Berea Report: Lerner Speaks

Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner spoke to select members of the media this morning, including the Orange and Brown Report's Fred Greetham. Here are Lerner's remarks as the team struggles to the end of a difficult season...

BEREA - Browns Owner Randy Lerner met with members of the local media for 67 minutes to address various concerns. He addressed his commitment to being the owner of the Browns, as well as his disappointment of the 2008 team.

He prefaced his remarks by saying that he would not discuss any personnel evaluations, including Romeo Crennel or Phil Savage's future. He said all evaluations will be made in January at the conclusion of the season.

"We will not discuss any jobs until the end of the season," he said. "I don't think it's in the best interest of the organization to discuss. We will take the issues, criticisms and concerns seriously and deal with them in January, hopefully late January."

Lerner did say that the biggest thing would be to evaluate the state of the team in the big picture.

"Was last year a fluke?" he said. "How did we go 10-6, play good football and have the NFL excited to put us on national television."

Lerner said his mind isn't made up yet and that the five remaining games are important.

"We have five games left," he said. "They are highly relevant. There's lots of football left that will tell us a lot."

He did say that if a change is made, he doesn't think the team would be totally starting over. In other words, he thinks the Browns have some talent.

"No, not with this group of players, I don't."

Lerner said that he is not planning on selling the team and renewed his commitment on turning the Browns around.

"I think it is a privilege beyond belief to be involved with a team, particularly your hometown team," Lerner said. "I'm not prepared to throw in the towel at the age of 46 and admit I can't get the job done.

"I have no plans to sell the team," he said. "Last year we were 10-6 with six Pro Bowl players. We don't want to make excuses, but this year is what it is."

Lerner did say what he will evaluate with concerns to Savage.

"I'll weigh the strengths and weaknesses," he said. "Phil recruits as aggressively and thoroughly as anyone.

"I think you have to give the guys some slack," he said. "His responsibilities cut across a wide variety of roles. I think he's capable of doing his job."

Lerner used the word "sickened" when asked how he would describe his feelings at around 4 pm after the Browns lost to the Texans 16-6.

Some of the other key questions he addressed:

On how important continuity is: "It's a big measurement. How big do you want to make it? It's immeasurable. Continuity speaks directly to the situation. It takes time to get players established, to establish a system. If you interrupt continuity, you have to expect some adjustment. It's a component of the evaluation process and most serious piece."

On the financial burden if decisions are made considering both Crennel and Savage were given contract extensions: "Zero. It has no bearing."

Any contact with Bill Cowher: "No."

On the email from Savage to the fan by Savage: "I was embarrassed, as Phil was embarrassed. I would think most of us have responded to emails and wished we hadn't pushed the send button. It was out of character for him. He has dealt with it and apologized and it's over."

On being more involved: "The quick answer is I totally care about the team. When reflected, it's probably my management approach. In short, when I give authority I feel I have to get out of the way, particularly, when they have skills you don't have.

"The by-product is it might appear that I'm not as engaged. I'm very concerned."

On being more in the public eye: "It's worth considering. It's a shortcoming on my part. I've always been nervous about being in the public eye. In this situation, I regret not being more, but I'm not sure how it would play out."

On Kellen Winslow's situation: "There were two specific comments that caused flags. The staph infection is a terrible thing and scary. Supposedly, the organization didn't care about the player concerning the illness. That flies in the face of our organization and we addressed it. As far as telling him to keep it quiet fell through the cracks regarding an injury or illness as we deal with illnesses different than injuries. We have addressed the situation with respect to Kellen and Joe Jurevicius."

On the perception of the staph infection problem: "It's larger than the Browns. We've had third party analysis of the locker room, our indoor field, our procedures and the responses have been that we have been proactive. I think it's unfair to say we have a problem. It happens in professional sports."

On the identity of the franchise: "We have not established an identity like the Steelers have the past 37 years. The Rooneys have been able to parlay that with (Chuck Noll) and kept it going with (Bill) Cowher and only two coaches for that time. I'm very envious of that."

On "Do you have the right people": "There are signs we've hired the right people. Last year, a 10-6 record and six Pro Bowl players."

On relying on Jim Brown and Bernie Kosar for advice: "It depends on so many things, but yes they have good thoughts."

On Winslow coexisting with the team: "I would think so."

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