Browns OT makes pitch for Sanders

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 14, 1999

The Associated Press

BEREA – Lomas Brown is going to try and fix the Browns’ sorry running game this winter simply by placing a phone call to an old friend.

Tuesday, December 14, 1999

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BEREA – Lomas Brown is going to try and fix the Browns’ sorry running game this winter simply by placing a phone call to an old friend.

Hello, Barry Sanders?

Brown, sidelined the past four weeks and likely to miss the remainder of the season with a sprained knee, sat at his locker Monday and rambled on about a number of topics ranging from the ineffectiveness of the Cleveland’s offensive line to trading for Sanders.

Yes, THE Barry Sanders, who suddenly retired this summer.

”I have to talk to him,” Brown said. ”I’ll give him a call because I keep hearing he’s coming back next year. Maybe Detroit will think he’s not right for their chemistry and do something with him. So I need to get my plugs in early.”

The Lions have insisted they have no intention of trading Sanders, but that’s not stopping Brown, Sanders’ teammate for seven years in Detroit, from lobbying to get the NFL’s second leading career rusher in Cleveland.

”We won’t have to go out and get a back if we get him,” said Brown.

Brown’s injury has given him time to gain a new perspective on the expansion Browns. He has stood on the sideline and watched from his living room sofa as Cleveland has dropped four straight, including Sunday’s 44-28 loss at Cincinnati.

The Browns obviously need help in a lot of areas, but their running game is at the top of the list of things needing fixed.

Cleveland is last in the league in rushing, averaging just 66.9 yards, so it’s easy to see why Brown has kicked off his Sanders campaign.

Without a running game, the Browns (2-12) are one-dimensional, allowing defenses to stack the line and blitz rookie quarterback Tim Couch.

”We need a gamebreaker,” Brown said. ”We need someone that can just do it. You need somebody to be a threat.”

Sanders is certainly a threat. He entered the season second in NFL history in career rushing yardage, needing less than 1,500 yards to overtake the late Walter Payton.

Brown spoke with Sanders by phone about a month ago, and thinks it’s time he made another call.

”I’m going to talk to him,” Brown said. ”On the record, off the record. I’m going to talk to him.”

Sanders stunned the Lions by announcing his retirement on the eve of summer training camp. With his father, William, doing most of the talking, Sanders decided to retire because he didn’t think Detroit was going anywhere.

It is believed Sanders would only return to a winning team, but his agent, David Ware, said that might not be the case.

”I wouldn’t rule out the Browns,” Ware said. ”But it’s pretty clear he doesn’t want to stay there (Detroit). Whether or not he plays somewhere else, who knows? It will have to be the right team and the right situation.”

Brown thinks Sanders would come to Cleveland.

”I think if he had the opportunity, he’d come here. You know how persuasive his pops can be. He loves Cleveland, loves Jim Brown. If we could get him in the mix, I think we can do it.”

Brown feels the 31-year-old Sanders can play five more years. He’s also figured out a scenario where the Browns could get Sanders for two first-round draft picks.

That is, if the Lions would be that generous.

Brown says the Browns should use the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft – if they finish with the league’s worst record they’ll own it – to draft Penn State defensive end Courtney Brown; sign a free agent wide receiver; trade the two future picks to Detroit; and sign Sanders.

Cleveland coach Chris Palmer didn’t seem particularly amused when told of Brown’s plans. He also wondered what general manager Dwight Clark might think.

”Does Dwight know he’s (Brown) the new GM?” Palmer said.