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Transcript from Browns Ring of Honor press conference with Mike Holmgren, Joe DeLamielleure and Paul Warfield

By Nate Ulrich Published: August 26, 2010

Browns President Mike Holmgren, Joe DeLamielleure and Paul Warfield met with reporters Thursday afternoon to discuss the franchise's new Ring of Honor. Here's a transcript from the press conference:

Browns President Mike Holmgren, Joe DeLamielleure and Paul Warfield

press conference 8-26-10

Mike Holmgren

(Opening statement) -- “First of all, for me, this is a special, special day.  I’m quite honored to be sitting in between two great, great football players, Joe DeLamielleure and Paul Warfield.  We are here to announce, it’s no secret, but to announce the celebration of our new Ring of Honor in the stadium, the Cleveland Browns Ring of Honor.  It’s going to include the men who played for this organization who are now in the Hall of Fame.  That’s how we started it and we thought it would be appropriate.  Of course great tradition and great history,  when I came here, as you know, I talked a lot about that and it’s one of the reasons that I’m here quite honestly.  If you are a history buff dealing with football, the Browns are one of the great organizations and have a tremendous legacy.  I remember having a conversation with a couple of my guys not long after I was here and asking the question, ‘With as many great players in the Hall of Fame, why don’t we have a Ring of Honor or something like that?’  No one really could tell me.  We said, ‘Shoot, one of the first things we should do is start this.’  In my experience in Green Bay, we had a marvelous one with great names up there.  In Seattle, we had one.  Now, we are going to have one in Cleveland Browns Stadium.  We were talking earlier before we came down, the three of us, and Joe mentioned the fact that as young players come in to a stadium, I know this was the case in Green Bay and it’s going to be the case here, that as the coach of the football team I could tell them, ‘Look up at those names.  Know who they are, study it.’  For young players coming into the league, there’s not a better example than the men who are going to be in our Ring of Honor, the Packers’ Ring of Honor, whatever.  This is really going to be quite a celebration.  I can’t tell you how excited I am about it and it’s long overdue.”

Mike Holmgren

(On the criteria for inductees going forward) -- “I think, Tom (Withers) going forward, we are going to work on that.  We haven’t decided yet quite honestly. I know with our Legends program we have a group.  My feeling is that if you go into the Ring of Honor for a particular team, there are a lot of great players that have played here first of all.  Not every great player gets to be in the Ring of Honor, that should be something very, very, very special.  When we do decide criteria or put a group together to decide who should be considered for that, we are not going to rush in to it.  We are going to kind of nail that down and as soon as we figure it out, we will let you know.  Right now, the first call is an easy call.  Hall of Fame, I mean that’s a pretty easy call.”

Paul Warfield

(On his reaction to the Ring of Honor) -- “I’m overwhelmed.  This is a great and significant honor for me personally.  I’ve been a part of this organization for many years now, but even before becoming a part of this organization as a youngster growing up in nearby Warren, Ohio.  As Mike, we really know him as Coach Holmgren, explained, this organization has the richest and proudest history.  As I look at all of those Hall of Famers, I identified with many of them ranging from Marion Motley to certainly to Paul Brown, considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of pro football.  It was often said before I came to this organization that the Cleveland Browns were synonymous to the New York Yankees in baseball.  I was fortunate enough to become a part of this organization as a youngster and then ultimately had the ultimate honor of going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, certainly as a member of the Cleveland Browns, but also playing in another organization, the Miami Dolphins.  There’s something special about the Cleveland Browns.  I’m a native Ohioan, I’m from nearby Warren and I had that dream and I experienced that dream.  I’ve been a part of it and now I’m going to receive the ultimate honor from this organization.  I’m overwhelmed by it.”

