CLEVELAND: Hall of famer Jim Brown was upbeat about the Browns’ future after a 7-6 home victory over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. And his excitement seemed to have more to do with the players than new owner Jimmy Haslam, who won his first game.
“My feelings are great. That’s why I stopped here,” Brown said in the locker room after the Browns improved to 2-6. “I’ve seen the improvement in the team.
“You’ve got a quarterback, OK? You’ve got some other pieces; you’ve got a couple defensive guys that are really good. You’ve got two or three spots you’ve got to get somebody to fill, but you’ve got a young team. I think we’re the youngest team in the league. We’re looking towards a good future, no doubt about it. The foundation is being built properly.”
The temperature at kickoff was 44 degrees with the wind out of the north-?northeast at 19 mph, and the game was played in constant rain. Brown knew the conditions well.
“This is Cleveland weather. What do you mean do I remember? Of course I remember,” Brown said.
Brown was waiting at the locker of running back Trent Richardson after the rookie from Alabama recorded a career-high 122 yards on 24 carries and scored a 26-yard touchdown.
“A great running back breaks tackles. And when a running back breaks tackles, then you have someone who can control the ball,” Brown said. “On the TD run, I think he broke about four tackles. That’s the sign of a real fine running back.”
Although he once called Richardson “ordinary,” Brown no longer thinks that way.
“He’s done everything I thought he should do. He never took anything that I said the wrong way,” Brown said.
Asked what Richardson can do for the Browns, Brown said: “You eat the clock up, you can throw the ball in the last two minutes. The offensive line likes the fact that they can do some run blocking. They don’t like to just sit back and do pass blocking. It makes the defense feel bad when they’re being controlled by the running game and a great runner. Absolutely that choice was a good choice.”
Richardson was thrilled that Brown was waiting for him.
“It means a lot. He’s always been an icon,” Richardson said. “With him being here today, it shows a lot of how he feels about us.”
Asked what Brown told him, Richardson said: “He said, ‘Keep doing what you do. Keep preparing and don’t let anybody tell you what you can’t do. Just keep fighting.’?”
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden called a play in the huddle, because the headset in his helmet malfunctioned in the fourth quarter and he couldn’t hear coach Pat Shurmur on the other end.
“It was either battery or [it] came loose,” Weeden said. “I got hit in the head once, may have jarred loose. But yeah, I couldn’t hear anything. I called one play on my own in the huddle and I was just waiting to get chewed out by Pat.”
Backup running back Chris Ogbonnaya rushed for 4 yards on the play Weeden called before the Browns used a timeout with 6:51 left so the headset could be repaired.
“It worked,” Weeden said with a smile. “I should call plays all the time.”
Get well soon
Browns executive vice president of business operations Bryan Wiedmeier is recovering at his home after having a brain tumor removed Friday at the Cleveland Clinic, said Neal Gulkis, the team’s vice president of media relations.
Wiedmeier went to the hospital Thursday because he felt ill. The problem was then discovered and the surgery was performed Friday, Gulkis said. Wiedmeier was released Sunday, Gulkis said.
Shurmur said a game ball would be presented to Wiedmeier.
Rookie strongside linebacker James Michael-?Johnson and rookie defensive tackle Billy Winn teamed up to produce the only takeaway of the game.
Chargers running back Ryan Matthews took a handoff to the outside. Johnson came up from behind him and knocked the ball loose, and Winn fell on it with 41 seconds left in the first quarter.
“The ball was just sitting there waiting for me, so I went over and hopped on it,” said Winn, who recorded his first career sack. “It’s tough to win a game when you don’t [force] turnovers, everybody knows that. But they just don’t come to you, you have to create them.”
Johnson finished the game with 10 tackles (five solo), including four on the first drive. It was the most tackles in a game for a Browns rookie since T.J. Ward had 10 against the Steelers on Oct. 17, 2010.
The NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi is viewed as a candidate to join the Browns’ front office, Jason La Canfora of CBS reported, citing league sources. Lombardi has ties to new CEO Joe Banner from their days together with the Philadelphia Eagles.
La Canfora said sources expect Banner to hire a veteran executive to help oversee personnel for the Browns. Lombardi was the Browns’ director of player personnel under coach Bill Belichick. He also headed the Oakland Raiders’ personnel department before being fired in 2007.
Lombardi worked for the San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos and Eagles, too. He interviewed for the 49ers’ general manager position in 2010.
Although he was not injured, fullback Owen Marecic was among the Browns’ inactives. It probably had more to do with Marecic’s self-confessed four drops this season. Tight end Alex Smith assumed his role in the backfield.
“I’ve had a couple cracks at it last year, but it’s not quite the same,” Smith said of his new role. “It definitely takes some adjustments here and there. I was slowly getting my feel for the position as the game went on.”
Letting it roll
In the rain and unpredictable wind, Browns receiver/returner Josh Cribbs let a few punts go rather than try to field them. That included the last one off the foot of Chargers punter Mike Scifres, which rolled to the Browns’ 3.
“When I go out there I always repeat, ‘Ball security, job security.’ I learned that from Jerry Rosburg,” Cribbs said of the former Browns’ special teams coach. “You want to make sure at the end of the play we had the football. That’s why I had to let some go.
“You’ve got to be smart. I’ve been doing it too long to create a turnover to set my team back.”
Cribbs seemed to indicate that he might not have been following the orders of Shurmur.
“They trust me,” he said. “A few coach Shurmur wanted me to get on. He wanted me to make a play. He wanted me to succeed as well. But I have to be disciplined enough to know when there’s not a play to be made.”
Banner did not attend the game, because he remained in the Boston area with family, Gulkis said. Banner’s father, Ralph, died Thursday night at age 89. … Outgoing team President Mike Holmgren attended the game. … Defensive end Emmanuel Stephens left the game with a neck injury in the first half and did not return. … Linebacker Scott Fujita served as an honorary captain and was on the field for the coin toss. Fujita was placed on injured reserve Saturday with a neck injury. He is contemplating retirement. Richardson’s five rushing touchdowns are the most by a Browns rookie since William Green finished the season with six in 2002. Richardson’s five through the first eight games was last matched by rookie Ron Johnson in 1969. … Richardson joined Jim Brown, Bobby Mitchell, Green, Kevin Mack, Earnest Byner and Preston Carpenter as the only Browns rookies to have multiple 100-yard rushing games. … The Browns have scored a touchdown on their opening drive in back-to-back games for the first time since 2005. … Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson totaled a season-high 14 tackles. … The Browns allowed just two sacks and have given up a total of five in the past five games. … With three catches for 46 yards against the Chargers, rookie Josh Gordon has totaled 10 receptions for 278 yards and four touchdowns in the past four games. … Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle), running back Brandon Jackson, safety Tashaun Gipson (knee), defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (calf), offensive lineman Jarrod Shaw (illness) and Marecic were inactive for the Browns.
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