A spirited practice on Tuesday morning was followed by a reduction of another kind of spirits in a subsequent news conference.
Wednesday's newswire is dominated by these two subjects as Browns news remains the focus of the Cleveland media in wake of the collapse of the Indians season. As a result, we are blessed with over a dozen articles to surf through this morning.
Feature articles on Anthony Denman, Darren Hambrick and Kevin Bentley are available this morning, as are the usual set of notes from yesterday's practice. Demman has become "The Man" as he gets first crack at the starting spot vacated by Jamir Miller. As we also reported yesterday, Darren Hambrick made a strong initial impression - at least on the massive Qasim Mitchell - with some blistering hits on the practice field. You get the sense that Hambrick has been chafing on the sidelines and wants back in. Now.
There is also an interesting slant on Miller's injury from Jeff Schudel, who talks to Tre Johnson. Tre also suffered a season-destroying injury the year after a Pro Bowl season, and talks about the frustration that Miller must feel.
Off-field security and stadium rules shared the stage with football yesterday. In the wake of 9/11 and the Jacksonville bottle debacle, Carmen Policy and Lew Merletti discussed the strong security measures which the team will adopt in the 2002 season. In true Policy fashion, the difficult steps of changing stadium policy were leavened with the announcement of new charitable endeavours, namely a yearly preseason contest with the Lions which will donate cash to the winner's charity. In the case of the Browns, the charity will be the Greater Cleveland United Way.
The new security measures introduced officiallly yesterday are a direct product of 9/11 and the Jacksonville game. While these measures would have seemed paranoid and overly intrusive prior to last year, the strange times we live in make them likely to be palatable to most fans. These measures include the eliminatation of plastic bottles, the introduction of metal detection wands to be used selectively by gate staff, the elimination of beer sales after halftime for evening games, and after the third quarter for day games.
Fans with long memories will remember how fans, including myself, were upset about what was considered to be restrictive security during the Browns expansion year of 1999. At the time, we learned that Policy has been concerned about creating a more "family-friendly" Stadium atmosphere and that his interest dates back to a time years ago when his car was mobbed as he exited the Stadium after a Monday night game. Policy and Merletti have long been interested in advancing this agenda, and the events of last December's Jacksonville game have provided them with the rationale that they need to pursue it.
With the new guidelines introduced yesterday, Policy moves closer to establishing the type of atmosphere he wants at CBS. While Merletti has stated that he did not feel excessive drinking was to blame in December, and that the absence of Stadium PA announcements played a significant role, the actions taken yesterday also point the finger, inarguably, at fan behavior. Despite their protestations, the reduction in quantity of beer fans can purchase, and the timeframe they have, clearly indicates that Policy and Merletti believe the alcohol played a role.
Policy intimated that the popular plastic bottles, which haven't been banned in most stadiums despite the Cleveland and New Orleans incidents last year, might return (paraphrasing) if fans behaved themselves. In 1999, I would have considered such a remark as condescending and insulting to fans. Remembering last December, it would be difficult to debate Mr. Policy on the issue.
The team will also be taking steps to improve their response to future incidents. These steps involve an area where the team and officials can communicate with the league, and ensuring the team security and officials can recognize each other in the case of an emergency.