Paul Warfield

(On if he ever asked anyone why the Browns didn’t have a Ring of Honor before) -- “You know, as the coach said, that question has perhaps eluded me as well as it’s eluded him.  Fortunately, it’s going to happen now.  Sometimes, and I don’t want to say things are taken for granted, but the success here was for such a long period of time starting in 1946.  The moment that this ballclub came to Cleveland in 1946, it represented excellence.  I don’t really want to say it was taken for granted, but maybe it was kind of lost.  People came accustomed to the Browns were supposed to win, and they did win.  Over the years, this just didn’t happen, but it’s happening now and it couldn’t happen at a better time.”

Joe DeLamielleure

(On if he is a part of the Ring of Honor in Buffalo) -- “Yes I am.”

Joe DeLamielleure

(On there not being too many people that are a part of two teams’ Rings of Honor) -- “Other than me and Paul.  Paul is in Miami I’m sure.  I just had a big mouth and they traded me here (joking).  It’s kind of amazing because I look at those pictures of Marion Motley.  I consider myself a football historian.  I love it.  I grew up in Detroit and they were rivals of the Lions and if we could stop Jimmy Brown when I was a kid, Alex Karras and Roger Brown and all of those guys.  The Browns were a big part of my life too as a child growing up.  Then when I got traded here from Buffalo, the first thing I did at Baldwin-Wallace, you guys remember that stadium, is I walked in and I saw Marion Motley and Bill Willis and I said, ‘Who in the heck are those guys?’  When I understood who they were and that they played in 1946, the year before Jackie Robinson.  I always knew the Browns were great, but to honor people like that walking by and thinking to yourself, ‘They set the bar very high and I want to be a player like that.’  They had a rich history.  Paul was in the front office and to me, when I see Paul Warfield walking around I’d say, ‘Damn he was good.  I hope I can be that good.’  That’s what it’s all about.  I hope someday that young kids walk through here, and I’m sure they’re not going to look at a right guard, but they’re going to look at these guys and they’re going to say, ‘Man, someday I’d like to do that.’”

Joe DeLamielleure

(On his reaction to the Ring of Honor) -- “My reaction is that first of all, I’m a football junkie.  I’m addicted to football.  I coached high school, I coached college with Coach Rutigliano at Duke and I have not been able to get back into pro football.  I’ve never really tried to get into pro football, but I miss it.  It’s like a drug, it’s like I’m addicted.  I don’t drink, but it’s like an addiction to a drink that you just miss it so much.  I really, really miss football and not being part of an organization.  I feel very good this year because I’ve got two guys that I’m really going to watch.  I recruited and coached Ben Watson at Duke and I live in Charlotte and I know the class they brought in with those two guys, Watson and Jake Delhomme.  Now we will be linked for our lives, besides coaching them, we both played in this great city.”

Mike Holmgren

(On if Heritage Hall is going to be up just for the season or permanent) -- “It’s going to be permanent.”

Mike Holmgren

(On his relationship with Jim Brown and if he is coming to the ceremony) -- “I talked to Jim the day before yesterday.  Obviously, some things have been said of whether he is coming or not and I hadn’t talked to Jim.  We had a great conversation.  He understands and he even expressed some of the things that Paul and Joe just said about how wonderful the day will be.  I just said, ‘Listen, we hope to get everybody there.’  There are 16 Hall of Fame members that we wanted to come, or their families, and Jim is one of those.  He said he would get back to me.  He said, ‘Coach, thanks for phoning, I’ll get back to you.’  It was a very good conversation.  I’m hopeful he can be there.  As I said in my opening press conference when I got this job, Jim Brown is synonymous with the Cleveland Browns. He’s one of the great players ever in the National Football League.  It’s going to be a great celebration for all of us and the 16 families on that day and I trust he will be part of that.  He’s going to holler back at me, so as soon as I know, you will know.”

Mike Holmgren

(On if he is upset that there is a notion in the public that there is a rift between Jim Brown and the organization) -- “I just think it’s not quite what it appears to be.  I think that’s kind of strong language for what it is.  I trust Jim will be there and I hope he’s there because he is part of this.  He’s part of the history of this place, a big part of it.  Any way it comes down, it’s going to be a wonderful day.  It’s going to be a celebration.  There are 16 people that were part of this.  I have heard personally from all of the people, how excited they are.  I got a real nice letter from Mike Brown about his dad.  It’s good.  It should be done, it will be done and it’s going to be a great week.  It will be a week celebration because we are planning a lot of stuff.”

