Owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam acknowledged Sunday their excitement for an upcoming Browns season that comes with plenty of hype and expectations, but stressed the work required to complete the turnaround of one of the NFL's most storied franchises is far from done.
Faced with a variety of questions about the optimism and lofty goals surrounding the team, the Haslams reiterated Sunday what general manager John Dorsey and coach Freddie Kitchens have been saying for months.
"It looks like we have put together a really good team, but we have to go out and win games and win consistently," Jimmy Haslam said. "If you look at our schedule you will see that it is a tough schedule and our division is tough, everybody knows that. Our track record against Pittsburgh and Baltimore and even Cincinnati is not very good so enough talk, we have to go out and win games now."
Asked if either of them cringed when they hear "Super Bowl" tossed around with a franchise that hasn't posted a winning record since 2007, Dee Haslam, just like Kitchens at the start of camp, said that's the expectation every year, no matter the circumstances.
There's just talking season, and the real season, and the Browns are still entrenched in the former.
"It is six weeks until the first game," Jimmy Haslam said. "It is a long season and a long grind. We still have a very young team. We integrated some new players. They have to be assimilated into a team. We have a lot of work to do."
Check out photos from the fourth day of Browns Camp by team photographer Matt Starkey
Both Jimmy and Dee Haslam were able to admit, though, that the first few days of training camp have been a lot of fun for a variety of reasons.
On the eve of the first practice, the Browns held an all-staff meeting that centered on recognizing some of the organization's longest-tenured employees. It was a special moment for both of the Haslams, who took control of the organization midway through the 2012 season, to simultaneously look back and recognize those who have weathered the good and the bad of the past two decades and look ahead to what is anticipated to be a bright, bright future.
"You appreciate how many people who have worked here so long and are really good people and really care about their job and care about the Cleveland Browns and the great job they do for the organization," Jimmy Haslam said. "That is what I am proudest of and I think Dee is. When you combine that with great fan support, it is a good place to be. Now, we have to go out there and win some games. That is what counts, and that is all we care about."
Their collective confidence in the coach leading the way and the long-awaited starting quarterback, Baker Mayfield, who took the team by storm as a rookie last season, was more than apparent in Sunday's nearly 20-minute long session with reporters.
On head coach Freddie Kitchens, Jimmy Haslam admitted there was certainly some good fortune with how last year's turn of events paved the way for the longtime position coach to ascend to offensive coordinator and put himself in contention for the top job.
"My dad and I were laughing about this the other day – there are good decisions that are made; there are some bad ones; and there is luck," Jimmy Haslam said. "I will just leave it at that. I think you can point to any… (Patriots QB) Tom Brady gets picked in the sixth round. There is luck involved, too, absolutely.
"Right person, right place. Sometimes, people are exposed early. Sometimes, you are an offensive coordinator and you have a great quarterback, and that gets you a job. There is right time and right place … He is very comfortable with who Freddie Kitchens is. He doesn't try to be something he is not. We think he will relate well to all kinds of different people but most importantly, our players. Freddie can talk to guys who cut the grass. He can talk to the scouts. He can talk to players. He can talk to Dee and I. He is very comfortable [with who he is]."
The ingredients are in place, and getting there is half of the fun. The Haslams are ready to enjoy the ride, but know it's far from over.
"We are really excited for our fans," Dee Haslam said. "The atmosphere out here at Berea is just fantastic. We are grateful for all of our fans here. We are excited to see our players and coaches on the field. We feel like we are off to a great start."