Browns president Mike Holmgren called a news conference Monday to address the lockout imposed by the owners at midnight Friday that has stopped business in the NFL. He wanted to send a message of encouragement to Cleveland fans, despite the uncertainty that could threaten at least the start of the 2011 season.
"It's an interesting time, to say the least," he said. "At some point we'll play football games again. Hang in there.
"It's been my experience that these fans love this football team. Stay with us. This is going to work eventually. The hard part is I can't give you a time right now."
Holmgren said the organization will operate as "business as usual" during the lockout. He said there'd be no layoffs or pay cuts for the coaching staff. Most of the league's coaches had a clause placed in their contract that could reduce the salary in the event of a lockout.
He said season-ticket sales are ahead of last year's pace. If any games are missed due to a work stoppage, the Browns will refund the price of the ticket plus interest.
Holmgren expressed his optimism that the Browns are headed in the right direction as he starts his second season on the job, but acknowledged a prolonged work stoppage could hurt the team under new coach Pat Shurmur. The Browns, 14-34 the last three years, are switching to a West Coast offense and 4-3 defense and have yet to hold a team meeting or workout under Shurmur. During the lockout, teams are forbidden from having contact with the players.
Holmgren said he's trying not to worry about things he can't control. Like how much time the team will have to get ready for the season, how free agency will be altered and which players are being the most negatively affected by a lack of offseason practices.
Quarterback Colt McCoy was given a playbook before the lockout, and Holmgren expects him to try to organize workouts among his teammates.
"When we get back to playing, we'll get the team up to speed as quickly as possible," he said.
The only certainty in the NFL right now is that the draft will be held April 28-30. The Browns hold the No. 6 pick.
Holmgren repeated his trust in McCoy but wouldn't rule out the possibility of taking a quarterback in the first round. Auburn's Cam Newton and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert are the top two prospects.
"We're doing our due diligence," Holmgren said. "It's our obligation to investigate the best players coming out of college football.
"Don't' discount anything."
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CHECK TUESDAY'S C-T FOR MORE BROWNS COVERAGE.