NFL commissioner Roger Goodell offered encouraging words as the Browns finished their final day of training camp.
Goodell, who visited the team's Berea headquarters Thursday afternoon, said he believes the club is on the right path under owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown and head coach Hue Jackson.
"I know how badly you want to win, I know you all feel that and I believe you're on the right path here," said Goodell, who joined the Haslams, Brown, defensive lineman Danny Shelton and left guard Joel Bitonio in a fan forum for roughly 100 season ticket members.
"I think this franchise, the Haslams are bringing the leadership and the right people in place to do that. I just thank you for your passion for it. I think it's reflected — when we turn on the TV set on Sundays and you see the Cleveland Browns and their fans there — it's hard when you're not winning, but those Cleveland Browns fans are still there cheering … I think that's a great statement for all of you and I thank you for that passion."
Goodell's visit comes as the Browns — in conjunction with the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Greater Cleveland Sports Commission — announced their bid to host the NFL Draft in either 2019 or 2020 NFL Draft in Northeast Ohio.
"Was that a coincidence?" Goodell said, laughing. "This area being the birthplace of football and obviously the way the draft has evolved where it's really a tremendous reflection on the community and the passion for football here — and obviously the depth for football on all levels right down to youth football — I think this would be a great community."
Goodell and the panel spoke on several important issues, including player safety, the Rooney Rule and the league's ability to be a unifying force.
'Number one priority'
Over the past 10 years, the NFL has made 47 rules changes aimed at making the game safer, Goodell said. The commissioner, who described player safety as the league's 'No. 1 priority," said they've invested in research toward it and equipment that's constantly advancing. "We had to invest in that research and development," he said, "and I think the ownership has done a wonderful job of doing that."
Rooney Rule has 'made the NFL better'
Established almost 15 years ago, the Rooney Rule is an NFL policy that requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations jobs. Goodell praised the impact of the rule, saying the league is better for it.
"We're hiring the best people for the best positions. We're reaching out and finding the best candidates. The competition for those jobs are extraordinary. But we're finding great people to fill them," he said.
"From my standpoint, I believe in diversity and the diversity viewpoint and diversity of strength in giving us the best viewpoints to make the best decisions. That is just a start. They have made the NFL better. The Rooney Rule has made the NFL better. I think people like Sashi, and coaches who are in the League to make it better because they have a great skillset."