Browns-Chargers: Pre-Game Notes

Steve King's notes from late in the week as the Browns got ready for Sunday's onslaught.

The Browns have just two victories this year, and both have been by just a whisker.

The first – and the only one on the field -- was a 6-3 decision over the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 11.

The second – off the field -- came late Friday when the Browns announced that the TV blackout has been lifted for their game on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns Stadium, and will thus be shown locally on Cleveland's WOIO (Channel 19).

Kickoff is 4:05 p.m.

The Browns said their efforts, along with those of Channel 19 and "local establishments," combined to get blackout lifted in the 73,200-seat facility. The club will be distributing tickets to the Cleveland Foodbank, United Way, Red Cross and Salvation Army as well as other local organizations.

The contest was in real danger of being blacked out, but the Browns got the NFL to give them permission to extend the deadline until 4 p.m. Friday from 4 p.m. Thursday, or 72 hours before kickoff.

This means that all 85 regular-season Browns home games over the past 11 seasons in the expansion era have been shown on local TV. The last blackout was for the final game of the original Browns franchise, on Dec. 17, 1995 at Cleveland Stadium. The Browns beat the Cincinnati Bengals 26-10 that day.

The game against the Pittsburgh Steelers next Thursday night is a sellout and will also be televised locally, but tickets remain for the last two home contests, against the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 27 and versus the Jacksonville Jaguars on Jan. 3.

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FAMILIAR FACES: This is believed to be the first time in the expansion era that the Browns will face two of their former offensive coordinators. There's Chargers tight ends coach/assistant head coach Rob Chudzinski, who had the job the previous two years in Cleveland, and on an interim basis for the last five games of 2004, and special teams coach Steve Crosby, who served the role for the last year of the original Browns, 1994 and '95. More of the focus, though, will be on Chudzinski, of course. He knows much of the Browns personnel, especially on offense. At the top of the list is quarterback Brady Quinn. Reportedly, on the morning of the 2007 NFL Draft, Chudzinski and quarterbacks coach Rip Shearer went into the draft room, after the Browns had already decided to take left tackle Joe Thomas at No. 3 overall, and told general manager Phil Savage that they wanted him to select Quinn. Now Chudzinski is facing Quinn. The offensive line coach of the Chargers is Mike Sullivan, who did two stints as assistant offensive coach of the Browns, including the previous two seasons. Not long before Sullivan got let go by the Browns as part of head coach Romeo Crennel's staff being fired, his wife, Carole, got a job as an on-air personality at Cleveland TV station WKYC (Channel 3).

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A LEGEND LEAVES: Want to loosen up Browns outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley? Then get him talking about his old college coach, Bobby Bowden. The lone Florida State product on the Browns, Wimbley played for Bowden with the Seminoles. "I haven't called him yet, but I will. I just wanted to wait until things settled down a bit," Wimbley said of the forced retirement of Bowden on Monday, effective after the 6-6 Seminoles play their bowl game. "It's the end of an era with him leaving. I really like him a lot. I enjoyed playing for him. He'll be missed down there. He really wasn't the coach anymore, the guy making the decisions. He was more of a figurehead. The guy who's taking over (coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher, the team's offensive coordinator) has been the guy calling the shots, so really, this doesn't change anything." He added, "College football has changed. Money is so big now, especially at a school like Florida State. When you don't get to a top bowl game for a while and you're losing to Florida and falling behind in the recruiting, especially in the state of Florida, you can't have that." Wimbley recalled Bowden telling him a story of when he first got the job more than 30 years ago at Florida State, when the school's football program was a non-entity across the country, and even in Florida. "The stadium was really bad at the time," Wimbley said. "Coach used to go places like the mall or wherever and put Florida State tickets on cars, tucked under the windshield wipers. When Coach got back to his car later, all those people had taken their tickets and put them back under his windshield wipers." But those people wanted those tickets later, for Bowden built the Seminoles into a national power. Fisher will be hard-pressed to fill those big shoes. Just ask the Browns' sack leader this year.

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DON'T FORGET: The Browns are once again partnering with the U.S. Marine Corps in the annual Toys for Tots campaign collection to benefit needy children. Fans are encouraged to bring new, unused toys or monetary donations to Sunday's game. Volunteers will be stationed at each gate of the stadium collecting the donations leading up to the late-afternoon kickoff. This year's drive is supported by IHOP restaurants, and fans making a donation will receive a coupon for a free meal at Northeast Ohio IHOP restaurants and a coupon to the Cleveland Browns Team Shop.


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