Browns President Mike Holmgren discussed the NFL's labor dispute with reporters -- and later with fans -- after participating in the Cleveland Browns Motorcycle Rally today. Here are some of the highlights from Holmgren's chat with media:
On the status of the NFL's labor situation after the owners approved a proposed collective bargaining agreement Thursday: "I was in Atlanta with (Browns owner) Randy Lerner when we voted to accept the contract. (I'm) very excited that we got to do that. Now I'm very optimistic that the players will look this (deal) over and then accept it, and then we start playing football. That's my hope. I really kind of understand why they want to take their time and make sure they understand it. That's what they should do. But I know they want to play. I know the fans want us to play. So we're real close, and I hope it happens in the next couple days."
On if he's optimistic that the NFL will re-open for business on Wednesday: "I am, but I'm a glass-half-full guy. I'm pretty sure that the bulk of the contract and the major issues are agreed upon, and now they're talking about some other things. But I know that both sides and everybody wants to play football. My hope is and what I think will happen is that it'll kind of get done in a couple days."
On if he's surprised that players felt disrespected after owners approved a proposal Thursday: "I saw (ESPN's) Chris Mortensen talked a little bit about in the age of Twitter or tweeter or whatever it is, people say things off the cuff emotionally without knowing all the facts and figures oftentimes. And I think that happened a little bit. Shoot, it has to be a win-win. It has to be a win-win, and that was the intention all along. I think (the players are) doing the right thing to analyze (the proposal), and once they have a chance to do that, I think it'll be fine."
On if owners felt pressure to approve a deal in hopes of not missing any more preseason games (the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton has been canceled): "I don't think that was it. I think after a long negotiation period, they felt we reached a point where we could vote on it. And once it was presented to us, of course we had some internal discussions that day. And once those things were complete, we were able to vote on it. And so I think the same thing will happen with the players."
On when the Browns' Aug. 13 preseason opener will be in jeopardy if the lockout is still in effect: "Well, I think if you work backwards, you need two weeks of practice to prepare to play a game, minimum. And you also need some time now added onto that to fill your rosters and deal with free agency and those things. So do the math. ... Work the other way (from Aug. 13), and you can kind of see some deadlines emerging."
On how crazy business will be if full free agency starts Wednesday: "I think it'll be very different from the way it's been in the past because you have a very short period of time to get a lot of the stuff done. Now the good thing is if and when the players accept the contract, the whole rookie situation is different in the new agreement, so we should be able to (sign drafted rookies) faster than in years past. The second thing is I think in some ways, in some ways, it might be a blessing. You know I was in negotiations with players that started and lasted for a long time, and when we actually signed the deal, it was the same deal that was talked about a month (earlier). So I think on both sides, I think there will be a sense of urgency, a sense of 'let's get this done.'"
On the Browns having a lot of personnel decisions to make in a short period of time: "Yeah, but that's the one thing we've been able to do prior to the lockout and during the lockout. (General Manager) Tom Heckert and the personnel people have been in endless meetings as have the coaches and (head coach) Pat (Shurmur). So when they actually lift the curtain, we're ready to go. We're hitting the ground running, and we know what we would like to do. We're gonna try and do it, so all that's in place. And I think we're no different that every other team. I think that's what they've used their time to do. So when it actually happens, the phone lines will be buzzing and things will happen quickly, and we'll start playing football again."
On his message to fans and if he understands their frustration: "Absolutely I do. But I'll stick by my comments (that I made in March). We're a lot closer now (to ending the lockout) than we were four months ago. We're gonna play. We'll play. Now exactly when, I can't tell you that. But my hope is and my belief is that we won't miss any games."
On if Shurmur and his staff are behind the eight ball because of the time they haven't been able to spend with players during the lockout: "Well, I also made the comment (in March) that if you have a young quarterback and a first-year head coach, things are a little different than if you have a veteran team and a veteran coach who's been there a long time. Having said that, when I talked to the (coaching staff) before they went on vacation, I just said, 'Look it, this is what it is. We all know what it is.' They're good coaches. I mean they're really good teachers. We have a group of young men that have shown that during the lockout. They're willing to get together and work hard. So there are no excuses. I mean, heck yeah, everyone's in a little different situation. We have our situation, but who cares? Let's just roll up our sleeves and get it done."
On if he anticipates Shurmur needing to scale back his playbook because of lost time this offseason: "He has a plan of installing the offense and the defensive schemes. Stick with the plan, but I think we have to be aware of how it is different this year and (there's limited) time. And if we feel like we're having bad practices because guys are making too many mistakes that they shouldn't make, then probably at that point, yeah, we've got to consider toning it down just a little bit. But until they show us that they can't absorb it, it's full speed."
On what Colt McCoy has shown by organizing players-only workouts during the lockout: "Well, I'm not surprised. One of the things that I think we've all learned about him in a very short period of time is that he's a tremendous leader, and he's kind of a charismatic kid. And the players follow him, and they like him. He's the quarterback, so it was the most natural thing in the world for him to organize the workouts, and he did it. The feedback, I haven't been able to talk to any of the players. But the things that I read, the little comments that are made by them, is that they're singing his praises. Same thing with (linebacker) Scott Fujita on the defensive side of the ball. We have some good leaders on the football team, and we needed that this offseason. And I think it showed."
On if he would be surprised if the Browns are not in training camp by the end of next week: "I would be. I would be surprised. But you know I've never been wrong."