I own and operate two McDonald¹s in the Boston area.
My wife, Demetra and I have five kids. Kayla (10), Allie (8), Caroline (4), and the twins, Sean and Isabella (6 months).
We live about 30 minutes south of Boston in Duxbury, Massachusetts.
Q: Did you watch the Browns play this year?
A: Unfortunately I only saw a few games, most of which were highlights. The Patriots and Browns usually played at the same time and on the same television network, so the local stations broadcast the Patriots¹ games.
Q: What area did you think the team progressed the most?
A: Attitude. The swagger was back. The games I saw, they played with confidence. It was a complete turn-around from the previous two years, although it is understandable given they were an expansion franchise. It takes a few years to build the unity that enables you to trust the guy next to you. This timetable hasn¹t surprised me. I also think having a coach who came from a successful program has helped. Butch Davis has apparently brought that winning attitude with him, which is a good thing.
Q: What areas do you most think the Browns need to improve in the offseason?
A: The offensive line. I cannot speak about the talent level because I didn¹t watch enough games, but there seems to have been a lot of change from year-to-year, as well as game-to-game. It¹s tough to have good offensive line play without having the guys play together and in the same positions for an extended period of time. They haven¹t had that in Cleveland recently. Whether it has been due to injuries or the guys they have haven¹t panned out as planned, I really don¹t know. They need to find a few quality guys and settle on them. From what I hear, this will be a priority in the offseason.
Q: The Browns suffered through a lot of injuries this year. Do you think this was attributible to their training regimen or was it just bad luck?
A: Today¹s players are well trained. Every team has coaching or training personnel whose only job is to make sure the players are in shape and ready to play. I would say injuries are more a matter of being in the wrong place or the wrong position at the wrong time. It is more a matter of bad luck.
Q: Playing in the NFL seems glamorous. However, the downside of choosing this profession is the aches and pains that stay with you throughout the rest of your life. Talk about what it¹s like to be a former football player.
A: I have been lucky. I had a bad back towards the end of my career, but I really don¹t have any lingering effects from playing. I keep up a pretty good training regimen. I work out every other day. I do some light weight lifting and some cardiovascular training on the stairs or exercise bike. I never thought I would do this, but I get up at 5:30 AM to work out. I weighed about 280-285 when I played. I now weigh about 235. Not having the extra weight and staying in shape has had a lot to do with me not suffering any lingering effects from playing. I want to be able to play with my kids without limitations when they are older, so it motivates me to wake up early and work out knowing I have to make this type of commitment in order to be there for them. Like I said, I have been lucky. That¹s not true of everybody. My former teammate and friend, Dan Fike, just had his hip replaced. I haven¹t spoken to him since the surgery, which I believe was his second one, but my heart goes out to the guy for having it done so early in life. It usually is something that people have done much later in life, so it just goes to show you how brutal the game can be.
Q: What was it like to be in the huddle with Bernie, Ozzie, Earnest and the old gang?
A: They had confidence, especially Bernie. I remember the Jets OT playoff game. A few guys had their heads down in the 4th quarter when we were 10 points behind, but for the most part, we believed we could still do it. Bernie always believed we could win every game, even the Jets game under those circumstances. It was his shining moment, not because of how he played on the field, but more importantly how he pulled us together in the huddle. It is one of the things I will remember most about him. He never gave up. We were close friends, all of us. We would do anything for each other. The ¹86 and ¹87 seasons were the most fun I had as a player. You always knew the guy next to you would be there for you.
Q: How has the game changed over the last 10 years?
A: I played about 10 years too early. The salaries are much better now. Kidding aside, the players are bigger, although I wouldn¹t say they are necesarily strong-er. I also wouldn¹t say today¹s players are any better. I feel like I could play and do well if I were 20 years old again. On the down side, I think the wackiness is coming back into the league. It seemed like the league made a better effort over the last 10 years to keep players out of trouble. It was probably due more to luck than any conscious decision on the league¹s part, but it seems like problems are starting to surface again and with more regularity than in the past. I am not sure how teams can control this, other than to draft players who understand how fortunate they are to be playing in the NFL. That is easier said than done.
Q: Who was the best coach you ever played for? Why?
ASam Rutigliano. He was the consummate "players¹ coach." I really wanted to do well for him. I thought he genuinely cared about the well being of his players, on and off the field. I played for all types of coaches, but for me, I think I reacted best to his personality than anybody else I played for. Marty Schottenheimer was also very good. His success speaks for itself. His approach was rougher than Sam¹s, but his results say all you need to know about his abilities as a head coach.
Q: What do you think of the salary cap and free agency?
A: I think free agency is a real positive for the players. However, I worry about the long term viability of the game if salaries continue to go up at the rate they have over the past 10 years. I have been in the McDonald¹s franchise business for years. One thing I¹ve learned, and it¹s very elementary to any business, is expense growth cannot outpace revenue growth forever. Eventually, it will cause a business to go under. I think NFL owners are a long way from the poor house, but if things continue as they are now, it will be a problem. The cost of going to a game will eventually get to the point where it is prohibitive for most people to attend games. In fact, this is pretty true now.