New Browns Already Casting Dark Shadow On The Franchise
By Steven King
The start of the regular season is still four months away, but the Cleveland Browns’ new players are already compiling some statistics. However, these aren’t the kinds of numbers of which the players – or the club – can be proud.
Not even a week after expressing his gratitude to the Browns for looking past his marijuana arrest last October and rolling the dice on him in the 2012 NFL Draft comes the news that seventh-round pick DL Armonty Bryant was arrested on a drunk-driving charge in Ada, Okla.
In the incident, which happened early last Friday morning, Bryant – a pass-rushing defensive end/outside linebacker – allegedly had blood-alcohol content readings of 0.10 and 0.09 percent. The legal limit in Oklahoma is 0.08 percent. According to reports, Bryant argued with the arresting officer a number of times about taking the Intoxylizer test after being stopped by police at 3:46 a.m. Ironically enough, it occurred near the campus of East Central University, where he starred.
Bryant was to have been arraigned on a misdemeanor DUI charge Tuesday afternoon in Pontotoc County District Court.
All this comes about two weeks after OLB Quentin Groves – signed by Cleveland in free agency in March – was arrested in a sting operation in the Cleveland suburb of Beachwood and charged with soliciting a prostitute.
The incidents involving Groves and Bryant – along with the fact new team owner Jimmy Haslam’s Pilot Flying J company has recently been accused of cheating clients out of fuel rebates – continue to drag the Browns and their image through the mud.
As such, it is hardly the start this new regime wanted when it took over in earnest after the end of last season. Although the previous regime of Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert didn’t win many games, off-the-field problems such as these were kept to a precious few during their tenure.
The timing of these latest problems couldn’t be worse for Bryant in that the Browns begin a three-day rookie minicamp on Friday. It is not clear if Bryant will be present or if he will still be part of the team by then. There has speculation that the Browns might just release him since he was drafted until the final round and thus don’t have much invested in him. More likely, however, look for the Browns to try to hang on to Bryant and see if things can work out. They liked his talent enough to draft him – a hard fact for a team to ignore.
But whatever ultimately happens with Bryant, the bigger issue is that the Browns have to get a handle on all these embarrassing incidents. They bring into serious question the way the Browns evaluate players, and what they are willing to tolerate in terms of troubles with the law and other things that would raise a red flag on a player’s resume.
After all, the Browns drafted Bryant knowing he had already been arrested on marijuana. So at what point does the damage done by that pattern he has established loom larger than his ability to play?
Only the Browns can answer that, but one has to wonder what CEO Joe Banner – who is in charge of the team’s day-to-day operations – and GM Mike Lombardi are thinking and saying behind closed doors.