CLEVELAND: Jim Brown came back to Cleveland Browns Stadium after a two-year absence with the intention of supporting former teammate Ernie Green.
He left after the 24-14 loss to the visiting Buffalo Bills on Sunday as a welcomed and cherished member of the franchise who is now expected to have a role with the team once again.
The healing between the franchise and the hall of famer actually took place off the field Saturday night when the 76-year-old Brown met with incoming owner Jimmy Haslam III. Both men and their wives attended a function honoring former players Green and Clarence Scott, who were inducted into the Cleveland Browns Legends club at halftime Sunday.
“I want to honor Ernie Green, so I’ve got to do the things that’s going to help honor him,” Brown said Sunday before kickoff. “So I put the jacket on. It didn’t quite fit, can’t button it. But I can wear it.”
After Saturday’s function, Brown said Haslam invited him and his wife to join him and his wife for dinner at the Ritz-Carlton, where they spoke for “45 minutes to an hour.”
“The point is, we have the proper start and the understanding,” Brown said Sunday. “I am going to support his efforts so he will have that kind of backing from those who deal with me and give him the opportunity to do the things he wants to do. At some later date, we can talk about a role that I can play officially. But in the beginning, all I want to do is be an asset to his making the proper transition and not being in his way.”
The fact that Haslam asked —and then took the time to meet with him — meant a lot to Brown. He’d felt slighted when outgoing owner Randy Lerner sent team President Mike Holmgren to talk with him two years ago instead of Lerner hosting the meeting himself.
Holmgren removed Brown as adviser to Lerner and offered him a reduced role that he rejected. The offer left the Browns’ all-time leading rusher feeling disrespected. As a result, Brown boycotted his 2010 induction into the team’s Ring of Honor.
“We had a fantastic meeting from my point of view,” Brown said of his chat with Haslam. “Very special, very insightful, very open. No trickery, just straight-out honesty. He’s willing to learn, understand certain principles and has done a lot of homework on a lot of individuals. It couldn’t have been a better meeting for me.”
Brown also met with Holmgren over the weekend to help clear the air. “It was positive,” Brown said. “All parties seem to be on the same page from the standpoint of the position that we’re in. Mike was very gracious in his conversation with me and the interesting thing is … whatever we talk about or whatever great ideas we have, we’re gonna have to win. That’s how it is ultimately. We’ve got to have a winning football team.”
While a specific role for Brown wasn’t discussed Saturday, they plan to iron out details in the near future.
“Jim and I both agreed that it makes total sense for him to be involved with the Browns, and we both agreed it didn’t make sense to rush into anything,” Haslam said. “We exchanged cell numbers. We agreed to talk on an as-needed basis and get together at some to-be-determined time in the future.”
Other former players and people associated with the team over the years also welcomed Brown back throughout Alumni Weekend events.
“It was a very nice thing to here,” Brown admitted. “Because ultimately, there’s nothing I can be but a Brown. I didn’t play for anybody else, I didn’t set any records anywhere else, I didn’t win any championships anywhere else. So I’m stuck with you guys, whether you want me or not. There’s nothing you can do. This is my home.”
Nate Ulrich contributed to this report. Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.