Browns President Mike Holmgren has asked fans for their allegiance during the NFL's lockout.
"We will play football again," Holmgren said this afternoon during a news conference at the team's headquarters in Berea. "The tough part is knowing exactly when. Our hope is that it gets worked out. I believe everyone wants it to work out, and I just want to encourage our fans to hang in there."
Holmgren said the Browns don't plan to lay off team employees or cut the pay of assistant coaches despite the league's owners locking out the players last week. Holmgren acknowledged the Browns face a unique challenge during the lockout because they have a new head coach, Pat Shurmur, and a young quarterback, Colt McCoy. Still, he expressed optimism about the direction the franchise is heading because of its front office -- he called General Manager Tom Heckert "the real deal" -- and the promise McCoy has shown.
"We've worked very, very hard to begin to establish a program that will win," Holmgren said. "We are proceeding along those lines. It's going to be business as usual in the building for the Cleveland Browns' organization. As you know, the draft is coming up at the end of April, and even with the work stoppage, the draft preparation and everything prior to that time is the same as always."
Holmgren said he understands if fans are angry about the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987. Browns ticket holders will be refunded, plus interest, if any games are canceled because of the lockout, Holmgren said.
In addition to reaching out to the fans, Holmgren addressed several other topics. Here are some of the highlights:
- McCoy has received a playbook. Holmgren said the Browns will abide by league's rules when it comes to cutting off communication with players during the lockout. However, he expects McCoy to communicate with his teammates during the work stoppage.
- Holmgren said injured players, such as running back Montario Hardesty, must rehabilitate and receive treatment by a third party, not the team's medical staff.
- Holmgren said he didn't know if the Browns were in negotiations with fullback Lawrence Vickers before the lockout. He didn't reveal which players received restricted free agent contract tenders, though sources said tight end Evan Moore and cornerback Eric Wright have received second-round tenders.
- Holmgren said McCoy exceeded expectations last season in part because he didn't expect McCoy to play at all.
- Holmgren said it's the Browns' obligation to evaluate the best draft prospects, and Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is one of them. Holmgren said the Browns will visit with 30 draft prospects, but he wouldn't reveal any names other than Newton's.
- When asked about the possibility of using the sixth overall pick on a quarterback, Holmgren said "don't discount anything" in terms of whom the team might select.
- Holmgren said the Browns need defensive linemen, and "you can never have too many corners."
- Holmgren said neither kicker Phil Dawson nor his agent have indicated whether Dawson plans to sign the franchise tender that the Browns placed on him.
- Holmgren said the Browns probably will not be as active in free agency as they were last year. When free agency will start remains a mystery.
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