Browns sign top draft pick

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 2, 2001

The Associated Press

BEREA – A slimmed down Gerard Warren joined the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday with a hefty contract.

Thursday, August 02, 2001

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BEREA – A slimmed down Gerard Warren joined the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday with a hefty contract.

Warren, who admitted being overweight during the team’s mini-camps, ended his contract holdout and arrived at training camp after signing a six-year, $33.6 million deal.

”I’m just here to compliment this defense and hopefully take the Browns to the Super Bowl,” Warren said.

Dressed in shorts and Browns’ baseball camp, Warren appeared to be at least 15 pounds lighter than he was when he participated in the club’s final mini-camp in June.

Back then, he looked slow during drills and said he was out of shape after hitting the banquet circuit following an All-American junior season at the University of Florida.

Warren said he has been working out two hours daily with the Gators football team in Gainesville, Fla., and weighed in at 315 pounds – 7 pounds less than his listed playing weight.

”I’m relieved and happy to be back,” he said.

So are the Browns.

Cleveland is shifting second-year end Courtney Brown over to the right side of the defensive line alongside Warren, giving the Browns a formidable front.

Browns coach Butch Davis said Warren has already missed some valuable practice time, but can hopefully make it up quickly.

”He’s going to make a lot of rookie mistakes,” said Davis, who added that Warren wouldn’t be punished for missing 14 practices. ”There’s nothing punitive other than what he has already done to himself.”

Warren said it was difficult waiting around for his contract to be finalized, and stayed in touch with running back James Jackson for updates from camp.

”It was eating me up,” he said.

Warren will practice for the first time on Thursday and said he expects to play in the Browns’ scrimmage on Saturday in Edinboro, Pa., against the Buffalo Bills.

Warren’s contract includes a two-tier, $12 million signing bonus, said team president Carmen Policy. If Warren hits certain incentives, the total deal could exceed $45 million.

Policy said the contract was agreed to in principle at 6 a.m. following nearly 18 hours of talks between the club and Warren’s agent, Joel Segal.

Segal, who accompanied Warren to Cleveland, said the sides had a breakthrough during talks on Tuesday.

”We negotiated a lot of points and we compromised on most,” Segal said. ”The Browns got a good deal and we got a good deal. Everything was amicable.”

Policy said the biggest hurdle in negotiations was the total compensation for the first three years of the deal, and once that was overcome the talks accelerated.

”I’m extremely relieved,” Policy said. ”Now it’s all about the team.”

The Browns had been eager to get Warren into camp. He was supposed to report with the club’s other rookies on July 22, but talks between Segal and the Browns stalled and there was growing concern that there might be a lengthy holdout.

On Monday, Policy said the club was considering waiting for Arizona to sign offensive tackle Leonard Davis, the No. 2 pick, before completing a deal with Warren. Davis remains unsigned.

Warren, who bypassed his senior season at Florida to enter the draft, was selected with the No. 3 overall pick by Davis, who was familiar with Warren after recruiting the 6-foot-4, 315-pound tackle in high school and watching him terrorize Miami quarterbacks in college.

”Not only was Gerard Warren the first pick of the Butch Davis era, and not only was he hand-picked,” Policy said, ”this was something that meant a lot to the coach.”

Policy said the club would not hold a grudge against Warren, but that won’t stop his teammates from giving him a hard time.

”I think he’s going to get a lot of teasing and a lot of requests for loans,” Policy said.

Warren, though, said he got nothing but ”pats on the back” when he arrived at the club’s training facility and saw some of his new teammates.

”I’m happy to be home,” he said.