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NFL notebook: Browns unveil statue of Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown

Former Cleveland Browns Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown, right, is honored with a ceremony and statue outside FirstEnergy Stadium before an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens. (David Richard / Associated Press)
Former Cleveland Browns Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown, right, is honored with a ceremony and statue outside FirstEnergy Stadium before an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens. (David Richard / Associated Press)
Associated Press

For one more Sunday, Jim Brown felt the kind of emotional surge that made him an NFL legend.

The greatest player to wear a Cleveland Browns jersey, and in the conversation as the best in league history, Brown was immortalized as the team unveiled a bronze statue of the running back’s likeness outside FirstEnergy Stadium.

The 8-foot-tall sculpture, which weighs more than 2,000 pounds, depicts No. 32 at the top of his game. He’s in motion, the football tucked tightly under his left arm, his right arm cocked to ward off an oncoming tackler.

Although the tribute came 51 years after Brown walked away from the game at the peak of his career to pursue an acting career in Hollywood, the 80-year-old was moved by the tribute.

“It’s a fantastic moment,” he said, standing at the podium steadied by a walking cane. “It’s a great moment because I feel it throughout my body.”

Brown retired at the age of 29, ending a nine-year run in which he led the league in rushing eight times and was the MVP three times.

He was a devastating runner, able to not only outrun defenders but blast through them. He finished with 12,312 yards rushing, 126 touchdowns and established a legacy few have approached.

“When you mention the Cleveland Browns, I think the first thing everybody thinks about is Jim Brown,” owner Jimmy Haslam said.

“I think one of the reasons we have such a tremendous fan base today is that so many of us grew up watching Jim Brown play and remember 32 and how he dominated for nine years.”

The unveiling took place about three hours before the Browns played their home opener against the Baltimore Ravens.

The ceremony was attended by some of Brown’s teammates, Browns coach Hue Jackson, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, who sported a white No. 32 jersey.

In his opening remarks, Brown, who has been a community activist for much of his life, was moved by seeing so many people he has known for years.

“There is a natural feeling that I have today of joy and celebration,” said Brown, who was joined on the dais by his wife, Monique, and son, Aris.

“This represents one of the highest moments of my life because when I look at the audience, about 95 percent of the people I know personally and most of them I know through the work that they do, the work that I do and the work we do together in the community to make it a better community.”

Jimmy Haslam said Brown’s value to the team can’t be underestimated.

“It means a tremendous amount,” he said. “Jim turned 80 last year and I watch him relate to our players who are almost 60 years younger than him and he still has the ability to relate,” Haslam said.

“Jim is a very wise man, he’s been great counsel to Dee and I as we learn the NFL business. He’s a very smart, savvy guy who I think relates to people of all ages and people of all color.”

Brown was once distanced from the only team he ever played for, but Haslam and his wife, Dee, welcomed him back to the organization four years ago as a special adviser.

The Haslams were instrumental in the commission of the statue, which the team noted was “to honor the many on-field accomplishments” of Brown.

The statue – the first erected outside the lakefront stadium – also brought some criticism to the team because of Brown’s long history of violence against women. He served four months in jail in 2000 for failing to attend counseling.

Saints’ Brees can’t find answer to revamped Giants defense

When the New Orleans Saints are limited to 13 points, it’s easy to point a finger at No. 9 and say it’s Drew Brees’ fault.

Well guess what? The 37-year-old quarterback wasn’t all that bad in a 16-13 loss to the New York Giants.

Brees didn’t throw any interceptions and the Saints didn’t turn the ball over. The offense just could not get it going against a revamped Giants defense.

Big bucks went a long way in fixing a unit that allowed 52 points and surrendered seven touchdown passes to Brees and the Saints last year in a 52-49 win by New Orleans.

And just maybe, the Giants’ defense is that good this year after spending $100 million in the offseason to sign sack threat Olivier Vernon, run stopper Damon Harrison and shutdown cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Add in cornerback Eli Apple and safety Darian Thompson in the draft, and this unit held its own against Brees.

