BEREA: Incoming owner Jimmy Haslam III has not committed to adding a retractable roof to Cleveland Browns Stadium, but he assured members of Cleveland City Council that he’ll explore the possibility.
In a meet-and-greet Wednesday morning, Councilman Michael Polensek said he hopes the city and Haslam can hold future discussions about the possibility, if there is one, of attaching a roof to the lakefront stadium.
In response, Haslam said: “One of the first acts that we’ll do and I’ve said this several times, assuming we’re approved [as owner], is to bring in, I think there’s three nationally known stadium architects — and you’d be crazy not to talk to all three of them — and get their ideas about the stadium. We are completely open-minded, and we want to provide really two things: one, a great experience for our fans at a Browns game; the other thing, secondly — and I assume this is what everybody in this room is interested in — we want to use that facility as much as we possibly can, want to use it more than we can now. So anything that helps us do that, I’m certainly not at all saying we’re gonna do that, but we’ll certainly take a look at it.”
Haslam’s informal introduction to council was just the beginning of his busy day. He also attended practice in the afternoon at the team’s headquarters and later participated in a conference call with former and current suite and season-ticket holders.
Coach Pat Shurmur has grown accustomed to frequent encounters with Haslam, whose purchase of the Browns from Randy Lerner is expected to be approved by NFL owners Oct. 16 during their meeting in Chicago. So far, Haslam has lived up to his billing as a hands-on boss.
“He is around quite a bit,” Shurmur said. “He just spent a lot of money for a football team, and he wants to get to know us. I admire that, and I think that’s good. I encourage him because I’m very proud of our operation, and I want him to be able to see it. I feel like we’ve established a relationship where we can communicate freely, which I think is good. I think that’s got to be natural for the head coach and the prospective owner or the owner to be able to do that. I have a good relationship with Randy Lerner as well. I think it’s pretty natural.
“Anybody that hires me or anybody that’s watching what we do, I want to impress them. We all work for someone. I think it’s fair to say that everybody in here’s got somebody that they work for. I understand what’s important in this league. By impressing him, it would be by winning games. I think it’s simple.”
As for the idea of putting a roof on the stadium, Shurmur doesn’t seem to be in favor of it.
“I like the setting that we present on game day here,” Shurmur said. “I’m not really trying to visualize anything different at this point. … I think some of the charm of, at least of what I’ve experienced so far here in Cleveland, is kind of the late-season, wintry setting.”
Linebacker Scott Fujita said he was scheduled to discuss the New Orleans Saints’ bounty case and his three-game suspension with the NFL during a videoconference at 1 p.m. Tuesday, but it was canceled because the league wanted a face-to-face meeting. Fujita said the meeting will be rescheduled, but he does not yet know when or where it will be held.
“Ideally it would be sooner rather than later,” Fujita said Wednesday after practice. “Ideally it would’ve been [Tuesday], and I’d be talking to you guys today about how productive that meeting was. I even had my nice, fancy, collared shirt picked out and everything for the videoconference.”
Fujita has repeatedly denied the NFL’s accusations that he contributed money to a pool that allegedly paid his former Saints teammates for intentionally injuring opponents. A three-member appeals panel lifted the suspensions of Fujita and the other three players disciplined in the bounty scandal Sept. 7.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can still reissue punishments. The other players who were suspended — Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith and free-agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove — met with Goodell this week in New York.
Fujita said he didn’t want to travel to New York for an in-person meeting Tuesday at the league’s headquarters because he was scheduled to receive treatment on his left knee, which he injured Aug. 10 in the preseason opener. He planned to participate in the videoconference from a law office in downtown Cleveland.
“There’s really no day off in this business,” Fujita said. “For me, a Tuesday is a full day, especially when you’re coming back from an injury like I did. I come in. I get a workout in. I get a full rehab and treatment. It’s a lot of body maintenance. I go up and meet with the coaches. I get my game film. I start breaking down film.
“In the afternoons, I spend time with my kids, usually give my wife a few hours off to herself, and I handle the kids for a while, so it’s a full, full day. For me, at my age, I’ve got to stay on top of my body, stay ahead of the curve with an injury like this. It’s a process.”
After sitting out the regular-season opener, Fujita played Sunday in the Browns’ 34-27 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I feel great,” Fujita said. “It’s good to get back out there, run around. [I] got rid of the knee brace last week for Friday’s practice, so it’s nice because that thing was embarrassing.”
Rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon believes he’ll shake off his slow start. Gordon, whom the Browns picked in the second round of the supplemental draft in July, has only three catches for 37 yards through two games.
“I definitely feel confident,” Gordon said. “I’m not down by any means. Numbers or stats at this point, I’m not really concerned about any of that. I’m just trying to go out there and learn each game, prove myself and get better each week.”
Gordon acknowledged he’s still in the process of gaining the trust of rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden.
“I don’t feel as though it’s a big obstacle at this point,” Gordon said. “I just feel it’s a matter of time before we just start clicking, getting open a couple more times, the stats start to build and there’s more confidence in me and certain plays that we know we can go to. Right now, going into Week 3, we don’t really know what exactly is our bread and butter just yet.”
Shurmur expects Gordon to progress.
“He’s improving,” Shurmur said. “I saw him get better in Week 2. I anticipate he’ll get better here in Week 3. He’s no different than when we’re talking about Brandon Weeden or [rookie running back] Trent Richardson. He gets less opportunities just because of the position he plays, and we have other receivers we spread the ball around to. I think I see improvement.”
More playing time
Cornerback Sheldon Brown suffered a neck stinger in Week 1 and only played one snap Sunday as he dealt with the effects of the injury. Shurmur, though, said Brown will play more against the Bills. Whether he’ll return to the starting lineup isn’t as clear.
“Sheldon will be in there,” Shurmur said. “Most of the time [the Bills] play with three wide-receiver sets. Without giving away any strategy, most of the time we’ll be playing with three corners. You’ll see Sheldon in there quite a bit.”
Tight end Alex Smith did not practice Wednesday after suffering a concussion Sunday. Rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson (ribs/oblique) was the only other player who did not participate.
Rookie defensive tackle Billy Winn (concussion) and defensive end Juqua Parker (sprained foot) practiced Wednesday after suffering injuries Sunday. Safety Ray Ventrone returned to practice after sitting out Sunday with an injured left hand, which was heavily wrapped. Winn, Parker, Ventrone, backup offensive tackle Oniel Cousins (ankle) and special-teams ace and wide receiver Josh Cribbs (knee) had limited participation.
Fujita (knee), wide receiver Greg Little (back) and Richardson (knee) fully participated.
Center Alex Mack will serve as the Browns’ game captain against the Bills, Shurmur said. … In Shurmur’s mind, the Bills’ defensive line is a force to be reckoned with. “As a unit up front, that’s one of the best D-lines we’ll face all year,” Shurmur said.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. 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.