Originally created 10/24/98

Cleveland owners get ready for next season

CLEVELAND -- Ten months before the Cleveland Browns start play there's still a stadium to finish, a general manager to hire, a coaching staff to sign, obnoxious fans to calm and, by the way, players to draft.

It's a big enough job to make Carmen Policy worry, at least a little bit.

"I don't like to think of myself as ever being nervous -- but I'm concerned," Policy, president of the Browns expansion franchise, said on Friday. "I feel this is a really significant challenge, maybe even a little bit more than I anticipated."

Policy and billionaire banker Al Lerner spoke at a news conference Friday to mark the closing of their deal with the NFL, officially making them owners of the new Browns.

The league owners accepted Lerner's $530 million bid for the expansion franchise in September.

"Today is a momentous occasion for us. Carmen has used the expression `the adrenaline is flowing.' Well, today the money's going to be flowing," Lerner said.

Lerner owns 90 percent of the team and Policy, the former president of the San Francisco 49ers, owns 10 percent. Lerner was a minority partner in the old Cleveland team that Art Modell moved to Baltimore after the 1995 season.

From the range of topics Policy and Lerner touched on Friday, it was clear much is left to resolve before the Hall of Fame game against the Dallas Cowboys next Aug. 9.

There is the location of training camp -- at the Browns' facility in suburban Cleveland for 1999 but undecided after that -- and the team's plans to sell hundreds of tickets to poor families at a low, but still undecided price.

And there is the undetermined role of former Cleveland quarterback Bern Kosar in the organization.

Kosar, a popular figure in Cleveland, backed Lerner and Policy's bid for the team. He's scheduled to visit Cleveland next month for two days of meetings with Policy.

Policy announced he's hired Kofi Bonner, a San Francisco city official, to oversee the Browns' business affairs, including completion of the team's stadium.

Bonner, 42, who has been San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown's chief economic policy advisor, will be the team's vice president and chief administrative officer.

Last week, it appeared another San Francisco connection of Policy's, 49ers executive vice president Dwight Clark, was ready to come to the Browns.

But the league intervened to block Clark's move after San Francisco team officials raised the issue of tampering. Under the league's anti-tampering policy, no team can talk to an employee of another team about a job during the season.

"Have the NFL rules on tampering hindered us?" Policy said.

"Have you ever been in a courtroom when they bring a criminal defendant before the judge and he's got chains on his legs and he's got his hands cuffed? It would be like asking him, `Are you hindered in any way by this arrangement?"'

Policy, who is unsure he whether he'll hire a general manager by the end of the year, and Lerner plan to lobby the other owners at a meeting next week to get some leeway in talking to potential job candidates.

"We need some help here," Policy said.

While he didn't lay out specifics, Policy also said the team would try to ensure that the notoriously rowdy Cleveland fans don't scare away families from home games.

Policy recalled coming to Cleveland for a Monday night game with San Francisco, which the 49ers lost.

On the way out of the stadium "the car was being rocked and people were banging on the windows," he said. "I said to the driver, `What would they have done if we had won?' I don't think that experience should ever be repeated. You can't allow some person's version of fun to become an intrusion on the safety and comfort of others."


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