BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said he couldn't wait for the start of the first practice of training camp Thursday.
“It was all I could do not to come out here at 3:30 because I could see everybody gathering,” Haslam said with a smile. “I’ve been watching them set up all day, and it’s exciting. It’s fun, and if you like and care about football, you can’t help but be excited.”
Haslam arrived in Ohio on Wednesday, and spent much of the day visiting truck stops, including a new facility in Canton. Upon his arrival at the newest of Pilot Flying J’s truck stops, Haslam was quickly reminded about the passion Browns fans have for the team.
“It’s great to be back, and hopefully, you all can sense the enthusiasm and excitement and intensity here in Berea,” Haslam said. “I got out of the rental car and was walking toward the store, and before I got in the store, I got two questions from two separate people. The first one was, ‘Jimmy, when are we going to start winning?’ The second was, ‘Man, are we going to make the playoffs this year?’ It reminded me of the love of football that everybody has up here.
“You’re talking to one of the more impatient people in the world, so it’s not easy. We really want to win the first game. We all understand the importance of that, but what really counts is how we perform in the last three games versus how we perform in the first three games, and are we a better team at the end of the year than we were at the first of the year? I think that’s important for all teams, but particularly, for young teams.”
During the offseason, the Browns spent $5 million renovating the Berea training facility, which allowed the team to bring all of its employees under one roof rather than having them split between Berea and FirstEnergy Stadium.
With the changes made in Berea, Haslam said the team is “ready to go with a new regime.”
“Everybody in the organization needs to be focused on two things, consistently winning, because let’s face it, that’s what it’s all about,” Haslam said. “We’ve got two great examples of that in our division. The second thing everybody needs to be focused on is providing our fans with a great experience. Everybody thinks about the game, but to me, there’s lots of parts to it. Today, we’re providing our fans a great experience, a good environment, lots of excitement right on top of us.
“The town hall that Joe (Banner), Mike (Lombardi), Alec (Scheiner), (coach Rob Chudzinski) and I are doing next week, I think that’s another example of providing our fans a great experience. We’re going to be focused on winning games, winning consistently, and providing our fans great excitement, great value over an extended period of time.”
In addition to highlighting many of the changes, Haslam talked about his commitment to the Browns and the city of Cleveland despite a federal investigation into his company, Pilot Flying J.
“We’re committed to owning the Browns for a long period of time, and I understand in Cleveland, there’s a great deal of uncertainty because of past history, but the fans should not worry,” Haslam said. “Our family’s going to own this asset for a long, long time.
“We’re excited and we feel privileged not just to own an NFL franchise, but to own the Cleveland Browns will all the heritage and the history it has and the love of football we were talking about earlier. We want to be successful as quickly as we can, but we want to build a long-term vision here.”