Mike Holmgren

(On if he thinks the most tangible benefit of this will be to motivate current players on the team) -- “I think there are probably a lot of benefits, but I think from a coach’s point of view, I used it.  I think it helped me.  It’s just like Paul and Joe, I would hope as these guys come back into town and we get it rolling and the players see that, ‘Oh that’s Joe DeLamielleure, his name is up there.  Oh that’s Paul Warfield.’  That’s how it worked for me in Green Bay because those guys would come back and we would have them come back for a game and I’d introduce them to the younger guys, ‘This is our history.  You’re a young player, now you’re a part of this.  We are all part of this.’  It worked for me, it worked for us.  I think if you love this game, then you want to know those people.  I was like a little kid in a candy store when I went in there and I’m coaching the team.  I’m a little like Joe, I’m a football junkie and I just happen to be a big shot executive now.”

(On if the inscription will be their name and a date) -- “You know what, I know the name is there, I’m not sure of the date.  I’m sure there will be a date, but I’m not sure how it will show.  The name will be in big block letters around.  There will be some suspense because we are going to have this unveiling, so maybe we better just better leave it at that.”

Paul Warfield

(On what he wishes young players would ask him about and what he would say) -- “I’m not quite sure what I would wish of the young players.  I would share the sentiments of the coach and also Joe.  I would hope that young players today would be like most other people who are involved in this sport.  I’m a bit of a historian too and all of these names that are up on the wall, Bill Willis, Marion Motley, Jim Brown, Otto Graham.  Otto Graham was one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of this game.  One of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of this game, he was called ‘Automatic Otto’.  He won titles for the Cleveland Browns.  I hope that that’s not lost on today’s young players.  When I came into football years ago, people like Hugh McElhenny of the San Francisco 49ers and their famed million dollar backfield, just to name someone.  A marvelous runner, I tried to emulate and do things like Hugh McElhenny. He was an elusive runner before Gale Sayers.  History is very important.  The coach here was talking about what he brought to Green Bay and hoped to achieve, which he did achieve there.  The late Ray Nitschke, he was the prime ambassador for football and certainly for Green Bay.  If anyone was in Ray Nitschke’s presence, and all of those young Packers who came into that organization and Ray was there and around Lambeau Field all of the time because he believed in that organization.  He certainly helped the coach get what he needed to get done up there in Green Bay at the time.  I’m hoping that these young men, because it’s their profession that’s chosen at that point, are more like guys of the past.  Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, but certainly they want to be as good as they can be in this game.  I wanted to be as good as I could be in this game.  I looked to the past for answers for my development as a player.  I was very fortunate to have Ray Renfro teach me the art of pass receiving, which made me as a player in one year and for all the years that I played in the game.  If I had a chance to talk to Marion Motley, which I did fortunately because he was present and he was around during that time that I came to the Cleveland Browns.  I was overwhelmed, practically speechless and afraid to talk to him, but I know who he was, I knew what he was about, I knew what the players of the Detroit Lions were about.  Yale Lary, I knew Bobby Layne, I knew all of those players of the ‘50s and they played the Browns and they were the one team that was able to beat the Browns in a championship game and that was unusual.  I don’t know if I’m answering your question, but what I’m saying is I would hope that young people would be excited to talk to players who were accomplished because they have some of the answers to helping them be successful at this level.”

Paul Warfield

(On if he will talk to Jim Brown about coming to the ceremony) -- “I haven’t talked to Jim much in recent months, but if I had an opportunity to talk to him, I would just certainly tell him that, ‘Jim, I hope you would be here.  I think it’s going to be a wonderful occasion and you certainly would love to be a part of it because you’re so much a part of the history of this organization.’  I hope that he would be here.”

