BEREA: The sale of the Browns to Jimmy Haslam officially closed Thursday as expected, a team spokesman said.
Haslam, whose family owns truck-stop empire Pilot Flying J, struck a deal to buy the Browns from Randy Lerner for about $1 billion on Aug. 2. NFL owners unanimously approved Haslam’s purchase of the team during their meeting Oct. 16 in Chicago.
Haslam, 58, is now majority owner of the Browns. Lerner still has a 30 percent stake in the team and will complete the sale of his remaining share to Haslam in four years.
When the Browns (1-6) face the San Diego Chargers (3-3) Sunday, it will be the first home game of the Haslam era.
“Jimmy will bring a great enthusiasm,” outgoing team President Mike Holmgren said Tuesday during his farewell news conference. “He’s out front, he’s enthusiastic and he has a lot of energy. He wants this to be right, he wants this to go well and he’s committed to do that. I don’t think there have been many things in his life where he has committed to it that hasn’t happened. I think it’s a wonderful thing for the city of Cleveland and a great thing for the Browns organization.”
Haslam, a native of Knoxville, Tenn., attended practice Thursday as he often does. He chatted with coach Pat Shurmur as he watched from the sidelines.
Haslam’s top lieutenant, new CEO Joe Banner, did not begin working at the Browns’ headquarters Thursday as originally planned because he visited his ill father in Boston. Banner spent 19 years with the Philadelphia Eagles, including 12 as their president.
“I was with Joe Banner for 10 years in Philadelphia, all my years there,” said Shurmur, a former assistant of Eagles coach Andy Reid. “Extremely smart man [who] had a large part in the development and building of that program into a consistent winner.”
The Browns had only 55 yards on 17 carries (3.2 average) Sunday in their 17-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, who allowed 252 rushing yards to the New York Jets the previous week. Rookie running back Trent Richardson’s rib injury was part of the problem, but there were other issues. Richardson had eight carries for 8 yards before being benched in the second quarter, and backup Montario Hardesty had seven carries for 28 yards.
“I felt like it was a lot of small things, a little missed assignment here, a little technique thing there that kind of prevented us from getting into a run groove,” Hardesty said. “Then we kind of got behind a little bit, kind of got away from the run.”
One person isn’t to blame. The backs, offensive linemen, tight ends and receivers must work together to mount a strong ground attack, especially against the Chargers, whose defense entered Thursday ranked second in the NFL against the run.
“I think it comes down to kind of a pride check,” left guard John Greco said. “I think if everyone’s just a little more detailed on their assignment and technique, we’ll open up holes and we’ll do what we want.”
Depending on Richardson’s health, Hardesty could receive more carries than usual.
“I feel like we’re both prepared to be successful,” Hardesty said. “I know whenever it’s my turn to get in the game, I’ll be ready to go, and I’m sure Trent is thinking the same way. When he’s in the game, he wants to make a play, and he’s going to be ready to go. If it comes down to splitting the carries, we’ll make it work.”
Rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon is hoping to put his crucial drop behind him, but he doesn’t want to forget it altogether.
First, he wants to learn from it and become motivated by it.
“Moving forward, I definitely have to forget about it and look toward the next game,” said Gordon, who dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass Sunday with 6:38 left in the fourth quarter. “It’s still always going to be in your mind, probably for the rest of my life. But definitely got to get over it during the season and maybe think about it in the offseason some. For right now, taking the steps to move on and progress and get better.”
Gordon said his teammates have been supportive.
“Guys told me in meetings they’re still behind me 100 percent, ‘Don’t get down on yourself about it,’ ” he said. “Had a chance to make a big play for the team. Would’ve been huge for us, but the fact that it didn’t work out that way, just got to keep on fighting, stick together and persevere.”
Ready for comeback?
Starting wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi hopes to play Sunday for the first time since Sept. 23. He missed the past four games with a hamstring injury he suffered in Week 3.
“I don’t want to jinx it or anything, but it’s a lot closer than it was last week,” Massaquoi said. “If it feels good, I’ll be out there, and I’m eager to get back out there.”
Massaquoi said he felt good Thursday after practice.
“It feels better and better every day running around and every day running around I feel more comfortable on it,” he said. “So hopefully it continues to progress like that, no setback and then we’ll see what happens.”
The Browns listed 22 players on their injury report Thursday. Offensive linemen Jarrod Shaw and Ryan Miller did not practice because they were ill. Starting defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (calf), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle) and linebacker Scott Fujita (shoulder/neck) also sat out.
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 www.facebook.com.browns.abj.