As rookies reported to training camp today, Browns President Alec Scheiner took time to speak with Adam the Bull and Anthony Lima on 92.3 The Fan. Scheiner fielded questions about the team's new
mascot team animal "Swagger," the new policy of fan registration for training camp, Johnny Manziel, Josh Gordon and even Kobe Bryant.
You can listen to the entire interview here, but I have transcribed most of the interview below.
(What will Swagger be doing during the game?) "Swagger the dog will not be a mascot, that's another thing that got lost in translation. Swagger will wind up just running out of the tunnel in front of our players. It will be like these other stadiums where you've got certain animals running out before the team."
(If Swagger bites any of the players, will he immediately be fired?) "That's a really good question [laughs]. I have not talked to Swagger about that yet."
(Do you think there's going to be people travelling from all over the state who will be disappointed because they can't get in for those first three days?) "What we really wanted to avoid was having people travel from out of state, and from around the state, and get here and be turned away. The first three are sold out and I think next Friday is essentially sold out. But then the rest of the practices we have open. If people go online and register, they'll be fine."
(Why not save some spots, like 500 or 100, for people who come the day of?) "We're very cognizant of that, so what we do is blast emails to our fans, all of our season ticket holders and anyone who registers with us and keep them up to speed on what practices are open and which aren't. Our issue is that at some point, you have to draw the line, and you don't want anyone to be turned away. So, let's say we did it the way you're saying, and we have 1,000 people instead of 500, we'd wind up with the same problem."
"Is it to the point where maybe you guys should have had camp somewhere else? Was the timing too short? Because it seems like you could get a lot more than 4,000 people to come to these practices, especially with all of the buzz nationally about Johnny Manziel.) "I don't know, because I really like the intimate nature of training camp. I think that's the best part about training camp. There aren't too many people there: you can get close to the players after practice for autographs, you see the coaches up close. I'm not positive yet that I want it much bigger than this. And I think when you have practice every single day, if people want to see our team, they can make sure they see our team."
(What has necessarily changed that we can't be at Baldwin Wallace or Akron or any of those places, and could this happen down the road?) "It could happen down the road, but right now, as you guys know, we're exploring our options for the future in regards to training camp. But I will say this: having been a part of this with the Dallas Cowboys, we were in San Antonio and we were in Oxnard, California. I think there's so much more attention now on the NFL than when we were growing up: I think that's what's causing it to be sold out more than anything. Fifteen years ago, people thought, 'Hey, maybe I'll check out training camp for a day.' Now, people talk about it for months and they plan vacations around it."
(Would you say right now that there's a good chance this will be in a bigger venue next year?) "Not necessarily, Adam, I think we're still in the process of it, and I think that there's a good chance that we could stay here. Ray, [Pettine] and I have to get together and look at our various options. The one thing I'll say is this: you always make the decision based on your football team. Always. That should drive it all. If [Pettine] thinks that there's a better place for preparing ourselves, then that's where we'll lean towards more than anything else."
(Do you think there will be people from around the country coming to see Johnny Manziel?) "I don't know about that. I know that we'll have more national media here. But I also think that people sense that there's something special happening with the team and the organization anyway. That's the feedback I get from Browns fans. It's interesting, with Browns fans I don't hear as much about Johnny specifically, as [much as I hear] 'I really like what Ray and Pettine are putting together and all of the moves you guys have made in the offseason.'"
(Is the stadium renovation going to finish on time?) "It will definitely finish on time. I'm getting out there a couple of times a week right now, and it's really coming into shape. The most exciting thing for me when I go out to the stadium, and I'm out there two to three times per week, is our stadium has a totally different look and feel than it did at the end of last season. That's the part that's really underrated right now because no one's seen it except for the guys who work here. Taking away those upper-level end zone seats and building in more lower-level seats has given the stadium a really unique feel, and I think our fans are going to love it. I think it's going to be really loud in our stadium because we've got these huge video boards and the new audio system. I think people are going to be surprised at how different it is from last year."
(Will the crowd noise and PA system be better this year?) "There's no doubt. The audio system is already done. The other day I was at the stadium and they were playing a lot of sound and using our rhythm boards, and it was just an incredible change. Before, we were stuck with technology that was about 15 years old."
(Are the Browns a little disappointed with what they've had to work with in Browns Stadium since Jimmy Haslam came into ownership?) "No, Anthony, we always view it as an opportunity. We got here and said, 'We can really improve the fan experience here at our stadium, at training camp, and even our practice facility for our employees.' In the last 18 months since I've been here, hopefully we'll transform our stadium, practice facility and training camp.'"
(Will the Browns have new uniforms next season?) "We will."
(Can you give us a clue as to what they will look like?) "No, I think Nike would send someone here to kill me if I did."
(Are there any regrets with how the organization has handled Johnny Manziel off the field, in terms of his access to the media, or things that have been said about what he has done off the field?) "No, I don't think there are any. I look at this the same way I do every year. In our sport specifically, it always comes down to how you do on the field. I think the NFL is a true meritocracy that way. We always say -- we've said it with the Cowboys and we say it with the Browns -- the second you draft someone or sign someone as a free agent, everything that mattered in the past stops to matter. All that matters next is how they perform for you. What I'm really excited about is that we're at that stage right now. We're at training camp, we're going to start our season, and then we'll all know. We'll know about every single player on the Cleveland Browns."
(Will new Browns Vice President of Communications Peter John-Baptiste make Johnny Manziel more accessible than he's been to the media than he was in OTAs?) "He'll work through that with Ray and Mike. They'll figure out the right strategy together, and I'm sure they'll abide by it consistently."
(Have you guys been frustrated with how long the Josh Gordon process is taking?) "No. The NFL has its process with everything. There's so many things where we go through an NFL process. We respect their process and then we'll be ready to act upon wherever it ends up."
(What's with this rumor that you played against Kobe Bryant in high school?) "Well, first of all, I'm a lot older than Kobe. But he did go to the same high school I did. I was back home for a few months before law school, and I used to play at this playground, and Kobe was there. I want to say I was 23, and he was maybe 15. He was really good. Let's just say I could not cover him then."