NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said on Saturday in Akron that he hopes to have the Browns’ sale to Jimmy Haslam III finalized in “a matter of weeks.”
“We’ve been working on it,” he said. “That part of the process is important and we take great steps to ensure that it obviously meets all of the requirements of the NFL that we have the right type of structure in place with respect to financing.”
When asked if the sale could take place in as little as two weeks, Goodell said: “I think it’ll be a little longer than two weeks. We’re not that fast. But it’ll be no longer than October unless there’s some unusual delay.”
Haslam’s purchase of the team will become official once the NFL’s finance committee recommends it and 75 percent of the league’s owners vote for approval. The owners aren’t scheduled to meet until Oct. 16-17 in Chicago, though NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said it’s possible a special meeting could be called to hold a vote sooner. Teams received a memo notifying them to stay tuned for a possible earlier vote, Aiello said.
A quick turnaround for such a transaction is not unprecedented. Last season, it took about two weeks for the owners to approve the sale of the Jacksonville Jaguars from Wayne Weaver to Shahid Khan. The deal was signed Nov. 29, recommended by the NFL’s finance committee on Dec. 6 and approved by the owners on Dec. 14. Khan assumed control on Jan. 4.
Goodell hasn’t particularly targeted the start of the regular season as a hopeful sale date but believes the strong management constructed under Randy Lerner’s ownership will weather any potential issues, should the deal drag deep into the first few weeks of the season.
“They have great management with Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert ... I think that’s a great thing Randy Lerner and his family have done,” Goodell said. “It was very important to [the Lerners] to hand this off to an ownership group that understood the importance of the Browns in Cleveland. We’re gonna do things in a way that will make communities proud. I think that’s a tribute to the Lerner family.”
Goodell exuded great confidence that Haslam is the right man for the job in Cleveland.
“Jimmy Haslam is going to do a terrific job,” Goodell said. “He’s dedicated, he’s committed, he wants to be a part of his community and he wants to build a winner. Not just for one year, but for the long term and consistently be a franchise that this community is proud of.”
Haslam has already been a noticeable figure in and around the Browns’ facility and is showing signs of his “hands-on” approach to ownership.
Clad in a Browns T-shirt and shorts, Haslam spent Saturday morning watching his future team practice at its training facility in Berea. Haslam, though, didn’t just stick to the sidelines. He spent time on the field, talking to President Mike Holmgren and coach Pat Shurmur as the action unfolded.
“He’s interested in the operation, and he’s watching it with fresh eyes,” Shurmur said. “So he has just questions about how we do things, and I think it’s something that he’s out there trying to learn and get up to speed with what we’re doing, how we do things, why we do certain drills, so that he can become educated under our process, of course. I feel like he’s really excited to own this football team, and I’ve enjoyed our conversations to this point.”
New helmets for kids
Goodell and Browns General Manager Tom Heckert joined hall of famer Warren Moon, Consumer Product Safety Commission chairman Inez Tenenbaum and several others in presenting brand new helmets to the Akron Parent Pee Wee Football League at Roswell Kent Middle School on Saturday morning.
This initiative will replace all helmets that are 10 years or older at no cost to the beneficiary leagues in an effort to promote a safer sport for kids. Aside from Northern Ohio, this program also benefits the California Bay Area, the Gulf Coast region and the tri-state region around New York City.
“With the big health issues that are happening in the NFL, it carries down to youth football,” Heckert said. “We think it’s obviously a very, very important thing that this game stays safe. If we can make the game safer and let the parents put their minds at ease a little bit, then we’re happy to be here.”
Goodell stressed the importance of playing the game the right way — new helmets are a step in the right direction but it’s still just the first step.
“This helmet doesn’t allow you to do anything,” Goodell told kids in the league. “You still gotta play the game by the rules and you gotta play it smart.”
Sports writer Nate Ulrich contributed to this report. Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/browns.abj.