Business as usual as Browns open 2012 camp
BEREA -- Life went on Saturday for the Cleveland Browns.
About 2,937 attended the first training camp practice open to the public -- more than attended any camp session a year ago.
And coach Pat Shurmur was a much more relaxed man 24 hours after learning the team was being sold.
But life might be about to change quickly for a lot of people with the organization, because ownership change is expected to be completed before the season opener Sept. 9.
According to sources familiar with the discussions, the pending sale from Randy Lerner to Jimmy Haslam could be approved in August. ProFootballTalk.com reported the same Saturday morning.
A fast transfer will reduce the questions about what might happen and might delay changes in the team’s front office and coaching staff until after the season. No owner, not even a new one, is going to make drastic changes with the season about to start -- though if any immediate change is made odds favor it affecting team president Mike Holmgren.
The Browns are trying their best to operate normally. Lerner’s focus is to not discourage or distract the team. He even joined Holmgren to watch practice, but did not speak with the media.
“We haven’t talked about really anything beyond being informed of what’s going to happen,” Shurmur said. “Now it’s a process. He was out here watching practice, really nothing more to it than that.”
But the Browns “normal” could change in a hurry, because though a fast change might reduce uncertainty, it won’t eliminate it.
Though almost nothing is definitively known about Haslam’s plans for the team, sources who know Haslam say he will be actively involved in the team’s operations, and that it’s likely he will bring in his people to run the team. That’s the way Haslam works with his businesses. While many expect Haslam to be an active and involved owner, they do not expect him to be Jerry Jones, who is his own GM. Haslam will hire people, but he will not keep the distance from them that Lerner kept. Lerner’s steadfast credo was that he hired people and let them do their jobs; he stayed back, almost to a fault.
Haslam will not sit back.
Given what he’s paying, he shouldn’t. Forbes reported the sales price at $920 million. Last November, Shahid Khan bought the Jacksonville Jaguars for $760 million. Al Lerner bought the Browns in 1999 for $530 million.
There are many questions about the future.
Holmgren’s situation could be tenuous, and he understands that fact. A key to his future could be the rumors that former Eagles president Joe Banner is part of Haslam’s group. If Banner comes in with part ownership, he might take over running the team. If not, Haslam may like the direction Holmgren has the team going and keep him.
It’s virtually certain that a sale just before the season ensures no immediate coaching change. That timing might actually help Pat Shurmur and his staff.
But it also would mean the new owner would watch the coaching staff closely, and make a judgment based on wins and losses this season. Shurmur might not have the benefit of knowing he has another season to allow a young team to grow, which he would have as long as Holmgren is the team’s president.
It’s also possible -- maybe even likely -- a new owner would want to make a splash with a big name coaching hire, much the way new owner Stan Kroenke did in St. Louis when he hired Jeff Fisher. That leads to the immediate question: Could Haslam be the one to convince Bill Cowher retirement isn’t worth it and coaching against the Rooneys is?
At this point, there’s much speculation, which is why the Browns seemed almost relieved simply to go back to playing football.
Shurmur was a different man from 24 hours previous, when the news of the sale seemed to blindside him. While anger came across Friday, his personality came across on Saturday.
He joked, talked football, smiled and talked more football.
On the field rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden had a bit of a wakeup call, as he struggled through some tough throws with defenders going fullspeed to prove themselves.
It’s all part of a rookie’s learning curve, but it will only get faster Sunday when the team practices in pads for the first time.
For the Browns, life is changing. But as it does, things still stay the same.