Paul Warfield

(On what sense he has that the current team is on the verge of turning things around) -- “I spoke to Mike McLain, who interviewed me for our hometown newspaper and he asked me a similar question and he asked me if I was optimistic.  I said, ‘Yes, I’m always an optimist.’  Taking it beyond that, I see certainly an air of positivity here.  I think it’s reflected in terms of the initial preseason games so far this year.  I see things that I haven’t seen in a while.  I think that things are headed in the right direction.  I would compare it very similar to going down to Miami in 1970.  I left an established, winning organization here to go to an organization who was four years into an expansion team in the old American Football League and the consolidation of the two leagues that occurred.  That was tough.  A lot of hard work, weeding out of some players, getting the right players in.  There was a nucleus there for a winner and good young players who became Hall of Fames.  Then there was an infusion of veteran players coming from winning organizations like myself from Cleveland or Marv Fleming from Green Bay who had been with two Super Bowl-winning title teams at that time and three overall NFL Championship teams.  The mixture of veteran presence from winning traditions to go with that young, developing nucleus that had not won at that point, but quickly learned how to win.  I see the convergence of the same things through the efforts of the present administration with what they are putting together here.  That’s going to mean great things, I think, in the near future and certainly in the future years to come.”

Joe DeLamielleure

(On how he felt when he first came to the Browns) -- “Very fortunate because I’ll tell you why.  My dad owned a bar in Detroit and he could pick it up on TV for free (joking).  I’m the ninth of 10 and my dad was a little bit older than most dads.  I said, ‘Dad, you don’t have to drive anymore.  You can just flip on the TV and watch me with the Browns.’  This is a unique place.  I’d like to answer that question about why I’m optimistic about the Browns.  Because the guy sitting right here is a football man.  You can only go by the experiences that you know.  He brought in two class individuals who are good football players in Delhomme and Ben Watson.  That’s how you build your team, bringing in class guys who are character guys and it rubs off.  I think his record speaks for itself.  You have to go with guys that know how to win.”

(On if fans will pull the curtain on the unveiling of the Ring of Honor and if there will be statues outside of the stadium of past greats) -- “I don’t know how they are going to set that up to be honest with you.  I really don’t yet.  We are still kind of talking through it.  I just received all of the acceptances of the invitations.  We have got the signs going, I want you to know that.  As far as the statues and things, the stadium is a tremendous asset for this city and for this area.  We have a lot of ideas moving forward as far as the Legends program, the Ring of Honor.  We are just starting.  Hopefully, in the not too distant future, there will be a number of things kind of dressing up the stadium a little bit that will entice people to come down there, not the least of which is a potential Hall of Fame-type situation there again like we had in Green Bay.  There are enough people, there are enough football historians that I’ve met already in this area that would enjoy walking through the history of the Cleveland Browns in a nice place down there.  There are a lot of things going on.  We are starting with this, we are re-implementing the Legends program and then there are a couple of other things on the back burner that we are going to do down the road.”

Mike Holmgren

(On if any fan input went into this idea) -- “I’m sure.  We listen to our fans, I want all of the fans to know we listen to them.  To me, this was kind of a slam dunk.  I didn’t have to have any e-mail or any letter come to my desk saying, ‘You know what?  You should have a Ring of Honor.’  I didn’t need any input, any help on that.  I’m always appreciative of help in other areas if they want to keep writing me letters.  The biggest thing with fans I would say this in all seriousness is how we treat those people at the stadium and how we treat our season ticket holders.  We’re making a big push right now to make sure the service side of this organization, we are doing things right.  Those are the people that make everything work for you.  They care deeply about this team and this area, so at the very least as an organization we have to do the right thing in getting back to them in a timely manner on things and answering their questions and all of those types of things.”

