BEREA — Before becoming the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell served as the league’s point man in negotiations to bring the Browns back to Cleveland.
He says that experience left him with strong feelings — all of them positive — about the North Coast and the Dawg Pound.
“I know the great fan base they have here, and I’ve never seen more passionate fans than Browns fans,” Goodell said Thursday as he visited the team’s headquarters.
“I think this franchise has a great facility now, a great fan base and the team is doing all the right things to build a terrific franchise here,” Goodell said. “I think this is a very positive story for us.”
The commissioner was in Berea as part of his first preseason tour of the NFL since succeeding Paul Tagliabue on Sept. 1, 2006. He will meet with each franchise’s upper management team, coaches, players and regular media members.
Goodell stopped at the Detroit Lions’ training facility in Allen Park, Mich., earlier in the day before returning to the area that he briefly called home during the Browns’ three-year hiatus from the league.
“It was a very difficult period for the fans of Cleveland and a very difficult period for the NFL,” Goodell said, referring to Art Modell’s 1995 decision to move the team to Baltimore. “The first several months were very difficult for us. Ultimately, though, we came up with a good solution.”
That “good solution” saw the NFL force Modell to rename his Baltimore Browns the Ravens, as well as to leave the team’s colors and heritage in Cleveland to be used by its 1999 expansion team.
In return, the city agreed to release Modell from the remainder of his lease at Cleveland Stadium and go without an NFL team from 1996-1998. Cleveland Browns Stadium was built on the same lakefront site during the interim.
“You realize how important this franchise is to the community when something like that happens — it’s devastating,” Goodell said. “We’re glad that it’s part of history and the Browns are here now.”
The commish also touched on a number of other topics in his outdoor news conference:
• Goodell said he invited rookie quarterback Brady Quinn into his private suite at the NFL Draft because “I thought it was the appropriate thing to bring him in and let him sit, and to see what happens with his family.”
Quinn was the focal point of ESPN’s coverage as he slid from being a consensus top-five selection to the 22nd overall pick by the Browns. Goodell added that he was interested in seeing how quickly Quinn develops as a professional.
• He denied that the league has engaged in any negotiations about a suspension with Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.
Numerous media outlets have reported Vick’s representatives will not accept a plea agreement on dogfighting charges until speaking with NFL officials.
“I’m a pet lover myself,” Goodell said. “The league finds (dogfighting) despicable and incomprehensible. But we’ll make our decision once we have all the facts.”
• Goodell claimed the NFL administers 12,000 drug tests a year to players, which is “far more than any other league.” He said steroids are no longer a significant problem because “the players don’t want it in the game.”
Browns tackle Ryan Tucker recently was suspended for four games for failing a steroid test.
• Detecting how widespread human growth hormone is being used by athletes is not a front-burner issue.
“There is no test for it, and there is also a question if human growth hormone has a performance benefit,” Goodell said.
• Continuing research on concussions are a priority for Goodell’s office, which has implemented psychological testing to determine a baseline for future player comparisons.
• Regarding the NBA’s public relations nightmare with former referee Tim Donaghy gambling on games, Goodell said NFL officials are “held to a very, very high standard” and the background checks they are given are “second to none.”
• Ways to reduce rookie holdouts will be discussed with the players’ union in the future, but have previously been held with no positive results.
• Browns players asked “six or seven questions” during their discussion with Goodell, who said “I think they felt comfortable asking them.”
“Because he’s so new to the (job), it’s important for him to get out and be seen,” Browns wide receiver Joe Jurevicius said of Goodell’s visit. “Having him here was a treat.”
Contact Brian Dulik at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.