On how close it is to a Browns Hard Knocks becoming a reality:
"Well, you know, I do feel very strongly still, as I reported yesterday, that they are a frontrunner among those teams that are -- whatever you want to call it -- eligible to be on there. The league very much sees the storylines, some of them that you talked about -- the quarterback storyline I think being an obvious one. And, of course, just looking at Mike Pettine: the head coach tends to be the primary narrator of these shows, of the series -- anyone who's watched them -- and he is an exceptional communicator and they know that. He's had experience being part of this with the Jets. Ray Farmer has had experience with Hard Knocks when he was with the Chiefs. So they both know the drill pretty well and I think they also, in my mind -- now this isn't coming from the Browns -- but from my observation of just being around this team and then using Mike Brown as a reference on this -- the owner of the Bengals -- you remember him saying they volunteered to do it, to be part of it because they thought it was an opportunity for them to get a good national light on a franchise that's taken a lot of public abuse or media abuse through the years for different reasons. I think when you're talking about the Browns and all the problems they've had from a P.R. standpoint, this actually is, I think, an opportunity for them to show, to pull back the curtain and show something that probably looks a lot better to the public than maybe people think who are always on the outside looking in."
On if his opinion of the Bengals improved after watching them on Hard Knocks a few years ago:
"Yeah, I had the same opinion and, you know, it's funny, a person I didn't consider much of a football fan...made reference to me that it was something that when they watched it the response was: 'Man, those guys, the players sound really intelligent. Everybody's well-spoken. Everybody's got a perspective and an insight that you want to listen to.' And I said: 'Yeah, that can happen with these things.' Now, every team is different and the personalities are different, but I think if you look at that list you're talking about of eligible teams, who is more interesting than this Browns club? The answer is really nobody and it isn't just because of something salacious or controversial. That's part of it, I mean that's always there. You gotta have plotlines, it's an HBO audience. It's probably not hard-bitten football people, so that's what the league's initiative with this was: is to appeal to the masses. The other thing: the Browns have editorial control. Remember, this is not being shot by independent camera's or HBO's staff, it's NFL Films that oversees the production of this. Each day, I guess at the end of the day or at scheduled points, the Browns can go through what's been shot and say 'Okay, this is fine; this isn't.' You know, revealing too much here -- whatever it might be. So, they have a say into what actually sees the light of day."
On if he thinks it could be a distraction:
"Well, I've written about this and talked about it and I'm sure you guys have in general when it didn't involve the Browns and I think the short answer is of course, but I think there are differing theories on this. I think some say keep everything out -- the old school: 'We do our business privately and no one should see us and we don't want to expose something that might be used against us by an opponent.' -- the competitive thing that coaches have. I think they're the ones that, generally, might have the most resistance. But, that said, I also have heard this -- and I think this makes a lot of sense -- and again, Dustin, speaking to it as a player, don't you think when cameras are on, when people are paying attention it might be a little harder to fall asleep in the meeting room, it might be a little harder to loaf through a practice. Right, the standard is elevated.
"I've heard coaches say that to me -- in it's earlier days when it was a little more of a novelty than now -- and I've been to and I've covered for NFL.com multiple training camps where the Hard Knocks cameras were present. I can remember the Ravens, the Dallas Cowboys a couple of times. I remember being with the Ravens and walking into the dining area and looking at all these fixed cameras that were just set up there, surrounding the room. We were all joking: don't have any food hanging from your mouth or stuff, just make sure everything's clean, your face is clean because everything single thing you do in that room is being monitored. Players know that going in and -- I don't know if you're going to call it ultimate reality TV, but I guess it is as close to that as you can get."
On if he saw the most recent Jason LaCanfora article:
"Saw it and talked with Jason about it a short while ago, because I was as flabbergasted I think as almost anyone. For a moment I thought a lot of today in Cleveland was devoted to talking about this Hard Knocks and then I said that sounds like that is a much less of an interesting story now than the swapping of a franchise. Are you kidding me? I asked Jason about that. He said that it all depended on who the owner of -- he called it a longshot to me -- but he said it was no secret -- and again, quoting LaCanfora -- no secret that Jimmy Haslam's interest was to have the Titans or have a team there in his home state. That he was someone who was initially interested in the purchase of the Titans way back when. I guess, when there was maybe the opportunity to do so, was told that wasn't going to be available for awhile and so in the meantime he had the chance, of course, to go from minority owner of the Steelers to full owner of the Browns. But to hear this come up now is sort of very interesting and so again, I asked him 'Jay, where do you think this is going?' He just, he didn't seem to think it was going to materialize because he seemed to indicate that it was all dependent on who's buying the Titans, because he said if it's a local interest they're staying put."
On if he thinks Jimmy Haslam would want to do that if it was possible:
"I cannot tell you that I ever had a -- I mean I've had many conversations with Jimmy Haslam and I can't ever remember him expressing to me or anyone around that building when I was there any sense that his preference would be to not own the Browns. I always saw him as very enthusiastic about it there. I would be there, either individually or in some group sessions, hearing kind of like that sense of the whole drive, the whole mission there was to make that team as great as it can be and that everybody in building needed to his or her part to have that happen. So, I cannot tell you that I ever got one speck of a sense from him that his mission wasn't to do everything possible to make the Browns the greatest team they could be. That's where I am on it, so the idea of him owning the Titans is something that, in my mind, would be surprising only until you get to the point of hearing the logic of him being a Tennessee native, but I don't know. I just think it's a longshot story. I think it's a non-starter. That's my sense."
On his thoughts on Hoyer being gone and McCown now in Cleveland:
"I think in McCown the Browns got probably as good a bridge quarterback as might have been out there in a very weak quarterback free agency crop. I think him becoming available early, before the free agency period started was advantageous to him. I know the Bills had interest and the current and former personnel people in the league I spoke with said this is a guy that could get you through a season while you're waiting for that guy to be your longterm guy. You know, he's a 12-year veteran. He's not a longterm commitment, but solid and smart. Also, the mentoring factor is not a small thing either. He's likely to have young quarterbacks around him, whether it's Johnny Manziel or whoever it might be, and as long as they're willing to listen and willing to apply themselves as students of the game -- which I think is the biggest hurdle, I guess it's the second biggest hurdle for Johnny Manziel, once he hopefully gets his life in order -- is become a serious student. The quarterback has to be the most serious student. I think Josh McCown is the right kind of mentoring presence that a young quarterback could learn from."