Paul Warfield

(On his memories of Leroy Kelly and him being lost in the shuffle because he played right after Jim Brown) -- “Tremendous.  Leroy Kelly played in a period in which Gale Sayers was in the league and they were considered the two best backs, certainly in that short term period. Gale had a short career.  Leroy was drafted the same year I was, he came in the same class as a matter of fact.  For me personally as a player, I always respected what he did in terms of keeping that great running tradition.  As a pass receiver, he helped me out tremendously because in that portion of the field, when he would come out of the backfield, he would preoccupy defenders.  He was such an outstanding receiver and could apply a lot of pressure on the defense, he would occupy linebackers in the short area of the field, which gave me more room to operate.  He was a tremendous help to me, but he was a great runner in addition and also a very versatile athlete.  We had a run/pass option which he would throw the ball to me too.  When he would start my direction on what we called a flip or tossing the ball to him, defenses had to be cautious because of his great running ability, but yet because he could throw the ball too and throw it very well.  He would throw it in my direction, so it helped me out immensely as a receiver.”

Paul Warfield

(On if the Browns have been slow to embrace their history since they returned in 1999) -- “I think the fans have always been great here.  They certainly know the history of its players.  As far as the organization is concerned, if you look at the previous administration that has been here, Joe DeLamielleure referenced it in our conversation before we came out here.  He really felt like it was a first-class organization and that’s what the Cleveland Browns has always been, a very first-class organization.  It started initially in 1946 with Paul Brown in which he said, ‘We are going to be a first-class organization in everything that we do.’  I think to this very day it has carried on through different administrations and when the team reorganized.  It’s been a first-class organization and will continue to be a first-class organization.  The emphasis is certainly to get this organization back to the top, as Joe referred to it as the ‘flagship of the fleet’, team in the National Football League.  It’s certainly headed in that direction and there’s no question that it should get there.”

Mike Holmgren

(On if he is surprised how enthusiastic fans still are about the Browns) -- “Am I surprised?  No, I’m not surprised.  Having coached in Green Bay, which is pretty close, you’re in the Midwest.  Football is different here, I think.  The people look at it differently.  It’s very much a vested interest in their football team.  I knew before I even came about how sincere the fans were.  Frustrated?  Perhaps.  A little angry?  Maybe.  Fans are fans.  Are they there for you all the time?  Yes.  I knew that, so I wasn’t surprised by that.  When I got a chance during training camp in my little golf cart to drive around and talk to the folks prior to the start of practice, it doesn’t take long before you sense how much they care. Our training camp this year as an example, after a few years of frustration perhaps, we had more people by far come to this training camp.  In fact, way more than the season after the 10-6 season.  Which tells me that these folks are there for you.  They’re going to be there for you.  It’s a wonderful thing really and for a player to play here, for a coach to coach here, for me to work here, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of this.  That’s why this day with these men and the other people that are going to be there is going to be so special.  For the fans, for me, for their families, for them, for a lot of folks.  It’s something that is probably long overdue, it’s something  now we are going to do it and it’s something that is going to be very special for years and years and years to come.”

Mike Holmgren

(On where he and Jim Brown stand and if there is anything more he wants to say about it) -- “Not really other than the fact that we had a good conversation the other day and I think Jim and I, when we re-aligned the front office, there was change that took place with a lot of people.  That happens when you have someone come in and they are changing things.  New people come in, people go, people’s jobs change, their responsibilities change and that was what happened with Jim.  I think it’s important to understand with Jim, his role, what I would like him to do, the importance of Jim Brown to the Cleveland Browns and to this community, none of that stuff changed.  None of that stuff is different and he knows that.  I’ve told him that.  His responsibilities, what he was asked to do prior to my coming on board, that changed a little bit.  Would I like Jim Brown to come in and talk to our rookies?  Absolutely.  Would I like Jim Brown to come in and do this?  Absolutely.  Would I him as a part of this day?  Absolutely.  Listen, the glass is half full.  I think everyone is going to be there.”

