Mike Holmgren, Jim Brown talk
BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren is hoping that legendary running back Jim Brown will change his mind and attend the team's inaugural Ring of Honor ceremony.
Brown, who was removed as an adviser with the club after Holmgren arrived, isn't planning to attend the ceremony scheduled to take place at halftime of the team's home opener on Sept. 19 against Kansas City.
Holmgren, however, said he had a "good conversation" with the legendary running back earlier this week.
"He won't be able to make it," his wife, Monique Brown, told the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer earlier this week. "He tried to move a few things around [his schedule], but wasn't able to."
But a source close to Brown told the Plain Dealer that the Hall of Famer has been stung by two developments since losing his formal role as a team adviser: The team ended its funding of Brown's Amer-I-Can program, and there has been a lack of contact with owner Randy Lerner since Brown was stripped of his role.
"I'm afraid we've seen the last of Jim Brown around here," the source said, according to the report.
Holmgren, however, believes Brown may attend.
"I'm hopeful that he'll be there," Holmgren said Thursday at a news conference attended by Hall of Famers Paul Warfield and Joe DeLamielleure. "Jim Brown is synonymous with the Cleveland Browns. It's going to be a great celebration for all of us and the 16 families, and I trust he'll be part of that. He's going to holler back at me."
Speaking to WSKO, a sports radio station in Syracuse, N.Y., Brown wouldn't say if he would attend the ceremony or not.
"I'm a very sensitive person. I do like to be respected. I'm very loyal. I like it to be a two-way street," he said.
"I don't really need to comment on where I go, why I go, why I don't go," he added.
The first group inducted into the team's ring will be the 16 legends already enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Holmgren acknowledged the importance of honoring the Browns' storied tradition.
"It's long overdue," said Holmgren, who used similar rings of honor while coaching in Green Bay and Seattle to inspire players.
Brown served as an executive advisor to owner Randy Lerner for several years. When Holmgren took over, he revamped Cleveland's front office. Brown was one of the casualties.
"That happens when you have someone come in and they are changing things," Holmgren said. "New people come in, people go, their responsibilities change and that was what happened with Jim. It's important to understand with Jim that his role, what I would like him to do, the importance of Jim Brown to the Cleveland Browns and this community, none of that stuff is different and he knows that. I told him that.
"His responsibilities prior to me coming on board have changed a little bit. Would I like Jim Brown to come in and talk to our rookies? Absolutely. Do I want him as part of this day? Absolutely. Listen, the glass is half full. I think everyone is going to be there."
Among the other Browns legends to be honored in the initial ring of honor class are coach Paul Brown, quarterback Otto Graham and kicker/tackle Lou Groza.
"I'm overwhelmed," said Warfield, previously enshrined in the Miami Dolphins' ring of honor. "This organization has the richest and proudest history. There's something special about the Cleveland Browns."
When he took over, Holmgren said he was stunned to learn the Browns did not have a ring of honor, a tradition shared by almost half of the league's teams. Holmgren said part of the reason he came to Cleveland was because of the team's storied past.
Holmgren said the team has not yet established criteria for induction into the ring of honor. He said starting with the team's Hall of Famers was "an easy call." The Browns are also planning a season-long exhibit at the stadium to honor their history.
Holmgren's hope was that the ring of honor could serve as something for young players to aspire to make. Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas feels the team's nod to its glory days will affect everyone who straps on a plain orange helmet.
"It's inspirational, motivational and important," Thomas said. "This franchise was built on the backs of a lot of great NFL players -- some of the greatest of all-time. It's important to understand the tradition and history of the Cleveland Browns. I think it's a great step for us to have a ring of honor. I know it means a lot to current and former players."
For DeLamielleure, a self-described "football junkie" and also a member of Buffalo's ring of honor, it's one more chance to hear a stadium roar.
"My eight grandchildren will get to see this and it's going to mean a lot to them," he said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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