“Both teams went out and made improvements on the defensive side of the ball,” said Brees, who completed 29 of 44 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown. “Both sides came in with a great game plan and so we knew it was going to be a hard-fought game. We thought our output would be better offensively than it was today.”

The Saints had chances, but they did not capitalize. They were 3 of 13 on third down and that was a major factor in the game. The Saints only had the ball for 59 plays and just under 26 minutes in time of possession, gaining 288 yards.

In last year’s game, New Orleans had a combined 79 runs and passes and 35 minutes of possession. They gained 614 net yards.

That’s 20 extra plays and Brees can do a lot with that.

Brees was frustrated, especially wasting a great effort by his own defense, which forced three turnovers and did not allow a touchdown. New York’s TD came on Jenkins’ return of a blocked field goal.

“If you told me prior to the game that we would get three takeaways defensively and not allow an offensive touchdown, I’d say our chances today are pretty good,” Brees said. “The unfortunate thing is that the blocked field goal that gets returned for a touchdown is a 10-point swing. So that’s pretty devastating when you look at the way the game unfolded and then the way it finished.”

The Giants did an outstanding job of keeping the Saints’ receivers in front of them. In last year’s game, Brees’ three longest touchdowns were 53, 34 and 26 yards. His longest completion on Sunday was 23 yards.

New York also made the Saints one-dimensional, limiting their running game to 41 yards on 13 carries. The Saints had 103 on 26 carries last season.

Brees had a couple of chances against the defense, but he did not come through.

“I think that I didn’t do a great job of handling some of their third-down pressure stuff to sustain drives,” Brees said. “We got into some third-and-long situations, or third-and-longer than probably we should have. So first- and second-down efficiency can be better and then, obviously, just the ability to sustain drives and keep them on the field and keep our defense off the field and get points at the end of it.”

Browns quickly running out quarterbacks after McCown hurt

His left arm hanging to his side, Josh McCown’s eyes filled with tears as he talked about wanting to stay on the field for the Browns.

McCown was badly bruised and beaten.

And just two weeks into the season, Cleveland’s quarterback situation is beyond battered.

Filling in for injured starter Robert Griffin III, McCown sustained a shoulder injury during a 25-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Although he stayed in despite being in pain, McCown couldn’t lift his left arm and walked to the trainer’s room following his news conference with it pinned to his side.

McCown said his plan is to play next week at Miami, but he would not divulge any test results or what he’s been told by the medical staff, a sign that his injury could require him to miss some time.

“We will see,” he said. “My mindset is that everything will be all right and we will move ahead business as usual.”

But business, as it relates to quarterbacks in Cleveland, is anything but usual.

After losing Griffin for at least eight games with a broken bone in his left shoulder, the Browns (0-2) felt fortunate to have the 37-year-old McCown to run their offense.

However, now they may be forced to turn their offense over to rookie Cody Kessler next week or sign a more experienced quarterback.

This was not part of the plan during the offseason, when Cleveland’s new front office passed on a chance to take one of the top quarterbacks in the draft and decided to sign Griffin, who flamed out in Washington. Griffin, though, couldn’t make it past Week 1 and now McCown’s injury has Cleveland in a difficult predicament.

It’s been par for the course for an organization which has had 25 starting quarterbacks since 1999 and is undergoing the most massive rebuild in its history.

The Browns have made bad decisions, no doubt. But they’ve also been plagued by bad luck.

McCown had just thrown his second touchdown pass of the first quarter, giving Cleveland a stunning 20-0 lead, when he immediately ran to the locker room for evaluation.

As Kessler was warming up on the sideline, McCown came back and returned to the game without missing a play.

“I think it is just not wanting to not be out there with your guys,” said McCown, who became emotional while explaining his ability to push through injuries.

