BEREA -- Browns owner Jimmy Haslam spoke to reporters as the Browns were going through their first moments of training camp. A little less than a year ago, rumors surfaced that Randy Lerner was going to sell the Browns and on August 3 Haslam was announced as the prospective owner of the Browns. Haslam officially took ownership in October and vowed he would be in it for the long term. However, on April 15, 2013 his family company, Pilot Flying J was raided by the federal government and there have been questions since.
However, Haslam is undeterred in his quest to lead the Browns to a championship level team. He addressed his commitment to the Browns, despite the uncertainty of the outcome of the Pilot Flying J scandal.
"We're committed to owning the Browns for a long period of time," Haslam said. "I understand in Cleveland there is a great deal of uncertainty because of past history, but the fans should not worry. Our family is going to own this asset for a long, long time and we're excited about that. We feel privilege to not only own an NFL franchise, but to own the Cleveland Browns with all the heritage and history it has and candidly the love of football this area has. Candidly, there is no concern for cash flow. If there were, we wouldn't have done the things we did at Berea. We wouldn't have signed the free agents and wouldn't be talking about the things we are about redoing the stadium. We want to build a long term vision here."
Haslam took the time to once again apologize for the bad publicity brought to the Browns.
"I've said this before and I'll say it again, but I apologize for the negative attention this has brought to Cleveland, the Browns and the NFL and I mean that sincerely," he said. "I'll be honest, I'm going to stay focused on two things. One, make sure we correct the activities at Pilot Flying J that led to some of the accusations that have been made. But secondly, and more importantly to do the things we talked about in Cleveland. I think you are all starting to see over a period of time that we've assembled a good team here, whether it's Joe (Banner) or Mike (Lombardi) and Chud and those that work under them. I think Joe said it and if you ask people around the building there is no distraction. I don't think anybody senses distraction here. Everybody is entirely focused on the two things we talked about, winning games one, and providing a great experience for our fans, two."
Haslam was asked if the NFL has been supportive of him during this time.
"Our style is to be very transparent and very open," he said. "When the government's investigation began on April 15, one of the first calls we made was to the NFL. We have been in constant contact with them and they have been very supportive in working with us."
Haslam did say he was very upbeat that the situation will resolved itself.
"I will say that we are very optimistic about the outcome."
When asked about the Browns, Haslam echoed the sentiments that Banner talked about on Wednesday in building the team the right way.
"We were announced in Berea almost a year ago on August 3 and I think at the time I said, and I know Joe said it lately that we view this as a long term project," he said. "I don't mean to say that we don't mean to be really good this year or improve this year. I think we will, but I think it's important to remind everybody that we're in this for the long run. I constantly remind the organization of two things and everybody in the organization needs to be focused on two things: The first is consistently winning because let's face consistently winning is what it's all about. Let's face it, we have two great examples in our division.
"The second thing we need to be focused on is giving our fans a great experience and everybody immediately thinks about the game," he said. "But to me, there are lots of parts of it. Like today, we're providing our fans a great experience. A good environment, lots of excitement right here on top of us much better set up than last year. The town hall meeting we're doing next week. I think that's another experience we're giving our fans. We're going to be focused on winning games consistently, number one and providing our fans a great value over an extended period of time."
Haslam was asked if he was willing to be patient with the Browns, considered one of the youngest teams in the NFL.
"You're talking to one of the more impatient people in the world, " Haslam said. "So it's not easy. We were talking today about how badly do I want to win the first game. We all want to win the first game. We understand the importance of that, but it's more important how we perform in the last three games than how we perform in the first three games. Are we a better team at the end of the year than we were at the first of the year? I think that's important for all teams, but particularly important for young teams."
Haslam was asked what he is looking for in terms of the Browns on the field in 2013.
"To improve and your natural question is and I would ask that too is how many games (will we win)? We had a long meeting today and we'll all know at the end of the year if we're a better football team than we were at the end of last year and if we're better than we were at the first of this year," he said. "We'll all know that."