

The ties that bind: The uniqueness of the Browns’ new uniforms is the homage paid to their fans and city.

The word “CLEVELAND” is stitched across the chest of all three jerseys. There is no other NFL team jersey with the name of its city on it. Also, the name “BROWNS” is in big, bold letters on the pants -- another NFL first.

“I like it. It’s unique,” said left tackle Joe Thomas. “I think the fans will identify with it. There’s a passion and a connection between these fans and this team and this city more than probably any other team in the NFL -- maybe Green Bay is the only one because they own the team.

“I think giving them the name on the front is pretty awesome. And I think it kind of helps purvey to the players that this city really is a part of the team, more than any other city in the country.”

Further, “Dawg Pound” is stitched on the inside of the back collar – meant as both a tribute to the fans and an inspiration to the players.

“When those players take the field, and they know they’ve got the Dawg Pound physically having their back, I think it inspires them to just give them that little extra note of confidence that they have the whole stadium behind them,” said Nate Retzlaff, design director of football apparel for Nike.

“I think it’s beautiful to have it,” said safety Donte Whitner, a Cleveland native son from the Dawg Pound era. “I’m really a fan of it.”

“When you think of our organization, the first thing you think about is Dawg Pound,” Scheiner said. “A lot of organizations, it’s about the owner or certain players. I think with us, it really is our fans and we wanted to reflect that in the uniforms.”

The iconic orange helmet was not unchanged. The white and brown stripes at the crest were standardized to the same width, equal to the width of the stripes across the shoulders of the jersey. A matte, or dull, finish depicts Cleveland better than one shiny and glossy, Melvin said.

“All good,” said Thomas.

A fan celebration: The uniform reveal show produced by the Browns in the beautifully updated Cleveland Convention Center was another tribute to the fans, Scheiner said.

And so there were team-designated Superfans like Captain Cleveland, Macho Fan, Pumpkinhead and Bone Lady sharing the stage with Hall of Famer Jim Brown, Kevin Mack, Greg Pruitt and other Browns alums.

There was one priceless scene of emcee Nathan Zegura interviewing Pumpkinhead on stage as many in the estimated 3,000 team-invited season-ticket holders clamored to finally see the new uniforms.

And there was the venerable Bone Lady, resplendent in her arching, bone-festooned headdress, speaking for many when she cut to the chase and said, “I don’t care what the uniforms look like. I just want to see the team win, already.”

In truth, many in the organization had been walking on eggshells in anticipation of the uniform reveal, fearful of another PR fiasco like the Not-So-Great Logo Redo that became a national punchline in February.

They surely avoided that. By the end of the evening, fans streamed out of the Convention Center comparing their favorite uniform combinations, fairly pleased with the end result.

This, after all, was the culmination of two years of planning by the business operations of the Haslam-owned Browns. Shortly after Haslam purchased the franchise from the Lerner Family Trust, he and his business execs, led by Scheiner, huddled and produced a blueprint to redo the image of the stale, losing franchise.

Everything was planned for 2015.

A refurbished practice facility. Check.

A renovated stadium. Check.

A complete uniform makeover. Check.

And somewhere in that blueprint were sketches for a new quarterback around which to build a team to actually win games and compete for the playoffs.

All of which puts General Manager Ray Farmer on the clock.


ESPN Cleveland takes their fans behind the scenes new Browns uniform reveal!

Posted by ESPN Cleveland on Tuesday, April 14, 2015



Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Browns Unveil New Uniforms

Apr 14, 2015 -- 6:48pm

By ESPN Cleveland Staff |


Photo/Cleveland Browns

It's been a topic of Cleveland fans for years. Should the Browns change their uniforms?

The team's orange and brown is one of the most iconic looks in all of sports. It's been worn by the likes of Jim Brown to Bernie Kosar to Joe Thomas.

Back in 2013, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said the team had notified the NFL that they wanted to look at new uniforms.

Well it's finally here. After two years of planning and months of speculation and secrecy, the Cleveland Browns have unveiled their new uniforms to a packed house at the Cleveland Convention Center.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Tags: Browns

Grossi's QB Tracker: Week 8

Apr 14, 2015 -- 7:00am

By Tony Grossi |


Draft buzz a year ago was at a different pitch because the Browns held the fourth overall pick – and No. 26 – and their options that high in the round were more plentiful than this season.

At No. 12 and No. 19, the Browns are so much more reliant on factors outside their control.

So the biggest buzz in this year’s draft from this point forward might be more about their efforts to trade up – ostensibly for Marcus Mariota -- than whom they may pick at No. 12.

That’s why Mariota picked up points in this week’s rookie tracker. The other major change is the addition of Chris Bonner of Colorado State-Pueblo.


• Matt Schaub, who signed with Baltimore, officially has been removed. Philip Rivers’ name remains on the tracker, only because rumors persist he could be traded, probably to Tennessee.

• Sam Bradford picked up the half-point surrendered by Rivers. Bradford remains a faint possibility, but not nearly as serious as some Internet reports suggest.

• Johnny Manziel’s official release from a rehab center did not move the meter because it was previously reported that the Browns expected him to be available for the start of the offseason program on April 20.



• Big-armed Chris Bonner of Colorado State-Pueblo appears for the first time and nudges ahead of Sean Mannion. They are similar developmental prospects, but the feeling is that Bonner might be the one drafted and Mannion might not. Thus, competition to sign Mannion as an undrafted player could be great.

• Marcus Mariota’s number went up as speculation increased of renewed efforts by the Browns to trade up for him.

• Bryce Petty continues to lag behind the second wave of prospects.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




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