BEREA: Before the reporter could finish his question about Lou Groza’s record for the most career points in franchise history, Browns kicker Phil Dawson interjected with his estimate for how long it should take him to claim the top spot on the team’s all-time scoring list.
“Two and a half years,” said Dawson, who needs 195 points to surpass Groza’s NFL total of 1,349.
Dawson skipped voluntary organized team activities last month but practiced Tuesday as the Browns kicked off their mandatory minicamp. He has endured a roller-coaster ride of a journey since joining the expansion Browns in 1999, when he first dreamed about breaking Groza’s record.
“If I had admitted back then that that was one of my goals, you guys would have laughed me out of town, and I wouldn’t have blamed you,” said Dawson, whose 276 made field goals ranks first in team history. “So a lot of work, a lot of years, a lot of effort has taken place since then. To even be remotely on the horizon, close to that, is a pretty neat thing.”
Dawson, of course, must remain a member of the Browns for at least a couple more seasons if he hopes to conquer his goal. He said he wants to retire in Cleveland.
“I’m not thinking about my career being over at this point, but it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to go play somewhere else,” Dawson said. “We’ll see what happens. Like I’ve told you guys before, I’m not very good at predicting the future, but I’m just going to go to work like I always do and hope that things get worked out.”
In March, the Browns placed their franchise tag on Dawson for the second consecutive year, and he signed the tender.
“You know same song, different verse kind of thing,” Dawson said. “It was so much different than last year. Last year was the lockout and everything was strange. This was a little more normal I guess you could say. Obviously getting tagged two years in a row doesn’t happen all that often, so I didn’t really know what to think. But like I said as time has gone by and I’ve been away from everything, it’s been good.”
After the Browns franchised Dawson, General Manager Tom Heckert said, “our goal is to get a long-term deal done.” But that has not happened yet, so Dawson’s future remains uncertain.
Dawson declined to explain why he boycotted OTAs. He said spending time with his family this offseason in Austin, Texas, reminded him how much he misses home.
Still, he said he was “almost giddy” to return to practice.
“I forgot how much being away re-energizes me, so that when I come back, it’s ready to rock and roll,” Dawson said. “So I’m truly excited to be here, and it’s fun to get some live reps, see where I’m at and that kind of thing. Today was fun.”
No signs of rust were evident. Dawson attempted a 70-yard field goal toward the end of practice, and the ball fell short by about 2 yards. He also made a 53-yard attempt.
With plenty left in the tank, Dawson seems perfectly capable of kicking well for the 2½ years he believes he’ll need to eclipse Groza. In the meantime, Dawson will continue to hope for a long-term deal.
“There’s a time and place for everything,” Dawson said. “I’m a firm believer in that. It just hasn’t happened yet.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.