March 21, 2013 By Fred Greetham OBR Senior Reporter
Phil Dawson might someday leave his heart in San Francisco, but for now it has been left in Cleveland.
For the past 14 years Dawson toiled on the shores of Lake Erie kicking in inclement weather and swirling winds.
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After signing a one-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers, Dawson wanted to reach out one last time to the city of Cleveland in a conference call on Thursday. The gesture even impressed the 49ers public relations staff.
“It was Phil’s idea and a first-class gesture to reach out to you guys,” Bob Lange of the 49ers public relations staff said.
“I have so much respect for the Browns organization, the fans the city I will be rooting for them,” Dawson said. “It’s been some of the best year of my life. There is nothing but positive feelings in my mind. I look forward to seeing how the organization grows and I look forward to my new experiences (with the 49ers). It seems like a win-win.”
The Browns have declined to say if they made an offer to Dawson, who signed just a one-year contract for $2.5 million, but reading between the lines, it doesn’t appear they did.
Dawson said it doesn’t bother him playing under another one-year contract.
“I’ve been playing under a one-year deal the last three years.”
Dawson took the high road when asked on multiple occasions if the Browns made an offer to retain him.
“That’s probably a better question for someone else,” he said. “My focus is just moving ahead.
“I appreciate the interest in that, but my interest is moving forward and that’s how I’m going to roll with it.”
Dawson said that once the 49ers expressed interest in him, he turned all his focus on signing with them.
“My focus wasn’t really on terms, it was on what was the best situation for me and my family,” he said. “When this opportunity came across the radar screen for the 49ers, it was very attractive. As far as terms, I wasn’t worried about that.
“My focus was on the future and my agent did a great job,” he said. “When things got serious, it was all about the 49ers.
“Once it became apparent that San Francisco became a legitimate opportunity, I got very excited,” he said. “They are one of the storied franchises of all time with a great head coach, special team coach (Brad Seely) I have a history with and a great place to live. Why not play here?”
Dawson admitted having a chance to go to the playoffs and have a crack at the Super Bowl was also appealing, considering he only played in one playoff game in his entire career with the Browns.
“Obviously, any competitor wants to win,” he said. “The 49ers have been successful and it is an attractive situation.”
Next year’s Super Bowl is slated to be in the New York area in February. The setting could be perfect for Dawson.
Dawson said he hadn’t closed the door on coming back to the Browns.
“I have never been a free agent before and anything was a possibility and I had an open mind,” he said. “But once the opportunity from the 49ers came along, that was my focus.
“Any time you have an opportunity to be a San Francisco 49er, that became my focus,” he said. “It wasn’t comparing, but it was the opportunity.”
Dawson was asked if he knew he wouldn’t return to the Browns when he carved his initials in his locker with ‘Phil Dawson 1999-2012’.
“I’ve told you guys before that I’m not very good at predicting the future,” he said. “(The inscription) got out there and now everybody knows about it, but it was kind of tongue-in-cheek. I was just trying to have a little fun with the equipment guys.”
Dawson was asked if he has any regrets coming up just 79 points behind Lou Groza on the Browns all-time scoring record, needing about one season to break.
“As I’ve always said, I have the utmost respect for Mr. Groza and what he did,” Dawson said. “He is the ultimate Cleveland Brown and it only seems right that he should still hold the record. For Mr. Groza to remain the all time leading scorer seems right to me.
“Mr. Groza is Mr. Cleveland Brown,” he said. “He deserves all of that and it all is as it should be.” Dawson was asked to reflect on some of his highlights from the Browns.
“There are so many good memories that someday I’ll be able to reflect on, but right now my focus is on moving forward.”
Dawson said Cleveland will always be his families second home.
“Absolutely, you just can’t erase that amount of time from your history,” he said. “We have a lot of great relationships and memories from there.”
Dawson had some advice for whoever the next Browns kicker is.
“Just go to work,” he said he’d tell him.”Everybody forgets in 1999 I was the unproven kid that no one expected to do anything and was given time to grow into the job. I’m going to be pulling for him.”