Joe DeLamielleure has an apology to make.
The former guard for Cleveland and Buffalo and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, DeLamielleure said he misspoke Thursday when he criticized former Browns president Carmen Policy for the way Policy treated ex-players.
In a press conference announcing the new Browns Ring of Honor, to be unveiled at a Sept. 19 home game against the Kansas City Chiefs, DeLamielleure said there was a disconnect between the organization and the former players. And he blamed Policy, whom DeLamielleure said was not a football man and didn't have the empathy of new president Mike Holmgren.
''I apologize. I said something I meant totally different,'' DeLamielleure said. ''I misspoke.''
DeLamielleure said the disconnect began after Policy left the organization on May 1, 2004.
''I'm talking about in between there was a disconnect between all the players,'' DeLamielleure said. ''It's not the same. The real Browns are in Baltimore, the guys who would be caring about the guys who played.''
When DeLamielleure was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003, Policy threw him an elaborate lunch at the Browns' facility, complete with champagne.
''I'm still wearing the shirts they gave me,'' DeLamielleure said of that day.
Long-time Browns alumni relations director Dino Lucarelli said Policy treated the former players even better than former owner Art Modell.
Lucarelli said Modell gave two season tickets to former players who lived within a 50-mile radius and had played for the Browns for four years or more.
''Carmen changed it,'' Lucarelli said. ''Everyone on the all-time roster, if you played one game, was entitled to two free tickets and two pre-game meals, but you had to pick up the tickets yourself. He wanted those players around.
"Carmen came up with the idea for the Legends Program. He did a lot for the alumni program, he got it headed in the right direction.''
Lucarelli said some of Policy's good deeds went unpublicized.
''He paid for Marion Motley's funeral, he sent some of us to Otto Graham's funeral in Florida, invited Graham's family to a home game,'' Lucarelli said. ''Under Policy, things were never better. When they took a poll of all the NFL teams, we were ranked among the top of alumni programs. Carmen was in favor of a staunch alumni program because they'd had one in San Francisco.''
Lucarelli is currently rehabbing after a knee replacement, but hopes to be back to work before Sept. 19's Ring of Honor ceremony. He said he's energized by some of the plans underway since Holmgren took over.
Some have suggested that the tradition-laden Browns should go beyond the Ring of Honor and I agree.
Statues of Jim Brown, Paul Brown and Otto Graham outside Cleveland Browns Stadium would make a fitting tribute that those visiting the nearby Rock and Roll Hall of Fame could appreciate even if they never set foot inside the stadium. But to do them justice, the Browns might need to develop a small park, rather than plop three statutes in a sea of concrete.
Holmgren said other ways to honor the past were in the planning stages. With the Ring of Honor, he's already taken the first step to repair the gap that has bothered DeLamielleure for years.