Mike Holmgren

(On when the next ‘Golden Era’ of the Browns is going to begin) -- “I think you’ve asked me that before Steve (Doerschuk).  Look, I know this, the young fellas we have playing right now and the coach and the coaching staff, they’re working really hard to flip this and get it going in the right direction.  That much I know.  My responsibility is to get as many good players in here as I can get so they can do their job.  I expect us to improve.  I think we have gotten a little taste in the preseason where I hope some of you can see some of the improvement in some of the areas.  I trust you can see that.  Now, was Rome built in a day?  No.  Could we plug all the holes?  No.  But did we fix some things?  I believe we did.  Now they need a little luck, they need to not get a key guy injured and all of those things.  There is a good feeling on this football team right now.  When is it going to happen?  Let’s see, I’m 62 years old.  I hope it happens before I have to retire.”

Paul Warfield

(On how his role with the team has changed) -- “I’m retired.  Retirement was something that came when I believe I called Tom Heckert right after the draft, the week after the draft.  For the last two years, it’s something that I had been considering.  Consequently, my desire was to work under one-year contracts for last two years.  At the end of those one year contracts, to take a look and see if I wanted to go forward.  At the end of my last contract, which ended at the latter part of May, I had come to the conclusion just as a former player back in 1977 I believe it was.  In 1976, I signed a three-year contract coming back to the Browns and fully intended to honor that contract until 1978.  Towards the close of the 1977 season, which a couple of games were remaining, I found that the competitive juices were starting to wane.  I talked to other people and they said, ‘When the competitive juices start to wane, it’s time for you to get out.’  I called Art Modell and informed him that although it was my intention to honor that contract, I was going to retire at the end of the ’77 season.  In this situation here years later, I purposely was looking at the last two years and then after the recent draft, I decided for a variety of reasons I was two years beyond the retirement age.  In addition to that, some other reasons that are more personal and family-wise that it was an appropriate time for me to retire.  I had a very good conversation with Tom Heckert and asked Tom, as I asked Art Modell 30 years before, I made this decision, I don’t want any fanfare about it.  I used the same terms 30-some odd years later, I don’t not want any fanfare about my leaving.  Tom graciously honored that.  There has been some suspicion of a change of roles or whatever, but now I am officially retired.  Tom left the door open.  He said, ‘We can talk in the future.’  I said, ‘Tom, I greatly appreciate what you’re saying, but as of this time I’m retired, at least for at this time.’  I’m officially retired, enjoying it at this point.  It’s a little bit new experience, but I’m spending more time at home and I’m content at this point.”

Joe DeLamielleure

(On what he remembers most about his days with the Browns) -- “The Cardiac Kids because I came when Brian (Sipe) was MVP of the league.  I’m lucky.  They always say that success is when luck and timing come together and then a little hard work.  That’s what coach was talking about here, you need a little luck.  What I remember is that when I came here, they were very good.  They just needed a few pieces and they thought they needed a right guard and I think I helped them.  I was just part of a big puzzle.  If you play football, you know that you’re only as good as the guys next to you and behind you when you’re an offensive linemen.  I played next to a great center, Tom DeLeone, and a great right tackle.  Then we had the Pruitts and Ozzie (Newsome) and we had a great team.  Unfortunately, we were in that division with the Steelers.  Just couldn’t win them all.”

Joe DeLamielleure

(On what he is most looking forward to for this event) -- “To meet all of these guys here.  I really regret not being able to meet and know Gene Hickerson because when I was growing up, Gene Hickerson was the guard of guards.  I wish I could have met him when we could talk because he was a great player.  I got in the Hall of Fame before him and I could never figure that out because I always thought Gene Hickerson was one of the great guards of all time.  For whatever reason, I got in a couple years before him.”

Joe DeLamielleure

(On his relationship with the players union) -- “Take care of the former players, that’s all I say.  This is the greatest game on earth, making the most money and we have the worst pensions.  That’s all I’ll say about it.  This is about the Ring of Honor, honoring Paul and thanking Mike for considering to do this because not a lot of organizations do this.  It means a lot to me because linemen don’t get much recognition.  My grandchildren will get to see me do something special that they didn’t get to see me do as a player and they really didn’t see me when I was in the Hall of Fame.  I got in eight years ago, now I have got eight grandchildren and they will get to see this.  It’s going to mean a lot to them.”

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