ESPN Cleveland

Jimmy Haslam's bubbling enthusiasm arrives just at the right time

Aug 09, 2012 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi


The Morning Kickoff …

Buzz kill: Friday’s introduction of new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam created a buzz about the team that I haven’t felt in, well, 13 years. But, boy, was that short-lived.

Since then:

* Linebacker Chris Gocong suffered a torn Achilles tendon on Saturday and was lost for the season.

* Running back Trent Richardson felt soreness in his left knee on Monday and will have arthroscopic surgery today in Alabama to remove a loose particle irritating the knee. It’s the same knee on which Richardson had a torn meniscus cartilage repaired on Feb. 3.

* ESPN Cleveland reported on Wednesday that cornerback Joe Haden tested positive for Adderall, a stimulant on the league’s list of banned substances, and could be suspended for four games.

And so, welcome to Cleveland, Mr. Haslam.

“I think that’s part of football,” Haslam, unfazed, said. “You’re going to have some bad breaks and some good breaks. But I’m confident listening to everybody that we’ve got a good, young team that’s headed in the right direction.”

Getting up to speed: Haslam spent eight hours on Wednesday holed up in meetings in Berea with the business operations he inherited. After the meetings broke at 5:30, he headed to Cleveland Browns Stadium for more briefings there and to greet season ticket-holders in one of the club lounges. He shook hands, gave autographs and posed for pictures.

“I was telling some of my friends back home who asked what were my two main impressions (of Cleveland),” he said. “First, I’ve never seen people who like football as much as this community does, and second of all, we need to win. That’s actually 1. and 1a.”

So what does he say when fans ask when the winning starts?

“I don’t know any more than you do,” Haslam answered. “I think the Browns are heading in the right direction, but they were 4-12 last year. They’ve had two really good drafts in a row. I think Tom (Heckert, the GM) and his team have done a really nice job. But we’ve probably still got a ways to go.

“What I’ve told every fan tonight is hang in there, be patient. We’ll work our hardest to bring a winner here. I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight, but I do think we’re heading in the right direction.”

Prior to Wednesday night, Haslam already had taken a walking tour of the stadium. He is taking mental notes on improving the environment.

“Over a period of time, we’re going to enhance the stadium, make it a better place for fans,” he said. “Your obvious question is what are you going to do. The answer is I don’t know yet. We’re going to hire people to help us make those decisions. It’s not going to happen quickly, but we’re committed to doing it.”

Come down from the 480 bridge, everybody: New to the scene, Haslam was told his fans already are freaking out about the downturn of events that struck suddenly after his purchase agreement with Randy Lerner.

“Football’s a tough game and injuries are part of the game,” he said. “It probably hurts a team like us that’s a little younger and (with) a little less depth. But we’re building a good team. We’re doing it for the long run. We’re not going to panic and not do the right things to bring a winner to Cleveland over the long period of time.”

He said of Haden, “I don’t know enough to comment on that. Obviously, Joe’s a great player and a great guy and I certainly hope he’s available, but I don’t know anything more than that.”

If Haden is suspended, he would join Phil Taylor (torn pectoral surgery), linebacker Scott Fujita (league suspension) and Gocong (Achilles tear) as starters missing from the defense on opening day, Sept. 9, against the Philadelphia Eagles.

National pundits already are poking fun at Haslam, joking that he must be experiencing remorse for plunking down over $1 billion for a franchise that seems eternally cursed.

That is not the case, of course. On the contrary, Haslam’s Jerry Jones-like exuberance is just what the doctor ordered here in beleaguered Cleveland.

“My main takeaway (from meeting fans) is, we want to win. We feel a responsibility to do that,” Haslam said.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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