“I have a dad and an older brother who get up and go to work and sometimes they don’t feel great and they go. They go and they grind. I have two little boys that are playing football now. They get hit and they get banged up, and I am trying to teach them what toughness means.

“For me, it is those things and just knowing the window for me right now and understanding that I don’t want to miss snaps. I don’t want to be out there without my guys.

“Unless it is going to fall off, let’s try to make it work and make it go. That is my mentality.”

McCown didn’t have anything to prove to his teammates, who have expressed their respect for him countless times in the past.

Still, the sight of him taking hard hits and getting back up time after time furthered their admiration for him.

“We have to do everything we can to give him an extra second, an extra two seconds, strain, fight a little bit more to where he’s not getting hit, not taking those unnecessary shots,” guard John Greco said.

“There were a lot of plays where the ball got off, may have been a completion or incompletion, and then he’s getting whacked. So we’ve got to do more. We’ve got to fight harder, strain more, strain longer to keep him clean. The guy’s arm is hanging and he’s in there. I mean that’s awesome.”

Garoppolo hurt; Williams carted off after scary hit

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was knocked out of New England’s game against Miami with a shoulder injury, meaning the highest-profile replacement in the NFL needed a replacement of his own.

Garoppolo – filling in for suspended quarterback Tom Brady – took a big hit from Miami’s Kiko Alonso in the second quarter of the Patriots’ game against the Dolphins and left for further evaluation.

The Patriots did not disclose the severity of the injury, but said Garoppolo was ruled out for the rest of the game. The Patriots held on to beat the Dolphins 31-24.

There was a very scary scene in the first half of the Saints-Giants game.

Cornerback P.J. Williams of New Orleans needed to be placed on a backboard and taken off on a cart after he took multiple blows to the head while trying to make a tackle in his team’s game at New York. Fox Sports reported that Williams was moving his extremities at a nearby hospital and was being evaluated for a concussion.

Also, Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware broke his right forearm early in the third quarter against Indianapolis.

Ware just missed wrapping up Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and appeared to run into a teammate. He walked off holding his right arm.

Cleveland center Cameron Erving left the Browns’ stadium by ambulance as a precaution, the team said. Erving cramped late in the game and had discomfort in his upper body. The Browns said he’s been diagnosed with a pulmonary contusion and he will remain in the hospital overnight for observation.

Danny Woodhead left in the first quarter of San Diego’s game against Jacksonville with an apparent right knee injury, and was taken off the sideline on a cart on his way to further evaluation. The Chargers lost Keenan Allen last week, so if Woodhead’s injury is serious then San Diego’s offense would take another hit.

Colts receiver WR Donte Moncrief left in the second quarter with a head and neck injury. Offensive lineman Denzelle Good left in the fourth quarter with a back injury.

Tampa Bay tight end Luke Stocker (ankle) left in the first quarter. And after a 1-yard gain on Tampa Bay’s first play of the second quarter, running back Doug Martin left with a hamstring injury. Defensive end Robert Ayers Jr. left with an ankle injury late in the second quarter. Finally, wide receiver Cecil Shorts III left with a hamstring injury in the third quarter.

Redskins nose tackle Kedric Golston injured his right hamstring on the first play from scrimmage and missed the rest of Washington’s 27-23 loss to Dallas. He was replaced by Ziggy Hood.

Jaguars left tackle Kelvin Beachum had a concussion late in the third quarter. The stadium was hushed as he was placed on a back board and lifted onto a cart, which drove him off the field.

Dolphins running back Arian Foster left the game in New England with a groin injury and was ruled out for the second half. Foster was hampered in the week leading up to this game with a hamstring problem, and is coming off surgery to repair his Achilles as well. Miami also lost linebacker Spencer Paysinger in the first half.

Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart was taken to the locker room after suffering a hamstring injury in the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers, and was eventually ruled out for the rest of the game. Stewart was replaced by Fozzy Whittaker.

Houston wide receiver Braxton Miller hurt a hamstring and did not return.

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