CLEVELAND — Browns president Mike Holmgren has pulled more than a few rabbits out of his hat in his NFL career.
Those same magic tricks, however, don’t seem to be working on legendary running back Jim Brown.
Holmgren said he has not been in contact with Brown since the former Browns great publicly turned down an invitation to take part in Cleveland’s weeklong “Ring of Honor” celebration, which kicked off Monday with a cocktail reception.
“I haven’t heard from Jim, but the door is open,” Holmgren said at the opening ceremony for “Heritage Hall in Brownstown” at Cleveland Browns Stadium. “I am holding out hope that he gives me a call and decides to be a part of this.
“I wrote him another letter and expressed my feeling as to how much we’d like him here. Randy (Lerner, team owner) has written him a letter, as well. Like I said, the door is still open.”
The door may be open, but time is quickly running out for the Browns to repair their relationship with the greatest player in franchise history.
The “Ring of Honor” will be dedicated Sunday at Cleveland’s home opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. All 16 Browns players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame comprise the charter class whose names will be displayed on the facade of the upper deck.
There has been speculation that the team’s six surviving Hall of Famers have reached out to Brown, urging him to reconsider and attend, which Holmgren hopes is accurate.
“A lot of these fellas are very close, not just in terms of football, but off the field,” he said. “They bump into each other at places like the Hall of Fame and other events, so it wouldn’t surprise me if some of them have talked to Jim. I hope they have because we’d love to have everyone here to be saluted by the fans.”
The 74-year-old Brown has broken off ties with the club since having his high-payin position as Lerner’s senior adviser eliminated following last season.
That decision coincided with the hiring of Holmgren, who was given full control over Cleveland’s football and football business operations.
At this point, only Brown and tackle Mike McCormack will not be represented at the ceremony. The latter recently underwent surgery that prevents him from traveling.
Holmgren had a travel issue of his own to clear up. Though his right foot remains in a walking boot after offseason surgery, he said that had nothing to do with his missing Sunday’s opener in Tampa.
“Here’s a scoop, only for you guys that came out here today,” Holmgren joked with the small number of reporters present. “I had to have an epidural because my back — because of what’s going on with my foot — all of a sudden went wacko. I watched the game, laying on my stomach in my den, looking up at the TV.”
And even if Brown doesn’t show up this weekend, Holmgren said he would be at the “Ring of Honor” ceremony, no matter what.
“I can’t get enough of this stuff,” he said, motioning toward the “Heritage Hall” exhibit. “I’m in a lot of pain right now just talking to you, but I couldn’t miss it. Even if I’m not feeling much better, I’ll be back on Sunday. I’m not missing any more games.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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