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Phil Dawson remembers, celebrates storied career as he retires with the Browns

Phil Dawson sat at the table inside the press conference room at the Browns headquarters in Berea, adjusted the water bottle next to him and smiled as he prepared to make it official.

The former Browns kicker was announcing his retirement Friday after he signed a one-day deal with the Browns to finish a 20-year NFL career, but before Dawson could begin to thank the team, recall the memories and celebrate the journey, he needed to apologize.

"Forgive me if I look down at my notes a fair amount today," Dawson said as highlights of his illustrious 14-year Browns career appeared on two televisions above him.

Among those highlights were his famous 2007 field goal against the Ravens that officials — who originally called the kick no good — overruled to send the game to overtime in an eventual win over the Baltimore Ravens, his snow-slicing field goal that clanked across the crossbar against the Buffalo Bills and, of course, his only touchdown: a fake field goal in 1999 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Phil Dawson has announced his retirement from the NFL. He will sign a contract to retire as a Cleveland Brown. "To have the opportunity to come back home and retire with the organization and the city that I love is incredibly meaningful to me," said Dawson. "It only seems right to have the opportunity to do this with the fans that have been so good to me and my family."

But none of those moments were Dawson's favorite highlight with the Browns. That didn't happen until Friday, when Dawson ended his career with a city that gave him endless love and support regardless of whether the kick was good or no good.

"It's good to be home," Dawson said. "The connection I had and still have to the city of Cleveland is the most cherished accomplishment of my career."

Dawson holds franchise records for career field-goal percentage (84.0) most consecutive field goals made (209) and most consecutive games with a field goal (23). He was a two-time Browns MVP, and his 1,271 career points are second to Browns Hall of Fame kicker Lou Groza.

When Dawson pondered retirement while he was placed on injured reserve with the Cardinals last November, he thought about returning to the city where it all started. His appreciation for Cleveland never waned after he split the last six years of his career with the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals.

The Browns still felt like home, and there was no other place to close the curtains.

"There's no greater sports town in America than Cleveland," Dawson said.

Cleveland is where Dawson raised his family, too. They sat to his right as Dawson paused, held back tears and expressed his love for his wife, Shannon, and three kids.

"They got to see the struggle trying to get ready for game day, and they remain by my side through it all," Dawson said. "No dad has ever been more proud of his kids than I have. I hope I made you proud."

Dawson thanked other people who helped him build a career that will forever hold value with the Browns. He offered gratitude to coaches, players and personnel, and he even thanked Chris Powell, the head Browns groundskeeper whom Dawson called the night before each home game to ask how short he mowed the grass that day.

Even though Dawson believes he still has a leg that could produce in the NFL, he felt it was time to move on. He's not sure what will come next, but it will likely involve watching the Browns each Sunday.

When he was asked about what he thought of the hype surrounding his former team, Dawson leaned in to the mic and offered a quick response.

"I'm jealous," he said. "There will be no greater place on the planet to be when the Lombardi trophy goes down Euclid Avenue, and you can bet your last dollar I will be down there to celebrate with everyone."

That's the only way Dawson could ever do it.

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