Browns head coach Pat Shurmur, Browns general manager Tom Heckert and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell were on a conference call with Browns season ticket holders on April 14. Shurmur, who was hired last Janurary, pinch-hit for team president Mike Holmgren, who was under the weather according to the Browns' public relations staff.
The call lasted approximately an hour and fans were able to ask questions. Media members also were on the call, but they were unable to ask any questions. Shurmur and Heckert answered questions for the first 45 minutes and Goodell did so for the last 15 minutes.
Heckert did say, on at least two occasions, the Browns would take the best available player if the team does make their selection at No. 6.
Here are some of the questions asked and the answers:
Are you ready for the draft?:
Heckert: We're excited to get (the draft) going. We're ready to go. We're not exactly sure who we're going to take with the first pick as it depends on what happens before us, but we have our boards pretty much set and there will still be a little maneuvering, but we're pretty well set.
Will the Browns take the best available player or go more for need since the draft is prior to free agency?
Heckert: I think we'll do the same thing as we have in the past and we're going to take the best available player. If you have two players rated the same, then you can go with need.
How many players are ranked?
Heckert: The board we have in the draft room is stacked from one through 240 players. If two guys are close, we'll go with a position of need. The things we talk about daily now is if this guy isn't there, this is what we do or what ifs.
Do you feel the defensive line is a deep area?
Heckert: From some of the draft gurus there has been talk of as many as 13 defensive linemen going in the first round. We're not necessarily saying we have to take one at six, but the best available player.
Do you think there will be more trades in moving up or back with the potential for having a restructured salary for rookies?
Heckert: We don't know what the new deal will be. I do think there will be some movement, but don't know if it will be before we draft. There are a couple of quarterbacks that might cause movement. It's kind of an unknown right now.
Can you confirm who you have brought in for visits?:
Heckert: No (I can't confirm), but you can believe what you want. We've brought some of those players in and some of them we haven't. It's pretty safe to say that someone we're thinking of taking at number six, we've probably had in here.
Shawn in Akron asked if the current management team can make sure that a Spergon Wynn isn't drafted ahead of a Tom Brady in the future.
Heckert: Only time will tell. This is a what have you done for me lately league. That's for you the fans to determine as time goes on, that's not for me. I think we added some pretty good players last year.
Tony from Cleveland asked if the Browns would be very active in free agency when and if it occurs.
Heckert: We're ready for free agency whenever that happens. There are a lot of variables with who is going to be available I wouldn't say we will go crazy, but we'll be active.
James from Columbus asked Heckert if Shurmur and his staff would be given enough time to turn things around and not continually be starting over.
Heckert: We understand that. If you're building through the draft, you have a chance to sustain it. Pat and I were in Philadelphia together and we were able to be successful and if you draft the right people, you have a chance to sustain (your success).
How do you look at players who were injured in the past in college like Montario Hardesty?
Heckert: Obviously, we have doctors and trainers involved in the process. It was unfortunate that Montario got hurt, but were always mindful of players who have been injured. We thought Montario was a really good football player. Last year, it didn't work out, but you hope he will still be able to come in and contribute in a big way.
How has it been working with Holmgren?
Heckert: It's been great. He always walks by my office and asks ‘Who are we taking'. He's met with the players that have come into the building and he lets me do my thing, but we sit down and talk about it. We have a great relationship.
How do you see the current offensive players fitting into the West Coast offense after becoming more familiar with the personnel?
Shurmur: I'm pretty pleased with some of the players we have here. I like the starting point for this team and like the idea of developing Colt (McCoy). We have some receivers and a tight end in Ben Watson, who had a great year last year. I didn't even mention the running backs, who can run the ball and catch the ball. The offensive line is pretty good and I feel we have a good starting point.
How has the lockout slowed you as a new coach in a new system?
Shurmur: This time of year has been similar to past years as we're getting ready for the draft.
How do you view the draft?
Shurmur: This is the time of the year you want to make your team better. You either do it in free agency or through the draft and now the focus is on the draft.
