He was at Browns headquarters for the first round of the NFL Draft and briefly addressed sponsors about an hour before the draft began. Haslam didn’t take questions or talk to the media, and he didn’t mention the FBI investigation of Pilot Flying J, the family company where he is CEO.
Haslam gave a contrite statement to the media Monday in Knoxville, Tenn., where Pilot is based. He called trucking company customers to discuss the alleged fraud in Pilot’s rebate program. And he met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday to discuss the investigation.
On Thursday night, he was focused on football and his first draft as owner of the Browns after buying the team in October. He was cheered by the sponsors inside the team’s fieldhouse.
“The pace, intensity, tempo at practice, there’s no comparison to last year,” Haslam said. “The energy level at practice is quite different.
“Players are real excited, giving me thumbs-up.”
Haslam stressed the importance of the draft in reversing the Browns’ fortunes. But he sounded as if the process to the playoffs was just beginning.
“Had a good free agency, still have plenty of cap room, have a great draft, need to have another good free agency, have another great draft,” he said. “If we do that, we’ll be able to compete in our division. Let’s face it, if you can compete in our division, you got a chance to win the Super Bowl, right?”
CEO Joe Banner said a couple of hours before the draft he wasn’t in any trade discussions regarding his players. Defensive end Jabaal Sheard and quarterback Brandon Weeden have been mentioned as players that could be moved, depending on whom the Browns select.
“Now keep in mind that can change in a minute,” Banner said during an interview on WKRK 92.3-FM.
He said he’s had one conversation in the last few days regarding a player on another team. That’s believed to be Miami receiver Davone Bess, following multiple reports Wednesday.
“I don’t know whether something will happen or not, but it probably still kind of hangs out there as a possibility,” Banner said.
Bess (5-foot-10, 193 pounds) had 61 catches for 778 yards and a touchdown in 13 starts in 2012.
• After the Boston Herald reported Thursday the Browns had called the Patriots about trading for backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, the report was refuted by multiple outlets that cited a source who said the Browns aren’t interested in Mallett.
He was a third-round pick in 2011 and has thrown four passes in the NFL.
Show of support
Left guard Jason Pinkston heard the rumblings about the Browns taking a quarterback and went to Twitter to defend the one he’s got.
“I’m supporting my boy @bweeden3 all the way that’s our QB…,” Pinkston tweeted about Weeden. “Fans will say what they want but we Finally got the right coaches & offense no need to jump ship the chemistry with the team has been great.”
Linebacker Quentin Groves was found guilty Tuesday of disorderly conduct, the Plain Dealer reported. He was arrested last week for solicitation as part of a police prostitution sting.
Groves’ court date had been set for May 10 but he pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct and paid the fine and costs of $365.
Groves, who signed a two-year, $2.8 million deal in March, apologized to the Browns, fans and city Wednesday.
The Browns’ last No. 6 pick was tight end Kellen Winslow in 2004. The only other sixth pick was Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown in 1957.
• Elyria Catholic graduate Matt Wilhelm started a job this week at WKNR 850-AM.
• LSU coach Les Miles, an Elyria High grad, was part of NFL Network’s draft coverage.
• The draft resumes tonight at 6:30 with the second and third rounds. Teams get seven minutes per pick in the second round, and five minutes in the final five rounds.
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