How is Montario Hardesty progressing?
Shurmur: My comments on him would be prior to the (lockout) and were really pleased with his progress and expect him to be ready to compete. Injured players are working with a third party.
Do you feel the Browns are at a disadvantage with a new staff and unable to hold workouts?
Shurmur: Obviously, you'd like to work with the players, but it is what it is and you just I feel very strongly about the coaches we were able to hire and we will get the team ready when we're able to.
Do you use Holmgren as a resource?
Shurmur: With Mike in the building, it's been great for me. We talk about everything but football, from calendar issues and other things. For me, it's been very valuable. Together, we have a collective vision. Tom and I learned things together from Coach (Andy) Reid, who learned them from Coach Holmgren. I feel like we're progressing.
Mrs. George, 87, who has been a season ticket holder since 1946 asked if the priority was defensive end or wide receiver.
Shurmur: Tom and I get plenty of free advice and we're going to do our very best to upgrade positions that are a need.
What are your priorities right now?
Shurmur: This is a process the calendar takes you through. We're in the draft process and our coaches our preparing lesson plans for the team. We've learned it over the years. I feel really good at the direction we're going. We're preparing for the draft and preparing for free agency. We want to be ready when the players get here to go at 100 miles per hour.
Are you committed to the 4-3?
Shurmur: We've made the commitment to move to a four man front. That's what Tom and I are most comfortable with and Dick Jauron is comfortable with. We felt it was the right way to go and philosophically we believe in it.
Are you committed to Colt McCoy?
Shurmur: I'm really a Colt McCoy guy. As we went through the process of drafting Sam Bradford, I got to know Colt very well. I've gotten to know him pretty well and at times last year, he played extremely well, so it's there. Now, it's time to work on the fundamentals so he can do it over and over again.
How important is it for the Browns to get a play maker on offense like DeSean Jackson?
Shurmur: If a player like DeSean Jackson is there, I promise you we'll take him. I think we have some better players than you might think, as Ben Watson is a pretty good player. Speed from the offense is important. You're always looking for the bigger, stronger faster guys. There are guys who run extremely fast. We're trying to get in the end zone and that's the most important thing.
COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL
Goodell stepped out of the first day of court-ordered mediation to talk with Browns fans.
"I enjoyed listening to Tom and Pat talk about the Browns," Goodell said. "I just stepped out of mediation and we're working hard to get that done."
Thursday was the 34th day since the lockout started.
"I can't get specific but broadly, I think it's a positive step when the sides are talking," he said. "Litigation won't solve this and I think this can only be solved by communicating."
Goodell says his whole focus is on getting the two sides to come together.
"I can assure you that I am going to do everything I can and to work as hard as I can to make sure we are going to have football."
Joe from Cleveland asked Goodell if there was a deadline to settle the lockout before it would cause games to be cancelled.
"We are planning and preparing for the full 2011 season and we intend to do that," he said. "If we are unsuccessful on getting the agreement done, then we will have to deal with that then."
He did say the Super Bowl could be moved back one week, if need be.
"We have the flexibility to move the Super Bowl one week with Indianapolis," he said. "(The Super Bowl) is not something you can make a last minute decision. That's why this is so difficult and why we want to get this all ironed out."
Goodell was asked about charging full price for preseason games.
"I've heard loud and clear from season ticket holders and that's why we've looked at the 18 (regular season) and two (preseason) to create the value for season ticket holders. We recognize that costs can't continue to escalate and want to address them in a proper way."
Goodell was asked if replacement players will be used as in 1987.
"We have not had any discussion on replacement players," he said. "Our focus is in getting an agreement done with the current players."
He was also asked by a Browns season ticket holder since 1959 why the NFL doesn't recognize championships prior to the Super Bowl.
"I understand why that is important to Cleveland fans," Goodell said. "We will try to do a better job on that, but because of the popularity of the Super Bowl a lot of emphasis has been placed on that."